Can The US Even Test Nukes Anymore?
The U.S. may be losing its ability to conduct a nuclear weapons test, former U.S. nuclear official John Hopkins warns in the latest Los Alamos newsletter.
President Donald Trump indicated Friday he wanted to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and was concerned that the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” Hopkins warned that his review of current Department of Energy readiness leads him to believe that there is no “realistic appreciation for what nuclear testing involves or how to stay prepared to do it again within 24–36 months, as legally required by Presidential Decision Directive 15 (1993).”
Trump justified his call for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal by highlighting recent Russian violations of ballistic missile treaties, and the ongoing threat posed by North Korea.
Hopkins notes that in the event of an emergency and urgently needed nuclear test, the U.S. would not be able to rely on its traditional testing sights in Nevada. The “explosive” population of Nevada, coupled with construction of high rise buildings, makes some elements of the U.S. nuclear arsenal untestable in that area.
The only other two candidate test sites now lack infrastructure and are extremely remote. One of the alternative test sites in Alaska also remains under federal protection under the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
He also highlights that the U.S. has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1992, rendering a generation of Department of Energy officials void of necessary experience in a crisis situation.
“With every day that passes, the United States grows more out of practice and out of resources,” Hopkins declares.
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