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Simulating Nuclear Explosions under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

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According to its Preamble, the objective of the CTBT is "to contribute effectively to the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects, to the process of nuclear disarmament, and therefore to the enhancement of international peace and security (emphasis added)."

The Preamble also states that "the cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects (emphasis added)."

It follows that any deliberate and systematic program by a treaty party that seeks to render the CTBT's constraints less effective, or that would over time overcome them altogether, is inconsistent with the objective of the treaty as stated above. Such a program could become a source of strategic concerns that the treaty will not serve equitably to enhance international peace and security.

Regrettably, the U.S. government has elaborated just such a program -- a massive 15 year "Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan" for sustaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal that, through the investment of tens of billions of dollars in new experimental and computational facilities for simulating the performance of nuclear weapons, consciously seeks to render the CTBT a less effective constraint on the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons than it would otherwise be. As documented in DOE's own "Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan," under the CTBT the U.S. government is planning to:

  • significantly expand its base of nuclear weapons knowledge by building extensive above-ground experimental (AGEX) facilities for nuclear weapons physics and conducting underground high-explosive experiments with plutonium and other nuclear materials at the Nevada Test Site;

  • develop within the coming decade comprehensive three-dimensional, computer simulations of nuclear weapons performance -- a "virtual testing" capability;

  • develop and integrate into existing weapons improved components, such as new radars, detonators, neutron generators, and boost-gas transfer systems;

  • rebuild and certify the performance of weapons with modified nuclear (plutonium "pit" and uranium "secondary") components;

  • modify and repackage existing nuclear weapons (e.g., the recent "Mod 11" of the B61 strategic bomb), and conduct flight-tests to certify their ability to provide an improved military capability by withstanding the stresses of a new stockpile-to-target sequence (STS), such as high speed earth penetration to destroy hardened underground targets with reduced collateral damage.

  • design, simulate, and flight-test weapon prototypes, and certify both the nuclear and stockpile-to-target performance of new weapon designs as possible replacements for existing stockpile weapons.

These points are substantiated by the highlights from the "Green Book" contained in the next section, and described in greater detail, with our analytical comments, in Appendix I of this report.

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