Political Issues: Nuclear Testing


Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them. Testing nuclear weapons can yield information about how the weapons work, as well as how the weapons behave under various conditions and how structures behave when subjected to nuclear explosions. Additionally, nuclear testing has often been used as an indicator of scientific and military strength, and many tests have been overtly political in their intention; most nuclear weapons states publicly declared their nuclear status by means of a nuclear test.

The first nuclear weapon was detonated as a test by the United States at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945, with a yield approximately equivalent to 20 kilotons. The first hydrogen bomb, codenamed “Mike”, was tested at the Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands on November 1 (local date) in 1952, also by the United States. The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the “Tsar Bomba” of the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya on October 30, 1961, with an estimated yield of around 50 megatons.

In 1963, all nuclear and many non-nuclear states signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, pledging to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The treaty permitted underground nuclear testing. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, while China continued up until 1980. The last underground test by the United States was in 1992, the Soviet Union in 1990, the United Kingdom in 1991, and both France and China continued testing until 1996. After adopting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, all of these states have pledged to discontinue all nuclear testing. Non-signatories India and Pakistan last tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

The most recent nuclear test was announced by North Korea on May 25, 2009.

Bi-Partisan Nuclear / Missile Testing Information

Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
Responsible for managing, directing, and executing a ballistic missile defense system.

High Frontier
Nonprofit educational corporation that actively supports the deployment of an effective national defense against ballistic missiles.

Federation of American Scientists: Special Weapons Monitor
Includes world news and information on programs and threats.

Boost-Phase Intercept
Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) is a concept in which a hostile Theater Ballistic Missile (TBM) is intercepted during its boost phase of flight. From the Federation of American Scientists.

Pro / Anti Nuclear / Missile Testing Information

Anti Nuclear / Missile – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
International organization promoting peaceful, non-nuclear, and environmentally safe space exploration.

Weapons in Space: Silver Bullet or Russian Roulette?
The Policy Implications of U.S. Pursuit of Space-Based Weapons