Developments in Nuclear Weapons Around the World

Nilgiri

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Floodgates opening which means the Usa and Russia can no longer work together in stopping other countries in getting nukes.

This is more between them tbh.

Regarding other countries, would need a breakdown of NPT and IAEA for floodgates to be opened, which I do not see much signs of happening....as that would be an all-in shove by one side that the other side would have to call. Doubt they will do it over Ukraine.

We might just see a buildup again of strategic stockpiles and ICBM testing by both sides....while Ukraine remains in some perpetual stasis of warfare till the mid-century as I doubt either side resolve will erode now as neither side seems willing to compromise.

A lot might depend how Russia is able to leverage its relationship with China (and how China then factors in the impact on itself from the Western world) especially though to persist on its current course. We will have to see.


I treat George Friedman's prognostications with a heavy dose of skepticism but I agreed with what he said about everyone and their grandmother having easy access to nuclear technology or knowledge on how to acquire/build it by the mid-century. You can't kept this cat in the bag forever.

At this point nuclear powers are going to be racing to either find a reliable counter to nukes or something even deadlier.

I dont think it will be easy access to be honest given the large capital investments (that are all easily detectable and monitored from the initial stages) involved in creating a credible survivable deterrent.

Its the production of fissile material and then making the warheads survivable (cost wise) to a first strike by the worst case scenario that is the chokepoint rather than the bomb technology itself. i.e the A and C in A-->B---> C

Without long term (and often early investment into this capital investment for A and C predating this century).....a decent return on investment is unlikely as your bluff will and can be called with a small weakly hedged stockpile that cost a bunch already and likely only served to put you on a target list especially if it provides some false sense of security.
 

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China’s Imports of Russian Uranium Spark Fear of New Arms Race​



On the same day in December when Chinese and US diplomats said they’d held constructive talks to reduce military tensions, Russian engineers were delivering a massive load of nuclear fuel to a remote island just 220 kilometers (124 miles) off Taiwan’s northern coast.

China’s so-called fast-breeder reactor on Changbiao Island is one of the world’s most closely-watched nuclear installations. US intelligence officials forecast that when it begins working this year, the CFR-600 will produce weapons-grade plutonium that could help Beijing increase its stockpile of warheads as much as four-fold in the next 12 years. That would allow China to match the nuclear arsenals currently deployed by the US and Russia.

800x-1.jpg

The CFR-600 nuclear plant, Changbiao Island, Fujian Province.
Photographer: Google Maps




“It is entirely possible that this breeder program is purely civilian,” said Pavel Podvig, a Geneva-based nuclear analyst with the United Nations’s Institute for Disarmament Research. “One thing that makes me nervous is that China stopped reporting its civilian and separated plutonium stockpiles. It’s not a smoking gun but it’s definitely not a good sign.”

China’s burgeoning capacity to expand its atomic weaponry comes as the last remaining treaty limiting the strategic stockpiles of the US and Russia is on the verge of collapse amid spiraling confrontation over the war in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin announced Feb. 21 that Russia is suspending its involvement in the New START agreement, a decision US President Joe Biden condemned as a “big mistake.”

In a Dec. 30 videoconference, Putin told Chinese President Xi Jinping that defense and military technology cooperation “has a special place” in their relations.

“Clearly, China is benefiting from Russian support,” said Hanna Notte, a German arms-control expert. The risk for Beijing is the US may expand its own stockpile in response to China’s build-up as well as the Kremlin’s abrogation of arms-control treaties and “the discrepancy will just grow again,” she said.

US Department of Defense officials have repeatedly raised alarm over China’s nuclear-weapons ambitions since issuing a 2021 report to Congress. Military planners assess that the CFR-600 is poised to play a critical role in raising China’s stockpile of warheads to 1,500 by 2035 from an estimated 400 today.

Pentagon officials say Russian state-owned Rosatom Corp.’s Dec. 12 supply of 6,477 kilograms (14,279 pounds) of uranium is fueling an atomic program that could destabilize Asia’s military balance, where there are growing tensions over Taiwan and control of the South China Sea. China possesses few means to increase its plutonium stockpile for nuclear weapons after its original production program closed down in the 1990s, experts say.

China rejects the US’s concerns. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said China “strictly fulfilled its nuclear non-proliferation obligations” and voluntarily submitted “part of civil nuclear activities” to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said in a Feb. 23 briefing the US repeatedly hyped up the “China nuclear threat” as an excuse to expand its own strategic arsenal, while China maintained a defensive policy that includes no first-use of nuclear weapons.

US protests didn’t dissuade China National Nuclear Corp. from taking delivery of fuel from Rosatom for the CFR-600 reactor, which is based on a Russian design using liquid metal instead of water to moderate operation. Exclusive trade data showing details of the transaction was provided to Bloomberg by the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank.

The expanding nuclear partnership between Russia and China is having a huge impact on non-proliferation efforts. Between September and December, the RUSI data show Russia exported almost seven times as much highly-enriched uranium to China for the CFR-600 as all the material removed worldwide under US and IAEA auspices in the last three decades.

China paid about $384 million in three installments for 25,000 kilograms of CFR-600 fuel from Rosatom in that period, according to the RUSI data, which is sourced from a third-party commercial provider and based on Russian customs records.

Rosatom declined to comment. The project “will become the first nuclear power plant with a high-capacity fast reactor outside of Russia,” Rosatom’s TVEL Fuel Company said in a Dec. 28 statement confirming delivery of fuel.


Highly-enriched uranium, defined as the presence of uranium-235 isotopes refined to greater than 20% purity, is a strictly-controlled metal that only a few countries manufacture or possess. The higher the level of enrichment, the closer the suitability for use in weapons, and eliminating the international trade in highly-enriched uranium has been a central pillar of non-proliferation policy since the 1990s.

The CFR-600 is part of China’s ambitious $440 billion program to overtake the US as the world’s top nuclear-energy provider by the middle of next decade. Unlike traditional light-water reactors it runs on a combination of highly-enriched uranium and so-called mixed-oxide fuel that yields weapons-usable plutonium as a byproduct.

China is also building a desert factory in Gansu province designed to extract plutonium from the CFR-600’s spent fuel, once construction is finished in two years. Beijing ceased voluntarily reporting plutonium stockpiles to the IAEA since 2017.

800x-1 (1).jpg

Chinese Plutonium Reprocessing Plant in Jinta, Gansu; under construction.
Photographer: Google Maps


“The increasing secrecy and strong diplomatic efforts against providing greater transparency have raised international suspicion,” said Tong Zhao, a visiting research scholar at Princeton University’s Science and Global Security Program. “I don’t think anyone can rule out the potential military use.”

