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Weinberger Scored on Testing

May 26, 1987

Weinberger's article exemplifies the "pernicious myths" that have "clouded the debate" surrounding nuclear testing. The secretary should be reminded that it is not the test ban advocates who have a conflict of interest in advising on the need for nuclear test explosions. In any case, his arguments are contradicted by the nation's foremost experts in nuclear weapons design and testing.

Weinberger's first argument for nuclear testing, that the stockpile must be checked for leaky warheads and duds, is specious.

A private citizen who calls the public affairs office of the Nevada test site will learn that fewer than 5% of the 20-odd U.S. nuclear tests each year are for reliability checks; the other 95% are for weapons and delivery systems development.

The experts--even those who favor nuclear weapons testing--agree that "maintenance of stockpile reliability" is not a real reason for nuclear testing. Weinberger's reference to the problems with "one-third of all nuclear weapons designs introduced into our stockpile since 1958" is misleading because he includes warheads introduced into the stockpile during the 1958-1961 moratorium, and, therefore, without adequate testing.

The one-third applies only to those designs foolishly entered into inventory from 1958-1961. Livermore scientist Dr. Ray Kidder, in a California legislative hearing on Feb. 3, testified that none of these duds required nuclear testing to fix. No bombs have been put into inventory without testing since 1961, and the percentage of surprises since then is near zero.

Weinberger's second trump card, that the compliance with a test ban treaty cannot be verified, is belied by technical evidence, as well as recently implemented cooperative measures. Simple evidence that the weapons labs themselves do not support the Reagan Administration's "verification concerns" comes from W.J. Hannon's article in Science (Jan. 18, 1985), and from Kidder's public statements.

A mountain of expert legislative testimony asserts that a total ban on nuclear tests is indeed in our national interest, that we do not need nuclear tests, and that the nuclear threat cannot be appreciably lessened without a ban on nuclear test explosions.


Executive Director

Southern California

Federation of Scientists


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