Russia plans subcritical nuclear test late autumn

Russia will perform a subcritical nuclear test on its test site on Novaya Zemlya Archipelago in the Arctic before the onset of winter, Reuters reported with a reference to First Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Lev Ryabev.

"This is a routing operation which has been conducted long before we quit full scale underground nuclear tests", said Vladislav Petrov, Minatom’s press-spokesman, in an interview with Bellona WEB. "These tests do not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and are carried out to maintain our military stockpiles in an appropriate condition", added Petrov.

The subcritical experiments contain the ingredients of a nuclear bomb, but fizzle out without any thermonuclear blast and are not accompanied by radioactive emissions. The tests are used for both improving old warheads and for developing new nuclear devices. Last year, the U.S. conducted three subcritical tests at the Nevada test site.

Nils Bohmer, a nuclear physicist at the Bellona Foundation, says that this shows the weakness of the Test Ban Treaty. "Superpowers like the United States and Russia can continue to develop nuclear devices, while other countries which do not have such technology and corresponding big research programs are banned from continuing. This can make it easier for small countries to argue not to sign the test ban treaty, or to withdraw existing signatures", says Bohmer.

The CTBT has been signed by more than 140 nations, including Russia and the United States, but has not yet been put into force.