Review and Extension Conference, which converted the NPT into a treaty of indefinite duration.

The potential impact on U.S. security interests and concerns of the foreign nuclear tests that could plausibly occur without detection in a CTBT regime can only be meaningfully assessed by comparison with two alternative situations—the situation in the absence of a CTBT, and the situation in which a CTBT is being strictly observed by all parties. The key questions are: How much of the benefit of a strictly observed CTBT is lost if some countries test clandestinely within the limits imposed by the capabilities of the monitoring system? In what respects is the case of limited clandestine testing under a CTBT better for U.S. security interests—and in what respects worse—than the case of having no CTBT at all? If some nations do not adhere to a CTBT and test openly, how do the technical and political impacts differ from a no-CTBT era?

In these comparisons, two kinds of effects of nuclear testing by others on U.S. security interests and concerns need to be recognized: the direct effects on the actual nuclear-weapon capabilities and deployments of the nations that test, with implications for military balances, U.S. freedom of action, and the possibilities of nuclear-weapon use; and the indirect effects of nuclear testing by some states on the aspirations and decisions of other states about acquiring and deploying nuclear weapons, or about acquiring and deploying non-nuclear forces intended to offset the nuclear weapons of others. A CTBT, to the extent it is observed, brings security benefits to the United States in both categories—limitations on the nuclear-weapon capabilities that others can achieve, and elimination of the inducement of states to react to the testing of others with testing and/or deployments of their own.

A nuclear test or series of tests affects the nuclear-weapon-related capabilities of the state that tests—and, if detected by other countries, may affect their aspirations and decisions relating to nuclear weapons—but whether nuclear testing actually leads to weaponization and, beyond that, to deployment, depends on additional factors. These may include a country’s motivation to acquire nuclear weapons, as well as its production of or access to plutonium or enriched uranium for fission weapons, the necessary tritium for boosted fission weapons and boosted primaries for thermonuclear weapons, and the lithium-deuteride “salt” that is used in thermonuclear weapons.

Another important factor is the means of delivery, some of which impose greater demands on the nuclear-weapon payload. Although many people appear to believe that the threat from newly nuclear countries is dependent on their possession of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), even the 1998 Rumsfeld Commission charged with evaluating such ICBM threats called attention very emphatically to the availability of other means of delivery that would accommodate larger, heavier warheads.1 The possibilities include delivery by military and civilian aircraft, by short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles that could be launched from ships near U.S. shores, by truck or car after a weapon has been smuggled across U.S. borders, or by a ship entering a U.S. port with a nuclear weapon on board.

The factors beyond nuclear testing that affect weaponization and deployment—and thus affect the actual military threats that new nuclear-weapon capabilities can pose to the United States—are far beyond the mandate and capacity of this committee to address. Analysis of these factors is the daily meat of intelligence assessment and, while a necessary part of a “net assessment” of threats to U.S. security interests, cannot practically be incorporated into our treatment of the implications of potential clandestine nuclear testing under a CTBT. We confine ourselves here to the nuclear-weapon potentials likely to be achievable with nuclear testing in various yield ranges (as well as without testing at all), referring to such factors as delivery systems only in the

1  

D.H.Rumsfeld, et al., Executive Summary of the Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (July 15, 1998).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement