By Duncan Smith
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering testing nuclear weapons for the first time in decades, as some have questioned the reliability of the country’s aging atomic infrastructure.
According to the Washington Post, the last full-scale nuclear weapons test was done underground in the Nevada desert in 1992.
As usual, the Left-wing Post put a negative spin on the idea, claiming new tests would have “far-reaching consequences for relations with other nuclear powers.”
The paper added:
The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied.
A senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive nuclear discussions, said that demonstrating to Moscow and Beijing that the United States could “rapid test” could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the arsenals of the biggest nuclear powers.
The fact that the Post has no “publicly available evidence” could simply mean that no one in the Trump administration has leaked proof of Russian and Chinese tests.
But nevertheless, tests would certainly prove the U.S. still has the ability to rapidly deploy its nuclear arsenal if, God forbid, it became necessary to defend the country.
“It would be an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told the Post. “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”
Maybe. Or it would send an unmistakable message of power, which, of course, is useful when it comes to discussions aimed at trying to convince your nemeses that resistance is futile.
But the fact is, other experts say testing may be necessary in order to ensure the functionality and reliability of the nation’s nuclear stockpile.
Investors Business Daily reported in August 2018 that U.S. nuclear weapons lab scientists questioned the quality and performance of the arsenal in an alarming study.
Here are some excerpts from the scientific paper:
“Nuclear tests gave decisive, direct evidence about the behavior of new weapons destined for the stockpile….Virtually no comparable data exist on the nuclear performance of stockpiled weapons in their current state.”
“The nuclear weapons laboratories have a continuing responsibility for maintaining the safety, performance and reliability of these weapons as long as they remain in service….This responsibility cannot adequately be met within the SSP.” (Stockpile Stewardship Program)
“But this approach does not take into account the facts that in the past some serious problems were revealed only as a result of a nuclear test, or that nuclear test data are required to develop and validate the scientific judgement and computer codes that must be used to assess the nuclear performance of weapons .”
“We note further that in the absence of testing the current stockpile maintenance program inevitably promotes a shift in the standard of assurance for the performance of stockpiled weapons from ‘decisive, direct evidence of proper performance’ to ‘absence of evidence of unacceptable performance.’ In so doing, the nuclear weapons program is clearly flying in the face of extensive experience concerning the standards that must be met to confirm the safety, performance and reliability of complex, high-consequence systems.”
“… it is sometimes claimed that modern codes can provide the basis for accurate and reliable assessments of nuclear performance, so that vital information formerly obtained from vital nuclear tests is no longer needed…. But the claim is not correct….During the nuclear testing era there were generally significant discrepancies between the output of these codes and the nuclear test data to which they were compared.”
“Current performance predictions thus rely on codes, and scientific judgement in the use of those codes, that have never undergone an actual test to see how well they work.”
“However, the ability to make such predictions of the nuclear performance of weapons in their current state has not been demonstrated, and cannot be demonstrated, without a nuclear test program.”
“In the absence of nuclear testing, the nuclear weapons program is exposed to the uncontrolled risk that assessments of the safety, performance, and reliability of weapons in the stockpile are significantly in error.”
“Those who dismiss the need for nuclear test data pertaining to weapons in their current state are gambling with our nuclear deterrent. Is this a good bet?”