December’s high-level diplomatic meeting between senior US and Chinese officials in Langfang, a city neighboring China’s capital, was intended to pave the way for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first official visit as part of efforts to ease tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

But tensions spiked again after Blinken’s trip was canceled in February in response to the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon over US airspace that Biden ordered shot down by a warplane. At a security conference in Munich, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, blasted the US reaction as “hysterical” while Blinken warned Beijing not to supply lethal weapons to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The danger now is that tit-for-tat recriminations between Beijing and Washington take a nuclear turn once the CFR-600 starts operating, enabling the potential production of plutonium for weapons in years ahead.

“Previously, China had limited itself to what it called ‘minimum nuclear deterrence.’ This potential was much inferior to the American one,” a Russian arms-control expert, Alexei Arbatov, said in a Feb. 6 commentary for the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council. “But then, apparently, the Chinese decided to match the United States (and, by default, Russia) in terms of the number and quality of nuclear forces.”

Russia has grown increasingly dependent on China since Putin’s year-old invasion of Ukraine prompted unprecedented international sanctions. China has shown it has little intention of abandoning its staunch diplomatic partner against their common US adversary, even as Beijing portrays itself as a neutral actor over the war.

As part of the five-member club of official nuclear-weapons states codified under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, China and Russia don’t have to report details that might help verify whether the CFR-600 is being used to boost Beijing’s weapons stockpile. The site isn’t subject to mandatory IAEA monitoring, requiring the Pentagon and arms-control analysts to make assumptions about its purpose.

1.png


Frank von Hippel, a physicist and former White House adviser now at Princeton University, figures the CFR-600 could produce as many as 50 warheads a year once it’s up and running. “I would expect the enrichment in the HEU for the CFR-600 to be less than 30% - still weapon usable,” even if lower on the spectrum of highly-enriched material, he wrote in an emailed reply to questions.

“For China, getting the technology and fuel is important,” because there aren’t many places where it can obtain plutonium and Russia won’t object if the heavy-metal is used for nuclear weapons, said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Whatever is bad for the US and whenever you can strengthen American competitors, is viewed now as a good thing for Russia.”

 

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China’s Imports of Russian Uranium Spark Fear of New Arms Race​



On the same day in December when Chinese and US diplomats said they’d held constructive talks to reduce military tensions, Russian engineers were delivering a massive load of nuclear fuel to a remote island just 220 kilometers (124 miles) off Taiwan’s northern coast.

China’s so-called fast-breeder reactor on Changbiao Island is one of the world’s most closely-watched nuclear installations. US intelligence officials forecast that when it begins working this year, the CFR-600 will produce weapons-grade plutonium that could help Beijing increase its stockpile of warheads as much as four-fold in the next 12 years. That would allow China to match the nuclear arsenals currently deployed by the US and Russia.

View attachment 54508
The CFR-600 nuclear plant, Changbiao Island, Fujian Province.
Photographer: Google Maps




“It is entirely possible that this breeder program is purely civilian,” said Pavel Podvig, a Geneva-based nuclear analyst with the United Nations’s Institute for Disarmament Research. “One thing that makes me nervous is that China stopped reporting its civilian and separated plutonium stockpiles. It’s not a smoking gun but it’s definitely not a good sign.”

China’s burgeoning capacity to expand its atomic weaponry comes as the last remaining treaty limiting the strategic stockpiles of the US and Russia is on the verge of collapse amid spiraling confrontation over the war in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin announced Feb. 21 that Russia is suspending its involvement in the New START agreement, a decision US President Joe Biden condemned as a “big mistake.”

In a Dec. 30 videoconference, Putin told Chinese President Xi Jinping that defense and military technology cooperation “has a special place” in their relations.

“Clearly, China is benefiting from Russian support,” said Hanna Notte, a German arms-control expert. The risk for Beijing is the US may expand its own stockpile in response to China’s build-up as well as the Kremlin’s abrogation of arms-control treaties and “the discrepancy will just grow again,” she said.

US Department of Defense officials have repeatedly raised alarm over China’s nuclear-weapons ambitions since issuing a 2021 report to Congress. Military planners assess that the CFR-600 is poised to play a critical role in raising China’s stockpile of warheads to 1,500 by 2035 from an estimated 400 today.

Pentagon officials say Russian state-owned Rosatom Corp.’s Dec. 12 supply of 6,477 kilograms (14,279 pounds) of uranium is fueling an atomic program that could destabilize Asia’s military balance, where there are growing tensions over Taiwan and control of the South China Sea. China possesses few means to increase its plutonium stockpile for nuclear weapons after its original production program closed down in the 1990s, experts say.

China rejects the US’s concerns. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said China “strictly fulfilled its nuclear non-proliferation obligations” and voluntarily submitted “part of civil nuclear activities” to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said in a Feb. 23 briefing the US repeatedly hyped up the “China nuclear threat” as an excuse to expand its own strategic arsenal, while China maintained a defensive policy that includes no first-use of nuclear weapons.

US protests didn’t dissuade China National Nuclear Corp. from taking delivery of fuel from Rosatom for the CFR-600 reactor, which is based on a Russian design using liquid metal instead of water to moderate operation. Exclusive trade data showing details of the transaction was provided to Bloomberg by the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank.

The expanding nuclear partnership between Russia and China is having a huge impact on non-proliferation efforts. Between September and December, the RUSI data show Russia exported almost seven times as much highly-enriched uranium to China for the CFR-600 as all the material removed worldwide under US and IAEA auspices in the last three decades.

China paid about $384 million in three installments for 25,000 kilograms of CFR-600 fuel from Rosatom in that period, according to the RUSI data, which is sourced from a third-party commercial provider and based on Russian customs records.

Rosatom declined to comment. The project “will become the first nuclear power plant with a high-capacity fast reactor outside of Russia,” Rosatom’s TVEL Fuel Company said in a Dec. 28 statement confirming delivery of fuel.


Highly-enriched uranium, defined as the presence of uranium-235 isotopes refined to greater than 20% purity, is a strictly-controlled metal that only a few countries manufacture or possess. The higher the level of enrichment, the closer the suitability for use in weapons, and eliminating the international trade in highly-enriched uranium has been a central pillar of non-proliferation policy since the 1990s.

The CFR-600 is part of China’s ambitious $440 billion program to overtake the US as the world’s top nuclear-energy provider by the middle of next decade. Unlike traditional light-water reactors it runs on a combination of highly-enriched uranium and so-called mixed-oxide fuel that yields weapons-usable plutonium as a byproduct.

China is also building a desert factory in Gansu province designed to extract plutonium from the CFR-600’s spent fuel, once construction is finished in two years. Beijing ceased voluntarily reporting plutonium stockpiles to the IAEA since 2017.

View attachment 54509
Chinese Plutonium Reprocessing Plant in Jinta, Gansu; under construction.
Photographer: Google Maps


“The increasing secrecy and strong diplomatic efforts against providing greater transparency have raised international suspicion,” said Tong Zhao, a visiting research scholar at Princeton University’s Science and Global Security Program. “I don’t think anyone can rule out the potential military use.”

December’s high-level diplomatic meeting between senior US and Chinese officials in Langfang, a city neighboring China’s capital, was intended to pave the way for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first official visit as part of efforts to ease tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

But tensions spiked again after Blinken’s trip was canceled in February in response to the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon over US airspace that Biden ordered shot down by a warplane. At a security conference in Munich, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, blasted the US reaction as “hysterical” while Blinken warned Beijing not to supply lethal weapons to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The danger now is that tit-for-tat recriminations between Beijing and Washington take a nuclear turn once the CFR-600 starts operating, enabling the potential production of plutonium for weapons in years ahead.

“Previously, China had limited itself to what it called ‘minimum nuclear deterrence.’ This potential was much inferior to the American one,” a Russian arms-control expert, Alexei Arbatov, said in a Feb. 6 commentary for the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council. “But then, apparently, the Chinese decided to match the United States (and, by default, Russia) in terms of the number and quality of nuclear forces.”

Russia has grown increasingly dependent on China since Putin’s year-old invasion of Ukraine prompted unprecedented international sanctions. China has shown it has little intention of abandoning its staunch diplomatic partner against their common US adversary, even as Beijing portrays itself as a neutral actor over the war.

As part of the five-member club of official nuclear-weapons states codified under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, China and Russia don’t have to report details that might help verify whether the CFR-600 is being used to boost Beijing’s weapons stockpile. The site isn’t subject to mandatory IAEA monitoring, requiring the Pentagon and arms-control analysts to make assumptions about its purpose.

View attachment 54510

Frank von Hippel, a physicist and former White House adviser now at Princeton University, figures the CFR-600 could produce as many as 50 warheads a year once it’s up and running. “I would expect the enrichment in the HEU for the CFR-600 to be less than 30% - still weapon usable,” even if lower on the spectrum of highly-enriched material, he wrote in an emailed reply to questions.

“For China, getting the technology and fuel is important,” because there aren’t many places where it can obtain plutonium and Russia won’t object if the heavy-metal is used for nuclear weapons, said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Whatever is bad for the US and whenever you can strengthen American competitors, is viewed now as a good thing for Russia.”

"want."
 

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U.S. Stops Sharing Data on Nuclear Forces With Russia​

The U.S. has informed Russia that it will no longer exchange detailed data on its strategic nuclear forces following Moscow’s decision to suspend its participation in the New START treaty cutting long-range arms, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

“This is the first action we have taken within the treaty in response to Russia’s suspension,” a senior Biden administration official said. “It is our goal to encourage Russia to return to compliance with the treaty.”


Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that Moscow would step back from the last remaining major nuclear-arms-control treaty between the U.S. and Russia, heightening concern among experts that a decadeslong era of constraint might be starting to unravel.
The U.S. decision to halt data sharing was conveyed Monday to Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov by Bonnie Jenkins, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Some former officials said that the move was needed to drive home the costs to Moscow of its decision to step back from the treaty.

“It’s extremely unfortunate, but entirely predictable and appropriate. Why should Russia continue to benefit from transparency measures when it is denying them to the United States?” said Lynn Rusten, a former senior U.S. official who is now vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization focused on security issues.

Other arms-control proponents expressed concern that it could lead to a gradual unraveling of the arms-control framework that has regulated the nuclear competition between Washington and Moscow for decades.

“Withholding this information provides the U.S. with little or no leverage with Russia and further clouds the situation with respect to both countries’ compliance with the treaty,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The U.S. data that are being withheld include detailed information on the number of bombers, missiles and nuclear warheads that are deployed at specific U.S. bases that is to be exchanged every six months under the New START accord.

Ms. Jenkins proposed continuing those data exchanges in her Monday call with Mr. Ryabkov, U.S. officials said. But after Russia indicated that it wouldn’t be providing data on its forces, the U.S. said it would also refrain from providing such information. The Russian Embassy had no immediate comment. A diplomatic official in Moscow confirmed U.S. officials’ account.

“It gives you the best kind of status update on U.S. nuclear forces,” the senior administration official said of the U.S. data that would be withheld. “I would guess that the people who actually work on these issues in the Russian system are going to be missing this.”

The U.S. still plans to make public very general information on the overall number of its warheads, deployed missiles and bombers, and nuclear systems that aren’t fully operational.

The Biden administration is also continuing to provide the virtually daily notifications to Russia of the movements of its strategic missiles, bombers and submarines or changes in their operational status, as the treaty requires.

Russia is no longer providing such notifications, which has raised the question of whether the U.S. should follow suit. Biden administration officials are assessing what effect withholding such notifications might have on strategic stability between the two nuclear-armed powers.


At the beginning of the Biden administration, Washington and Moscow were both interested in preserving the New START treaty, which caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 and includes provisions for on-site inspections to verify the treaty’s limits. President Biden called for a five-year extension of the accord during his first month in office, which was agreed to by Moscow.

Inspections were suspended in March 2020 by mutual agreement after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. When the U.S. sought last year, however, to revive the inspections amid tensions over Ukraine, Russia balked.

In January, the State Department alleged that Russia had violated the accord by refusing to allow the inspections and rebuffing Washington’s requests to meet to discuss its compliance concerns. That was the first time that the U.S. accused Russia of violating the treaty, which entered into force in 2011.

The next month, Mr. Putin said that Moscow was suspending its participation in the accord.


In suspending its participation in New START, Russia hasn’t rejected all limits on its nuclear forces. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow would continue to observe limits on the number of nuclear warheads it can deploy under the treaty “in order to maintain a sufficient degree of predictability and stability in the sphere of nuclear missiles.” Russia would also continue to notify the U.S. when it planned to test launch intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles under a 1988 agreement, the foreign ministry said.

But Russian officials have also indicated that Moscow would continue to reject on-site inspections and wouldn’t meet to discuss compliance issues, in addition to withholding data and notifications about its forces.

