The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday said it had set off a massive underground chemical explosion as part of a program to refine the capability to detect illicit nuclear testing (see GSN, May 5, 2011).
This was the third of seven planned Source Physics Experiments, which began in May of last year.
The most recent event "included detonating a chemical explosive equivalent to 2,200 pounds of TNT in a contained, confined environment 150 feet below ground" at the Nevada National Security Site, the semiautonomous Energy Department agency said in a press release. "Information gathered from this experiment includes high-resolution accelerometer, infrasound, seismic, explosive performance, ground-based LIDAR (light detection and ranging), ground-based hyperspectral imagery and satellite data. These data will advance current, state-of-the-art strong ground motion and seismic wave propagation models and algorithms toward a predictive capability."
Findings from the U.S. trials are meant to strengthen the U.S. capacity to identify and distinguish limited-power atomic blasts from earthquakes and other events that produce seismic movement.
“These seismic Source Physics Experiments are significant achievements in the United States’ efforts to develop, validate and improve on emerging technology that will be used to assure compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington said in released comments. “The work conducted at the NNSS and by the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation programs serves to advance the implementation of President Obama’s nuclear nonproliferation agenda.”
The Obama administration has committed to pursuing U.S. Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see GSN, June 15). The United States is among a handful of nations that must still deliver legislative approval before the accord can enter into force.
North Korea is known to have conducted the most recent underground nuclear test blasts, in 2006 and 2009. There have been recent indications the regime is planning a third blast, though Pyongyang said last month no such effort was planned "at present" (see GSN, June 11; U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration release, July 24).
The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday said it had set off a massive underground chemical explosion as part of a program to refine the capability to detect illicit nuclear testing.