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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 30, September 1998

US Conducts Fourth Subcritical Nuclear Test

On 26 September, the US Department of Energy (DOE) conducted its latest subcritical nuclear-weapons test at its Nevada test site. The tests, which do involve plutonium but do not result in a nuclear explosion or any release of radioactive materials, form an important component of America's Stewardship Stockpile Program, designed to maintain the safety and reliability of US nuclear weapons without the need for full-scale nuclear-weapons testing. The last such test was in March 1998; two tests were held in 1997. According to Robin Staffin, the DOE's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Development, the latest test took place in a horizontal tunnel 960 feet below ground.

The tests are regarded in some quarters as violations of the spirit of both the Comprehensive Test Ban and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties. On 27 September, the Mayor of Hiroshima, Takashi Hiraoka, argued that the tests "will inevitably cause a build-up in the nuclear weapons race." Hiraoka added: "The failure to faithfully accomplish nuclear disarmament as dictated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty led to nuclear tests by India and Pakistan..."

The same day, Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito said the US had "trampled on the request by Nagasaki citizens and the people of the world" for all nuclear-weapons testing to stop. Itcho stated that "at a time when hopes are rising for the development of nuclear disarmament," it was "necessary to criticize the United States at the international level."

Reports: Japan condemns US test, Associated Press, 27 September; Nuclear test conducted in Nevada, Associated Press, 28 September.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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