Biden administration officials say that Washington still plans to adhere to New START and that the decision to withhold data on U.S. strategic forces is allowed under international law as a way to pressure Moscow to adhere to the treaty.

“We’re entitled under international law to take certain actions as a countermeasure without actually suspending the treaty ourselves,” the senior Biden administration official said. “We’re taking these actions because it’s our goal to encourage Russia to return to compliance with the treaty.”

Some experts say that Russia is unlikely to respond positively to the move.

“There is no reason to believe that Russia will be swayed by this,” said Hans Kristensen of the Federal of American Scientists. “We are watching the gradual destruction of the last remaining nuclear arms limitation treaty.”
 

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Cannot come soon enough. I hope this century, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia also get them.

Whether they declare openly or not, that is up to them....but the payback w.r.t CCP geopolitical decision to proliferate will inevitably return with interest this century.

The idea of a civilian nuclear reactor has so much protest from the common guy here, except for the hardliners its hard to convince the common man to accept why we need nuclear bomb. But then AUKUS scare come and I'm not dismissing entirely that over time Indonesian political establishment would want to acquire one.

An accidental nuke attack by Russia on Ukraine or an unwanted nuclear exchange between the two Koreas is enough I think to convince non-nuclear country to acquire one.
 

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Pursue of Nuclear Weapons Prohibition and International Nuclear Weapons Abolition Initiative (ICAN):

Nuclear weapons investments worldwide amounted to $72.6 billion in 2020, $82.4 billion in 2021, and $82.9 billion in 2022. In the last 3 years, investments have increased by 10 billion dollars.
 

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New Taskforce to build UK nuclear skills​



  • New Nuclear Skills Taskforce to turbo charge skills activity in nuclear sector.
  • Sir Simon Bollom appointed as Taskforce’s Chair.
  • Bringing together government, employers and academia to meet nuclear skills growth opportunities.
The nuclear industry underpins hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK, both directly and through the extended supply chain, and is growing rapidly. Nuclear has a wide variety of roles ranging from technical scientific and engineering roles through to logistics, project management, commercial and finance – with a range of apprentice and graduate opportunities.

The UK’s nuclear capability plays a significant role in the security, prosperity and resilience of our nation. Putting our nuclear workforce at the heart of this upskilling work will help deliver on the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy and support UK jobs.

Chaired by Sir Simon Bollom – former Chief Executive Officer of Defence Equipment and Support - the Taskforce will address how the UK continues to build nuclear skills across its defence and civil workforce.

The UK’s Nuclear sectors are in positive periods of growth and the workforce will expand further given the AUKUS nuclear submarine partnership and the government’s drive around energy security.

Minster for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge said:​

By developing nuclear skills, we are not just investing in the UK economy but our national security.
The creation of this new Taskforce will challenge the whole of the UK’s nuclear sector to be ambitious in addressing the nuclear skills gap, and we are delighted to appoint Sir Simon Bollom to drive this work forward.
Building on the work already undertaken with industry and across government by the Ministry of Defence and Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Taskforce will develop a skills strategy to support the significant growth expected across a range of roles in the defence and civil nuclear sectors in the coming years.

Against a backdrop of increasing international competition for such roles, the Taskforce will set up the UK’s nuclear sector for future success, supporting industry to build a long-term and sustainable pipeline of skills to meet our nuclear ambition.

Minister for Nuclear, Andrew Bowie said:​

The UK’s nuclear revival, with the launch of Great British Nuclear, will put us centre-stage in the global race to unleash a new generation of nuclear technology.
The Nuclear Skills Taskforce will support this expansion by securing the skills and workforce we need to deliver this, opening up exciting opportunities and careers to help bolster our energy security.
The launch of Great British Nuclear will boost energy security and create job opportunities across the UK. Recently launched, it forms part of a revival of nuclear power to place the UK at the forefront of a global race to develop cutting-edge nuclear technologies and deliver cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy.

Great British Nuclear will deliver the government’s long-term nuclear programme and support the government’s ambition to deliver up to 24GW of nuclear power in the UK by 2050. Part of this will be delivered through the huge projects taking place at the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C nuclear power plants.

Having served as an engineer officer in the RAF for 35 years, and most recently as the Chief Executive Officer of the Defence Equipment and Support, Taskforce Chair Sir Simon Bollom has a strong network and credibility with industry given his extensive experience in Defence. He is also currently on the Board of the Submarine Delivery Agency.

Sir Simon Bollom KBE CB FREng, Chair of the Nuclear Skills Taskforce, said:​

I am absolutely delighted to have secured this extremely important role. The Nuclear Sector is vital to our nation, and I am proud to have been given the opportunity to lead such an important Taskforce to ensure that we have the people, and skills we need to deliver our Programmes.
The UK’s nuclear industry is crucial for Britain’s military capabilities. Our Vanguard and Astute submarines, and from the early 2030s the new Dreadnought Class, use nuclear technology, keeping the nation safe every minute of every day.

The creation of the UK’s next generation nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS partnership will see the creation of thousands of UK jobs, and all the nuclear reactors for the UK and Australian SSN-AUKUS submarines will be made in Derby.

Sir Simon Bollom will be joined on the Taskforce by representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, Department for Education, academia and professional bodies as well as industry partners.

 

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Nuclear Weapon States Working-Level Experts Meeting on Strategic Risk Reduction​


The United States is currently the chair of the dialogue among the five Nuclear Weapon States in an ongoing exchange in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In this capacity, the United States organized a working-level experts meeting with counterparts from the People’s Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on August 2 in Vienna.

Participants discussed strategic risks and measures to reduce those risks. They welcomed the professional approach of the delegations and noted the significance of the substantive and informative expert-level discussions over the course of the last year. They also affirmed the need to continue these challenging but important discussions.

 

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Exclusive: Satellite images show increased activity at nuclear test sites in Russia, China and US​



Russia, the United States and China have all built new facilities and dug new tunnels at their nuclear test sites in recent years, satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN show, at a time when tensions between the three major nuclear powers have risen to their highest in decades.

While there is no evidence to suggest that Russia, the US or China is preparing for an imminent nuclear test, the images, obtained and provided by a prominent analyst in military nonproliferation studies, illustrate recent expansions at three nuclear test sites compared with just a few years ago.

One is operated by China in the far western region of Xinjiang, one by Russia in an Arctic Ocean archipelago, and another in the US in the Nevada desert.

