Long Live the Nuclear Test ban.(LETTERS)(FORUM)
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Ten years ago on Oct. 2, President George H.W. Bush reluctantly signed bipartisan legislation mandating a halt to nuclear weapon test blasts at the Nevada Test Site. But now, some disgruntled Dr. Strangeloves and influential Bush administration officials are pushing for a renewal of U.S. nuclear testing. If adopted, such a policy would constitute an enormous strategic blunder, undermining our security, while providing no significant military or technical advantage. The test moratorium can and should continue indefinitely.
The U.S. test moratorium helped defuse U.S.-Soviet nuclear rivalry, and along with the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), also produced a de facto, global test moratorium. The test ban represents an important obstacle to the induction of new warhead types by nuclear-weapon states. At the same time, the U.S. has been able to maintain its nuclear weapons stockpile through robust non-nuclear testing and evaluation programs. The test halt and the U.S. commitment to finalize the CTBT also provided the diplomatic leverage needed in 1995 to extend the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration continues to stiff-arm the CTBT and is undermining multilateral efforts to better detect and deter nuclear testing by others. For now, the White House says it will maintain the U.S. nuclear test moratorium. The pro-testing lobby is, however, still unsatisfied. Earlier this year, the Pentagon unsuccessfully lobbied the White House to formally repudiate the United States' signature of the CTBT and end U.S. funding for all international test ban treaty organization activities. Their aim is to free the United States of its legal obligation as a signatory to the treaty not to conduct nuclear test explosions.
The calls for testing are based on misguided assumptions about the purposes of nuclear testing and the state of the nuclear stockpile, and the belief that the U.S. needs new types of nuclear weapons. Last August, on a visit to the test site, the director of the president's top nuclear weapons advisory council, Dale Klein, told reporters that "as time goes on there will likely have to be some tests performed beyond the small scale" to address possible aging problems in the nuclear stockpile.
But the Klein claim lacks scientific merit. A July 2002 report from the National Academy of Sciences refutes the claim that explosive testing is needed to maintain an aging nuclear stockpile. The panel, which included three former nuclear lab directors, found that U.S. "has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear-weapon stockpile under [a test ban], provided that adequate resources are made available to the Department of Energy's nuclear-weapon complex and are properly focused on this task. …