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Obama's DOE conducts nuclear experiment
Obama's DOE conducts nuclear experiment

Submitted by davidswanson on Wed, 2010-09-22 04:30

By Andrew Kishner

On Wednesday, September 15, the United States Department of Energy conducted a subcritical nuclear explosive experiment under the NNSS (Nevada National Security Site) facility in Nevada formerly known as the Nevada Test Site. The subcritical test dubbed 'Bacchus' is the 24th such controversial 'almost' nuclear test whereby plutonium is bombarded by conventional explosives, short of blowing it up. The first subcritical test was conducted by the U.S. in 1997 and the most recent was 2006. The DOE is expected to give a 48 hour notice to the world community in advance of any full-scale subcritical test but it does not appear that this precedent was followed, and rather was completely disregarded. One Nevada activist group has indicated that they were on a list to get 48-hour notices but never received one.

The DOE's subcritical testing program, which is part of its Stockpile Stewardship program, is problematic because it is nearly impossible to know if any country has indeed conducted a zero-yield subcritical test or a very small yield nuclear blast. The reasons why subcritical tests are problematic for all nations on Earth are because subcriticals are:

* conducted out of sight, so there would be no flash of light detectable via satellite imagery
* involve such small amounts of plutonium, so a tiny 'pop' would be too small to produce any seismic effect
* occur at deep depths, at about 1,000 feet underground, so radioactive hot gases would likely not reach the surface and wouldn't be picked up by the radiation monitoring network of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Subcritical tests are currently generating suspicion and distrust worldwide; each time the U.S. conducts a subcritical test, they fan the flames of fear in other countries, whose interpretation is that the U.S. is (still) testing and honing their nukes. Their logical
conclusion is that until they become nuclear, militarily they are disadvantaged. It is unlikely that the CTBT-in-force (the CTBT won't ban subcritical tests) will change anything and remedy any of the problems the CTBT is designed to solve. After all, the current form of the CTBT lacks any verification regime for these subcriticals, although any signatory can request that international monitors visit the country where a suspected test occurred. But an on-site visit by international monitors may be too late by then (even if they can find the subcritical testing enclave to verify claims). Suspicion of the deliberate conduct of, or a technical error that led to an accidental occurrence of, an underground nuclear test may force a resumption of underground nuclear testing by one country or a slew of countries.

The CTBT is not comprehensive enough at preventing fear and distrust from spiraling towards a nuclear arms race. Let's pretend that a 'rogue' nation starts preparing for a subcritical test - the preparations as viewed by satellite for that subcritical test will end up looking exactly like the preparations for a full-scale underground nuclear test. This 'preparation' would create a global furor.

And, so, we return to 'Bacchus.' Why isn't 'Bacchus' now causing a global furor? Is it because we 'trust' the nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons development in the U.S. and not from North Korea or Iran? Recall that neither of those two latter countries has ever used DU or nuclear bombs on other nations, or poisoned their own people with fallout under false assurances of 'There is No Danger.' Why is it that 'they' can't experiment underground but WE CAN? That adds new meaning to Obama's mantra 'Yes, we can!'

It is my firm belief that subcritical tests are an extension of the 41-year-long nuclear testing program of the United States government at the Nevada Test Site that began in 1951 and 'ended' in 1992. A subcritical underground test - which I place in the same category as a nuclear test - is a break of the underground testing ban and these 'nuclear' tests may signal to other CTBT signatories the U.S.'s determination to not only keep its nuclear arsenal but one day resume full-scale nuclear testing.

Action step:

I ask everyone concerned about these provocative subcritical tests to bring awareness to and protest this most recent subcritical nuclear test by observing an hour of silence everyday starting at 5:35 pm, the time of the 'Bacchus' test held on Sept. 15, 2010.

If asked 'Why aren't you talking?,' you can write on a notepad that you will conveniently carry around with you:
"I am observing an hour of silence to protest the U.S.'s subcritical nuclear test 'Bacchus.'."

Also, visit to learn more and help push for legislation to ban monies for subcritical and hydrodynamic nuclear testing.

Andrew Kishner is a downwinder activist and founder of, a grassroots organization that endeavors to slow and ultimately reverse the tide of global corporate and governmental suppression and cover-up of the environmental and health effects of human-made radiation that now contaminates every place on Earth.

"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

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