The satellite images from the past three to five years show new tunnels under mountains, new roads and storage facilities, as well as increased vehicle traffic coming in and out of the sites, said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

“There are really a lot of hints that we’re seeing that suggest Russia, China and the United States might resume nuclear testing,” he said, something none of those countries have done since underground nuclear testing was banned by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. China and the US signed the treaty, but they haven’t ratified it.

Retired US Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton, a former intelligence analyst, reviewed the images of the three powers’ nuclear sites and came to a similar conclusion.


“It’s very clear that all three countries, Russia, China and the United States have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in not only modernizing their nuclear arsenals, but also in preparing the types of activities that would be required for a test,” he said.

Moscow has ratified the treaty, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February he would order a test, if the US moves first, adding that “no one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.”

The expansions risk sparking a race to modernize nuclear weapons testing infrastructure at a time of deep mistrust between Washington and the two authoritarian governments, analysts said, though the idea of actual armed conflict is not considered imminent.

“The threat from nuclear testing is from the degree to which it accelerates the growing arms race between the United States on one hand, and Russia and China on the other,” Lewis said. “The consequences of that are that we spend vast sums of money, even though we don’t get any safer.”

Nuclear threats​

Lewis’ comments came after a prominent nuclear watchdog group, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, earlier this year set its iconic Doomsday Clock, a measure of how close the world is to self-destruction, to 90 seconds to midnight, the clock’s most precarious setting since its inception in 1947.

The group cited the war in Ukraine, sparked by Russia’s illegal invasion of its neighbor in February 2022, as main reason for its sobering assessment.


“Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict – by accident, intention, or miscalculation – is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high,” the group said.

In other words, the Doomsday Clock today signals a higher risk of the end of humankind than in 1953, when both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted dramatic above-ground tests of nuclear weapons.

Last month United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a fresh appeal for key countries to ratify the international treaty that bans experiments for both peaceful and military purposes

“This year, we face an alarming rise in global mistrust and division,” Guterres said. “At a time in which nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are stockpiled around the world — and countries are working to improve their accuracy, reach and destructive power — this is a recipe for annihilation.”

Lewis pointed out that the unexpectedly poor performance of the Russian military in Ukraine could be part of the impetus for Moscow to consider resuming nuclear tests.

Dmitry Medvedev, a hawkish backer of Putin and the current deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, has vowed Moscow “would have to use nuclear weapons” if the Ukraine counteroffensive became successful. Medvedev’s bellicose rhetoric has raised eyebrows, but Putin is Russia’s key decision-maker, and widely seen as the real power behind the throne during Medvedev’s four-year presidency.


Belarus, which has played a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has also received tactical nuclear weapons from Moscow, President Alexander Lukashenko said in August. He added that Minsk would be willing to use them in the face of foreign “aggression.”

Russia and China​

Even as the Russian military was invading Ukraine last year, analysts have also seen an expansion of the country’s nuclear test site in Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean archipelago.

In mid-August, the facility received renewed focus when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a visit, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

230905135538-01-novaya-zemlya-nuclear-test-site.jpeg

New Construction at Russia's Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site, June 22, 2023.



The Novaya Zemlya site was first used by the Soviet Union to conduct nuclear tests in 1955 until the USSR’s final underground explosion in 1990. During that time, the site saw a total of 130 tests involving more than 200 devices, according to a review published in the Science and Global Security journal.

Satellite images obtained by CNN showed that there has been extensive construction at the Novaya Zemlya test site from 2021 to 2023, with ships and new shipping containers arriving at its port, roads being kept clear in the winter, and tunnels dug deep into the Arctic mountains.

“The Russian test site is now open year round, we see them clearing snow off roads, we see them building new facilities.” Lewis said.

Near those facilities are tunnels where Russia has tested in past, Lewis said. “In the past five or six years, we’ve seen Russia dig new tunnels, which suggests that they are prepared to resume nuclear testing,” he added.

“It’s pretty clear to me that the Russians are gearing up for a possible nuclear test,” added Leighton, the former US Air Force intelligence officer and now a CNN analyst. But he offered what he said were important “caveats.”

“The Russians may be trying to go right up to the line by making all the preparations for a nuclear test, but not actually carrying one out. In essence, they’d be doing this to ‘scare’ the West,” Leighton said.

Moscow has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on this subject, and there is no way know exactly what is going on hidden from the view of satellites.


230905135836-01-lop-nor-nuclear-test-site.jpeg

Lop Nur nuclear test site.


Increased activity was also detected at the Chinese nuclear test site in Lop Nur, a dried up salt lake between two deserts in the sparsely populated western China.

Satellite images show a new, fifth underground tunnel has been under excavation in recent years, and fresh roads have been built. A comparison of the images taken in 2022 and 2023 shows the spoil pile has been steadily increasing in size, leading analysts to believe tunnels are being expanded, Lewis said.

In addition, the main administration and support area has seen new construction projects. A new storage area was built in 2021 and 2022, which could be used for storing explosives, he added.

“The Chinese test site is different than the Russian test site,” Lewis said. “The Chinese test site is vast, and there are many different parts of it.”

“(It) looks really busy, and these things are easily seen in satellite imagery. If we can see them, I think the US government certainly can,” he added.

Increased activity at Lop Nur was also noted in an April report by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s China Observer project, a group of China experts in Japan.

After an analysis of satellite photos of the Lop Nur site, the group concluded that China’s “possible goal is to conduct subcritical nuclear tests.”

It found a possible sixth testing tunnel under construction at Lop Nur, saying “the fact that a very long tunnel has been dug along the mountain’s terrain with bends on the way indicates that the construction of the test site is in its final phase.”

In a statement to CNN, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the report as “hyping up ‘China’s nuclear threat’,” and described it as “extremely irresponsible.”

230905135611-02-lop-nor-nuclear-test-site.jpeg

New Construction at the administrative and support area, Lop Nor nuclear test site.


“Since the announcement of suspending nuclear tests in 1996, the Chinese side has consistently respected this promise and worked hard in defending the international consensus on prohibiting nuclear testing,” it said.

It added that the international world should have “high vigilance” about the United States’ activities in nuclear testing.

Activity in Nevada’s desert​

The US releases an unclassified version of the Nuclear Posture Review every few years, which provides an overview of the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategy.

The most recent report, released in October last year, said that Washington would only consider using nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances.” However, it also stated that the US does not adopt a “no first use policy” because it would result in an “unacceptable level of risk” to its security.

The US conducted its last underground test in 1992, but Lewis said the US has long been keeping itself in a state of readiness for a nuclear test, ready to react if one of its rivals moves first.

