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Soviet Nuclear Monitors Working, Scientist Says

July 30, 1986|DAVID SMOLLAR | Times Staff Writer

LA JOLLA — Installation of monitoring devices in the Soviet Union during the past month to detect underground nuclear tests has proceeded more smoothly than originally expected, the first American scientist to return from the project said Tuesday.

Seismologist Jonathan Berger of the University of California, San Diego, said that portable equipment already in place near a Soviet underground testing site 1,800 miles southeast of Moscow has recorded several earthquakes in the Soviet Union and a July 17 American underground nuclear test in Nevada.

The data eventually will allow Americans to understand more precisely the nature of shock waves transmitted through the area's geology, intended to permit accurate monitoring of any Soviet violations under future test-ban treaties.

"We're very pleased at the amount of data that we have gotten so far, even though there is no (Soviet nuclear) testing going on so far," Berger said in an interview.

Stations in U.S.

The work by Berger and other UC San Diego scientists from the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is the result of an unusual agreement signed in May. The agreement, between the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private environmental group headquartered in New York, and the Soviet Academy of Sciences, which is directed by the Soviet government, calls both for American-manned monitoring stations in the Soviet Union and for similar stations near the Nevada test site manned by Soviet scientists.

The private council hopes to show that accurate monitoring of underground nuclear testing can be accomplished with present technical knowledge and that fears that violations would go undetected should not be an impediment to a treaty banning such tests. The Soviets have been pressuring the United States to join in immediate negotiations for a permanent test ban, which the American government has resisted until recently. Washington remains skeptical of the ability to detect violations.

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