Nuclear test range in Arctic to be used intensively

The Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy, or Minatom, is going to proceed with subcritical testing at the test field on Novaya Zemlya in the year 2000. The ministry says the tests do not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


“The Russian nuclear weapons stock needs to be verified to ensure the safety of the nuclear materials. Unfortunately, it is impossible to do through calculations or computer modelling that is why Russian nuclear specialists have to perform subcritical tests at the test field on Novaya Zemlya”, an official from the ministry explained.


“No nuclear energy or radioactive releases occur during such experiments,” the official emphasised.


Yury Bespalko, press secretary of Minatom, said that all the experiments on Novaya Zemlya are performed in strict consent with the Comprehensive Test The Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy, or Minatom, is going to proceed with subcritical testing at the test field on Novaya Zemlya in the year 2000. The ministry says the tests do not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


“The Russian nuclear weapons stock needs to be verified to ensure the safety of the nuclear materials. Unfortunately, it is impossible to do through calculations or computer modelling that is why Russian nuclear specialists have to perform subcritical tests at the test field on Novaya Zemlya”, an official from the ministry explained.


“No nuclear energy or radioactive releases occur during such experiments,” the official emphasised.


Yury Bespalko, press secretary of Minatom, said that all the experiments on Novaya Zemlya are performed in strict consent with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In 1999, Minatom conducted seven subcritical tests. A series of tests will be performed in late 2000 as well.


Subcritical tests, or what Minatom calls them – hydrodynamic experiments, contain the ingredients of a nuclear warhead, plutonium or uranium, but fizzle out without any thermonuclear blast and, theoretically, are not accompanied by radioactive emissions. The test range is off-limits for civilian regulatory authorities, making it hard to obtain accurate information on possible radioactivity discharges and nature of ‘experiments’ conducted there. In autumn, 1999, Bill Richardson, U.S. Secretary of Energy, requested his Russian counterpart, Yevgeny Adamov, to allow American specialists into the test site to make sure that only subcritical experiments were conducted. The answer was likely negative.

Andrey Korolev