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In the 1970 Baneberry Test, a 10-kiloton device was detonated approximately 900 feet underground. Despite a careful geological analysis of the test site and appropriate backfilling of the test shaft, undiscovered geological features allowed the blast to breach the surface. The resulting radioactive dust plume is shown here. (Photo: Los Alamos) NUCLEAR TEST READINESS What is needed? Why? In a national emergency, could the United States safely test a nuclear weapon tomorrow? Is Nevada still the obvious place to conduct a nuclear test? John C. Hopkins, former head of the Los Alamos Nuclear Test division, contemplates the challenges of reviving—and possibly relocating—America’s nuclear testing program. I am one of the dwindling number of people left who participated in U.S. nuclear weapons tests. I participated in five tests in the Pacific in 1962 and some 170 tests in Nevada in the 1960s through the 1980s. I witnessed another 35 or so nuclear tests. Because I know something about the skills, equipment, facilities, and infrastructure necessary to field a full-scale nuclear test, I have grown increasingly concerned at the steady degradation of U.S. nuclear test readiness—that is, the capability of the United States to test its nuclear weapons should the need to do so arise. In fact, my review of assessments made by the Department of Energy (DOE) of U.S. nuclear test readiness leads me to question whether the DOE has, after almost 25 years of being out of the testing business, any realistic appreciation for what nuclear testing involves or how to stay prepared to do it again within 24–36 months, as legally required by Presidential Decision Directive 15 (1993). Starting up or starting over? Nuclear testing as we did it at the Nevada Test Site (NTS, now called the Nevada National Security Site, or NNSS) was a profoundly large and complex endeavor. The 1,375-square- mile site sits about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas and was used from 1951–1992 for 928 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests. Back then, the U.S. nuclear enterprise was not just a program; it was a nationwide industry that required more than 100,000 highly trained, experienced people. During the Cold War—peak testing years—we averaged about one test a week, and NTS employed more than 7,000 people onsite. (See “Nevada National Security Site Turns 65,” page 2.) According to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—the organization within the DOE obligated to maintain U.S. test readiness—much, if not most, of the equipment and technology required for nuclear testing in the past has not been adequately maintained, is obsolete, or has been sold or salvaged. More importantly, the knowledge needed to conduct a nuclear test, which comes only from testing experience, is all but gone too. Currently, no National Security Science December 2016 9