“It is Almost Certain that the U.S. Will Not Test Again,” Says Former NNSA Administrator

Amb. Linton Brooks, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration during the George W. Bush administration, said there is practically no chance of the United States resuming nuclear testing.

Brooks, speaking at an ACA-sponsored Nov. 28 event on “The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty at 15: a Status Update,” described the political bar to testing as “too high” and stated that testing is not the best use of time or resources.

Brooks expressed his confidence in the NNSA's Science Based Stockpile Stewardship and Management program ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal, saying that it would be “extremely difficult” to conceive of a problem that could not be solved by the program and require a resumption of nuclear testing to substantiate. He noted that in the past eighteen years, no national laboratory director has ever called for a resumption of testing in their annual stockpile report to Congress.

The event, sponsored by the Arms Control Association and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, also included remarks by Marvin Adams from Texas A & M University, Jenifer Mackby of the Center Strategic and International Studies, and Daryl Kimball of ACA.

Marvin Adams, a professor of nuclear engineering and consultant at the national laboratories, also characterized the Stockpile Stewardship program as successful. Future effectiveness, however, will require maintaining highly skilled personnel, robust experimental and surveillance programs, and updated production complexes if the U.S. is to maintain a safe and reliable arsenal without testing.

Jenifer Mackby reviewed the tremendous advances in national and international test ban monitoring and verification regime capabilities, outlining developments in both the international monitoring system (IMS) and the on-site inspection preparations, characterizing both has having undergone significant development and demonstrated capability since 1996.

Today, the IMS is over 85% complete and will detect with high confidence explosions of 1 kiloton or more on hard rock anywhere on the globe and a much lower levels in key regions. Mackby explained that while the CTBTO is constrained in its analysis, states can employ precision monitoring for detect, locate and interpret events of a smaller magnitude.

When questioned about the ability of IMS to detect a nuclear test in Iran, she said it would be difficult for Iran to pull off a clandestine explosion or block an OSI if a test was suspected.

Daryl Kimball discussed the prospects for moving forward on ratification of the CTBT, stating that despite Obama's commitment to bring the treaty before the Senate, with elections less than a year away there is not enough time for the necessary hearings and serious debate on the treaty.

Kimball went on to lay out several recommendations that would create a climate conducive to ratification, including the appointment a high-level White House official to coordinate CTBT outreach to the Senate and that the administration work to clarify known questions that may result in misinformation, such as those raised over the scope of the treaty.

A transcript of the event is available from: http://www.armscontrol.org/events/Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty-at-15-A-Status-Update