03.2 Nuclear Testing

The American Physical Society, reaffirms its April 1997 statement that "fully informed technical studies have concluded continued testing is not required to retain confidence in the safety and reliability of the remaining nuclear weapons in the United States' stockpile." Resumption of nuclear testing may have serious negative international consequences, particularly on the nonproliferation regime. In addition the Society strongly urges the Congress and the Administration to provide sufficient notification and justification for any proposed nuclear test to allow adequate time for informed and thorough analysis and public discussion.

Background

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since 1992. In 1995, the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom agreed to pursue a permanent ban on such tests, in order to achieve an indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Maintaining the integrity of the NPT, under which 191 countries have promised not to acquire nuclear weapons, is a vital element in uniting the world in an effort to contain and reduce the nuclear danger, including current international efforts to pressure North Korea and Iran to live up to their nonproliferation commitments.

There is renewed debate in the United States about the possibility of resumed nuclear weapon testing. The Department of Defense's 2018 Nuclear Posture Review stated that the United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal" and at the same time will "as a safeguard, maintain a nuclear test capability." U.S. Code Title 50, Section 2525 codified the requirement of annual assessments and reports to the President and Congress regarding the condition of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile must be made. The directors of the U.S. nuclear-weapon laboratories and the Commander in Chief of the Strategic Command have instituted rigorous annual reviews of the safety and reliability, assessing each nuclear weapon type and each year have determined that the U.S. stockpile is safe and reliable. 

(Adopted by the Council on April 4, 2003; Revision approved by Council on November 9, 2018)
Category: National Policy

APS Statements

APS Statements are public policy statements that undergo a meticulous process of draft and review, including receiving comments from APS members, before being voted on by APS Council at one of its semiannual meetings.