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Clinton to Seek Lasting End to All Nuclear Tests

August 11, 1995|R. JEFFREY SMITH | THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — President Clinton is slated to announce today that he has decided to endorse a permanent end to all nuclear weapons testing, including even the small-scale nuclear explosions that his Administration had sought to exempt from a future worldwide test ban, senior U.S. officials said Thursday.

In deciding Thursday night to pursue what he plans to describe as a "true zero" test ban treaty, Clinton sought to end months of bickering inside his Administration over the nuclear testing issue and pave the way for completion of the accord in Geneva by next year, the officials said.

They said Clinton's decision is in keeping with his January pledge to press harder for a test ban of unending duration that all nations will support. It comes on the heels of the 50-year anniversary of the detonation of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the midst of a political furor in the South Pacific over France's plan to conduct a handful of new nuclear blasts there before next spring.

Besides ending U.S. support for so-called hydronuclear blasts with an explosive yield comparable to about four pounds of TNT, Clinton also rejected a Pentagon proposal to conduct larger nuclear blasts comparable to 500 tons of TNT during the next decade for the purpose of verifying that defective nuclear weapons have been properly repaired.

A panel of expert scientists and nuclear weapons designers had advised the Administration last week that the hydronuclear tests are not needed and that larger blasts are not essential, if the Administration takes various steps to ensure that the U.S. nuclear arsenal remains viable, such as carefully watching how the weapons age and maintaining the capability to refurbish them whenever needed.

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