“The United States has a policy of being prepared to conduct a nuclear test on relatively short notice, about six months,” he said.

The commercial satellite imagery, taken above the nuclear test site in Nevada, officially known as the Nevada National Security Site, shows that an underground facility – the U1a complex – was expanded greatly between 2018 and 2023.

The National Security Administration (NNSA), an arm of the US Department of Energy that oversees the site, says the laboratory is for conducting “subcritical” nuclear experiments, a longstanding practice meant to ensure the reliability of weapons in the current stockpile without full-scale testing.

“In subcritical experiments, chemical high explosives generate high pressures, which are applied to nuclear weapon materials, such as plutonium. The configuration and quantities of explosives and nuclear materials are such that no nuclear explosion will occur,” the NNSA’s website says.

In response to CNN’s request for comment, a spokesperson from the NNSA confirmed it has been “recapitalizing infrastructure and scientific capabilities” at the Nevada test site, which includes procuring new advanced sources and detectors, developing reactivity measurement technology, and continuing tunneling activity.

“(This) will provide modern diagnostic capabilities and data to help maintain the safety and performance of the US nuclear stockpile without further underground nuclear explosive testing,” the spokesman added.


230905135555-nevada-national-security-site[1].jpg

Construction activity, Nevada National Security Site from 2023 to 2018.


A report from the US Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) released in August says the US will build two measurement devices at the Nevada site to “make new measurements of plutonium during subcritical experiments.”

The devices and related infrastructure improvements, needed “to inform plans for modernizing the nuclear weapons stockpile” will cost about $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion and be ready by 2030, according to the GAO report.

A spokesman from the National Security Council also told CNN that it is closely monitoring Russia’s military activities, but added it has “not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture.”

However, the expansion of facilities at the Nevada test site could fuel fears in Moscow and Beijing that Washington may be preparing for a nuclear test – because while both countries could see the development from satellite images, they lack the ability to independently verify what’s going on inside, Lewis said.

And such perceptions can become dangerous, especially in the current era with fear and lack of trust on all sides, he said.

“The danger is even if all three start by only planning to go second, one of them might talk themselves into the importance of going first, one of them might decide that since everybody else is doing it, it’s better to get the jump and really get going.”

If they do, the world would know – any major underground blast is likely to be detected by the International Monitoring System (IMS), a network of 337 facilities that monitors the planet for signs of nuclear explosions.

Continued modernization​

Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, agreed there is a real danger of testing escalation should one of the major powers do so.

“The minute one of the major nuclear powers pops a nuclear weapon somewhere, you know, all bets are off, because there’s no doubt that everyone will join that business again,” he said.

In a recent yearbook on world nuclear forces, co-authored by Kristensen and published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in June, analysts concluded that all of the world’s nuclear powers – which also included the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – have continued to “modernize their nuclear arsenals” last year.

Russia, for instance, announced on September 1 that its new Sarmat or “Satan II” intercontinental ballistic missile is operational. The Sarmat could carry 10 and possibly more independently targeted nuclear warheads with a range of up to 18,000 kilometers (or about 11,185 miles), according to the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The US is also building new delivery systems for nuclear warheads like the B-21 stealth bomber and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. As part of the upgrade, nuclear storage sites will also be added to US Air Force bases in Ellsworth and Dyess, Kristensen wrote in a report in the Federation of American Scientists in 2020.


The SIPRI report said that Russia and the US currently possess about 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world, with the US estimated to have more than 3,700 warheads stockpiled, and Russia having about 4,500. Both countries keep their strategic nuclear arsenals on “hair-trigger” alert, meaning that nuclear weapons can be launched on short notice.

China’s nuclear arsenal has increased from 350 warheads in January 2022 to 410 in January 2023.

In the past, China did not marry up warheads with delivery systems, keeping their nuclear forces on a “low-alert” status. But the Arms Control Association (ACA) NGO said this year the PLA now rotates missile battalions from stand-by to ready-to-launch status monthly.

Fiona Cunningham, a nonresident scholar in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in the ACA’s monthly journal in August that Beijing’s nuclear stance is hard to discern.

“The increasing size, accuracy, readiness, and diversity of China’s arsenal bolsters the credibility of the country’s ability to threaten retaliation for a nuclear strike and enables China to make more credible threats to use nuclear weapons first,” she wrote.


230905143036-lop-nur-lake[1].jpg

Aerial view of snow covering on Lop Nur lake and Taklamakan Desert at Yuli County on November 28, 2021, in Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.




But Kristensen told CNN that while all three major powers have been engaging in subcritical tests, he believed “a full-scale nuclear test is unlikely.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, agreed, writing in the organization’s September newsletter that “China, Russia, and the United States continue to engage in weapons-related activities at their former nuclear testing sites.”

But Kimball noted that without a real test, “it is more difficult, although not impossible, for states to develop, prove, and field new warhead designs.”

What’s the point of more tests?​

But if all three countries have suspended nuclear testing since the 1990s, what could they gain from the resumption of these tests?

Lewis said a reason to test, especially for China, is to get more up-to-date data for computer models that show what a nuclear explosion will do. Because while the United States and Russia have conducted hundreds of tests, China has only done around 40 and has significantly fewer data points.

“Those 40 tests were done in the 1960s, in the 1970s, in the 1980s, when their technology wasn’t that high. The data that you have is not that good,” Lewis said.


230905143008-novaya-zemlya-military-file[1].jpg

Novaya Zemlya is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean located north of Russia, August 23, 2012.



Others point out that the big powers have not tested low-yield nuclear weapons, which produce a smaller nuclear explosion that might be targeted on a specific battlefield unit or formation, rather than destroying a major city.

In a 2022 report for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, researchers Michael Frankel, James Scouras and George Ullrich suggest that the US might hesitate to retaliate for a Russian low-yield attack because it has not tested the types of weapons it would need to use.

“While the United States now has several lower-yield weapons in its arsenal, they are insufficient in quantity and diversity of delivery systems,” their report, titled “Tickling the Sleeping Dragon’s Tail,” says.

In particular, the report says, smaller nukes, with yields lower than a kiloton (for comparison, the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotons) that can be delivered by aircraft or ships have been proposed a deterrent to Russian nuclear threats.

“Such weapons are unlikely to be available absent testing,” the report says.

The United States, the world’s first nuclear power, has conducted 1,032 tests, the first coming in 1945 and the last coming in 1992, according to the United Nations’ data. The Soviet Union – now Russia – conducted 715 between 1949 and 1990, and China has tested 45 times between 1964 and 1996.

