Action Alerts | PMA's newsletter | What's on | Links | How PMA can help you
Help PMA grow | Petition forms | Site map | PMA main page


Action Alert picture

Action Alert - US Nuclear Weapons Test

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 23 March 1998

Kia ora,

it looks as though the US nuclear weapons test will be detonated this Wednesday, 25 March, according to the US Dept of Energy press release(copied below for your info). Also included in this message is a press
release from the US group Peace Action - just in case you need some new points to put in your protest messages ...

US Dept of Energy press release, 19 March 1998.

Subcritical Experiment to be Conducted At the Nevada Test Site U1a Complex

The U.S. Department of Energy's Nevada Operations Office plans to conduct Stagecoach, a subcritical experiment at its underground U1a Complex at the Nevada Test Site on March 25.

Stagecoach is a Los Alamos National Laboratory-sponsored experiment whose primary objective will be to obtain important physics information on plutonium samples of varying ages. Using techniques developed by Los Alamos over the past 40 years, the Stagecoach subcritical experiment will involve chemical high explosives to generate high pressures that are applied to weapons materials, in particular, plutonium. The experiment, consisting of five separate assemblies, will contain a total of 255 pounds of chemical high explosives and about 2 pounds, 2 ounces of plutonium.

Subcritical experiments are designed to obtain scientific data and technical information on the effects of aging and behavior of nuclear weapons materials. The experiments support the Department of Energy's Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing. These experiments are called "subcritical" because there will be no critical mass formed and no self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction will occur. They are fully consistent with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The U1a Complex, 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is an underground laboratory of horizontal tunnels about one-half mile in length mined at the base of a vertical shaft, approximately 960 feet beneath the surface. The vertical shaft is equipped with a mechanical hoist for personnel and equipment access while another vertical shaft about 1,000 feet away provides cross ventilation, instrumentation, utility access and emergency egress. On the surface, there several temporary buildings and instrumentation trailers. The Complex is designed to minimize environmental impacts and provides a very high degree of safety for Nevada Test Site workers and the public.

Peace Action press release, 19 March 1998.


European Parliament Says Experiments Jeopardize Comprehensive Test Ban

WASHINGTON, DC - Peace Action condemned Secretary of Energy Federico Pena's announcement today before the House National Security Committee that the Department of Energy plans to conduct the first in a new round of controversial subcritical nuclear weapons experiments underground at the Nevada Test Site next week.

In February, the European Parliament concluded that the United States was creating a "crisis of confidence" in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by conducting subcritical experiments. The
parliament passed a resolution urging the United States to "halt the series of subcritical tests" which could otherwise jeopardize the treaty's entry into force.

"These tests are part of a short-sighted effort by the Clinton administration to buy the weapons labs' support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but its a misguided policy that will come back to haunt us in the long run," said Peace Action's Bruce Hall. "We're raising concerns about our compliance with that long-sought treaty and that will make it more difficult to convince hold-out countries such as India to sign on."

The experiments couple high explosives with nuclear weapons plutonium and are designed to help nuclear weapon scientists better predict the performance of nuclear weapons in the absence of full-scale nuclear testing. In addition, the experiments are part of Department of Energy efforts to maintain the ability to resume full-scale nuclear testing should a future president decide to withdraw from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Department of Energy officials claim that since the plutonium involved in the explosions does not reach critical mass - hence the term 'subcritical' - the experiments fall within the letter of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now being considered for Senate ratification. Critics argue that the experiments undermine the spirit and intent of the treaty which bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion." Furthermore, critics charge, the United States has created a norm under which other nations could feel justified in conducting similar experiments at
their test sites, making the challenge of verifying the test ban more difficult. Press reports last year indicated that Russia has begun its own series of low-yield or subcritical experiments at the Novaya Zemlya Test Site in the Russian Arctic.

The upcoming experiment, code-named "Stagecoach", has been designed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and is the first of four subcritical nuclear weapons experiments scheduled for this year. The other experiments are; Bagpipe, designed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Cimmaron, designed by Los Alamos; and Accordion, designed by Livermore. The Department of Energy conducted two subcritical experiments in 1997.

"The subcritical experiments are just another example of how the Clinton administration remains stuck in a Cold War mentality," said Hall. "Instead of seizing this historic opportunity to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament, US weaponeers are out at the Nevada Test Site advancing the frontiers of nuclear weapons science."


Peace Action is the largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization in the US.

****** WHAT YOU CAN DO *******

People to protest to in Aotearoa / New Zealand :

a) Contact the US ambassador - Josiah Beeman, US Embassy, 29 Fitzherbert Tce, Thorndon, Wellington; tel (04) 472 2068; fax (04) 471 2380.

b) Contact Jenny Shipley and Don McKinnon and ask them to protest to the US ambassador - Prime Minister's office tel (04) 471 9998; fax (04) 473 7045; Don McKinnon's office tel 471 9999; fax 471 1444 or write to them at Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp needed).

c) Contact your local MP and ask them to contact Jenny Shipley, Don McKinnon and the US ambassador.

or contact President Clinton, The White House, Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC; fax + 1 202 456 2461 or email <>

If you require more information about the sub-critical test programme please get in touch. Thanks, Edwina.

Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Action Alerts PMA's newsletter What's on where Peace links Help PMA grow How PMA can help you Petition Forms Site Map