Nuclear Experiment Planned at Nevada Site

Associated Press
Monday, May 24, 2004

LAS VEGAS - Government scientists plan an underground nuclear experiment, short of a nuclear blast, at the Nevada Test Site on Tuesday. The experiment will involve detonating high explosives around plutonium in a steel sphere while X-rays, radar and lasers chart the behavior of the radioactive element.

Scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will run the test in a tunnel nearly 1,000 feet below ground at the site about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The test dubbed "Armando" is the 21st subcritical experiment at the site. Federal officials say the experiments are essential to maintaining the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The experiments technically do not violate the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty because no critical mass is formed and there is no full-scale nuclear explosion. Anti-nuclear groups criticize the experiments as contrary to the treaty's spirit.

The U.S. has observed a nuclear testing moratorium since 1992, but has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Bush administration and Congress last year reduced from three years to two years the time it would take to resume full-scale nuclear tests.

ON THE NET

National Nuclear Security Administration: http://www.nnsa.doe.gov

Nevada Test Site: http://www.nv.doe.gov/nts

Los Alamos National Laboratory: http://www.lanl.gov