Lewis believed an urge for the US, Russia and China to be the first to develop “exotic” weapons of the future also instills a need for nuclear testing of those possible systemsl.

Some of these may soon be in the Russian arsenal, as Putin has boasted about weapons like an nuclear-armed doomsday torpedo and a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

“We’re on the verge of this kind of science fiction future where we are resurrecting all of these terrible ideas from the Cold War,” Lewis said.
 

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Exclusive: Satellite images show increased activity at nuclear test sites in Russia, China and US​



Russia, the United States and China have all built new facilities and dug new tunnels at their nuclear test sites in recent years, satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN show, at a time when tensions between the three major nuclear powers have risen to their highest in decades.

While there is no evidence to suggest that Russia, the US or China is preparing for an imminent nuclear test, the images, obtained and provided by a prominent analyst in military nonproliferation studies, illustrate recent expansions at three nuclear test sites compared with just a few years ago.

One is operated by China in the far western region of Xinjiang, one by Russia in an Arctic Ocean archipelago, and another in the US in the Nevada desert.

The satellite images from the past three to five years show new tunnels under mountains, new roads and storage facilities, as well as increased vehicle traffic coming in and out of the sites, said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

“There are really a lot of hints that we’re seeing that suggest Russia, China and the United States might resume nuclear testing,” he said, something none of those countries have done since underground nuclear testing was banned by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. China and the US signed the treaty, but they haven’t ratified it.

Retired US Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton, a former intelligence analyst, reviewed the images of the three powers’ nuclear sites and came to a similar conclusion.


“It’s very clear that all three countries, Russia, China and the United States have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in not only modernizing their nuclear arsenals, but also in preparing the types of activities that would be required for a test,” he said.

Moscow has ratified the treaty, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February he would order a test, if the US moves first, adding that “no one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.”

The expansions risk sparking a race to modernize nuclear weapons testing infrastructure at a time of deep mistrust between Washington and the two authoritarian governments, analysts said, though the idea of actual armed conflict is not considered imminent.

“The threat from nuclear testing is from the degree to which it accelerates the growing arms race between the United States on one hand, and Russia and China on the other,” Lewis said. “The consequences of that are that we spend vast sums of money, even though we don’t get any safer.”

Nuclear threats​

Lewis’ comments came after a prominent nuclear watchdog group, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, earlier this year set its iconic Doomsday Clock, a measure of how close the world is to self-destruction, to 90 seconds to midnight, the clock’s most precarious setting since its inception in 1947.

The group cited the war in Ukraine, sparked by Russia’s illegal invasion of its neighbor in February 2022, as main reason for its sobering assessment.


“Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict – by accident, intention, or miscalculation – is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high,” the group said.

In other words, the Doomsday Clock today signals a higher risk of the end of humankind than in 1953, when both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted dramatic above-ground tests of nuclear weapons.

Last month United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a fresh appeal for key countries to ratify the international treaty that bans experiments for both peaceful and military purposes

“This year, we face an alarming rise in global mistrust and division,” Guterres said. “At a time in which nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are stockpiled around the world — and countries are working to improve their accuracy, reach and destructive power — this is a recipe for annihilation.”

Lewis pointed out that the unexpectedly poor performance of the Russian military in Ukraine could be part of the impetus for Moscow to consider resuming nuclear tests.

Dmitry Medvedev, a hawkish backer of Putin and the current deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, has vowed Moscow “would have to use nuclear weapons” if the Ukraine counteroffensive became successful. Medvedev’s bellicose rhetoric has raised eyebrows, but Putin is Russia’s key decision-maker, and widely seen as the real power behind the throne during Medvedev’s four-year presidency.


Belarus, which has played a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has also received tactical nuclear weapons from Moscow, President Alexander Lukashenko said in August. He added that Minsk would be willing to use them in the face of foreign “aggression.”

Russia and China​

Even as the Russian military was invading Ukraine last year, analysts have also seen an expansion of the country’s nuclear test site in Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean archipelago.

In mid-August, the facility received renewed focus when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a visit, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

View attachment 61429
New Construction at Russia's Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site, June 22, 2023.



The Novaya Zemlya site was first used by the Soviet Union to conduct nuclear tests in 1955 until the USSR’s final underground explosion in 1990. During that time, the site saw a total of 130 tests involving more than 200 devices, according to a review published in the Science and Global Security journal.

Satellite images obtained by CNN showed that there has been extensive construction at the Novaya Zemlya test site from 2021 to 2023, with ships and new shipping containers arriving at its port, roads being kept clear in the winter, and tunnels dug deep into the Arctic mountains.

“The Russian test site is now open year round, we see them clearing snow off roads, we see them building new facilities.” Lewis said.

Near those facilities are tunnels where Russia has tested in past, Lewis said. “In the past five or six years, we’ve seen Russia dig new tunnels, which suggests that they are prepared to resume nuclear testing,” he added.

“It’s pretty clear to me that the Russians are gearing up for a possible nuclear test,” added Leighton, the former US Air Force intelligence officer and now a CNN analyst. But he offered what he said were important “caveats.”

“The Russians may be trying to go right up to the line by making all the preparations for a nuclear test, but not actually carrying one out. In essence, they’d be doing this to ‘scare’ the West,” Leighton said.

Moscow has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on this subject, and there is no way know exactly what is going on hidden from the view of satellites.


View attachment 61430
Lop Nur nuclear test site.


Increased activity was also detected at the Chinese nuclear test site in Lop Nur, a dried up salt lake between two deserts in the sparsely populated western China.

Satellite images show a new, fifth underground tunnel has been under excavation in recent years, and fresh roads have been built. A comparison of the images taken in 2022 and 2023 shows the spoil pile has been steadily increasing in size, leading analysts to believe tunnels are being expanded, Lewis said.

In addition, the main administration and support area has seen new construction projects. A new storage area was built in 2021 and 2022, which could be used for storing explosives, he added.

“The Chinese test site is different than the Russian test site,” Lewis said. “The Chinese test site is vast, and there are many different parts of it.”

“(It) looks really busy, and these things are easily seen in satellite imagery. If we can see them, I think the US government certainly can,” he added.

Increased activity at Lop Nur was also noted in an April report by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s China Observer project, a group of China experts in Japan.

After an analysis of satellite photos of the Lop Nur site, the group concluded that China’s “possible goal is to conduct subcritical nuclear tests.”

It found a possible sixth testing tunnel under construction at Lop Nur, saying “the fact that a very long tunnel has been dug along the mountain’s terrain with bends on the way indicates that the construction of the test site is in its final phase.”

In a statement to CNN, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the report as “hyping up ‘China’s nuclear threat’,” and described it as “extremely irresponsible.”

View attachment 61431
New Construction at the administrative and support area, Lop Nor nuclear test site.


“Since the announcement of suspending nuclear tests in 1996, the Chinese side has consistently respected this promise and worked hard in defending the international consensus on prohibiting nuclear testing,” it said.

It added that the international world should have “high vigilance” about the United States’ activities in nuclear testing.

Activity in Nevada’s desert​

The US releases an unclassified version of the Nuclear Posture Review every few years, which provides an overview of the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategy.

The most recent report, released in October last year, said that Washington would only consider using nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances.” However, it also stated that the US does not adopt a “no first use policy” because it would result in an “unacceptable level of risk” to its security.

The US conducted its last underground test in 1992, but Lewis said the US has long been keeping itself in a state of readiness for a nuclear test, ready to react if one of its rivals moves first.

“The United States has a policy of being prepared to conduct a nuclear test on relatively short notice, about six months,” he said.

The commercial satellite imagery, taken above the nuclear test site in Nevada, officially known as the Nevada National Security Site, shows that an underground facility – the U1a complex – was expanded greatly between 2018 and 2023.

The National Security Administration (NNSA), an arm of the US Department of Energy that oversees the site, says the laboratory is for conducting “subcritical” nuclear experiments, a longstanding practice meant to ensure the reliability of weapons in the current stockpile without full-scale testing.

“In subcritical experiments, chemical high explosives generate high pressures, which are applied to nuclear weapon materials, such as plutonium. The configuration and quantities of explosives and nuclear materials are such that no nuclear explosion will occur,” the NNSA’s website says.

In response to CNN’s request for comment, a spokesperson from the NNSA confirmed it has been “recapitalizing infrastructure and scientific capabilities” at the Nevada test site, which includes procuring new advanced sources and detectors, developing reactivity measurement technology, and continuing tunneling activity.

“(This) will provide modern diagnostic capabilities and data to help maintain the safety and performance of the US nuclear stockpile without further underground nuclear explosive testing,” the spokesman added.


View attachment 61432
Construction activity, Nevada National Security Site from 2023 to 2018.


A report from the US Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) released in August says the US will build two measurement devices at the Nevada site to “make new measurements of plutonium during subcritical experiments.”

The devices and related infrastructure improvements, needed “to inform plans for modernizing the nuclear weapons stockpile” will cost about $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion and be ready by 2030, according to the GAO report.

A spokesman from the National Security Council also told CNN that it is closely monitoring Russia’s military activities, but added it has “not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture.”

However, the expansion of facilities at the Nevada test site could fuel fears in Moscow and Beijing that Washington may be preparing for a nuclear test – because while both countries could see the development from satellite images, they lack the ability to independently verify what’s going on inside, Lewis said.

And such perceptions can become dangerous, especially in the current era with fear and lack of trust on all sides, he said.

“The danger is even if all three start by only planning to go second, one of them might talk themselves into the importance of going first, one of them might decide that since everybody else is doing it, it’s better to get the jump and really get going.”

If they do, the world would know – any major underground blast is likely to be detected by the International Monitoring System (IMS), a network of 337 facilities that monitors the planet for signs of nuclear explosions.

Continued modernization​

Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, agreed there is a real danger of testing escalation should one of the major powers do so.

“The minute one of the major nuclear powers pops a nuclear weapon somewhere, you know, all bets are off, because there’s no doubt that everyone will join that business again,” he said.

In a recent yearbook on world nuclear forces, co-authored by Kristensen and published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in June, analysts concluded that all of the world’s nuclear powers – which also included the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – have continued to “modernize their nuclear arsenals” last year.

Russia, for instance, announced on September 1 that its new Sarmat or “Satan II” intercontinental ballistic missile is operational. The Sarmat could carry 10 and possibly more independently targeted nuclear warheads with a range of up to 18,000 kilometers (or about 11,185 miles), according to the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The US is also building new delivery systems for nuclear warheads like the B-21 stealth bomber and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. As part of the upgrade, nuclear storage sites will also be added to US Air Force bases in Ellsworth and Dyess, Kristensen wrote in a report in the Federation of American Scientists in 2020.


The SIPRI report said that Russia and the US currently possess about 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world, with the US estimated to have more than 3,700 warheads stockpiled, and Russia having about 4,500. Both countries keep their strategic nuclear arsenals on “hair-trigger” alert, meaning that nuclear weapons can be launched on short notice.

China’s nuclear arsenal has increased from 350 warheads in January 2022 to 410 in January 2023.

In the past, China did not marry up warheads with delivery systems, keeping their nuclear forces on a “low-alert” status. But the Arms Control Association (ACA) NGO said this year the PLA now rotates missile battalions from stand-by to ready-to-launch status monthly.

Fiona Cunningham, a nonresident scholar in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in the ACA’s monthly journal in August that Beijing’s nuclear stance is hard to discern.

“The increasing size, accuracy, readiness, and diversity of China’s arsenal bolsters the credibility of the country’s ability to threaten retaliation for a nuclear strike and enables China to make more credible threats to use nuclear weapons first,” she wrote.


View attachment 61433
Aerial view of snow covering on Lop Nur lake and Taklamakan Desert at Yuli County on November 28, 2021, in Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.




But Kristensen told CNN that while all three major powers have been engaging in subcritical tests, he believed “a full-scale nuclear test is unlikely.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, agreed, writing in the organization’s September newsletter that “China, Russia, and the United States continue to engage in weapons-related activities at their former nuclear testing sites.”

But Kimball noted that without a real test, “it is more difficult, although not impossible, for states to develop, prove, and field new warhead designs.”

What’s the point of more tests?​

But if all three countries have suspended nuclear testing since the 1990s, what could they gain from the resumption of these tests?

Lewis said a reason to test, especially for China, is to get more up-to-date data for computer models that show what a nuclear explosion will do. Because while the United States and Russia have conducted hundreds of tests, China has only done around 40 and has significantly fewer data points.

“Those 40 tests were done in the 1960s, in the 1970s, in the 1980s, when their technology wasn’t that high. The data that you have is not that good,” Lewis said.


View attachment 61434
Novaya Zemlya is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean located north of Russia, August 23, 2012.



Others point out that the big powers have not tested low-yield nuclear weapons, which produce a smaller nuclear explosion that might be targeted on a specific battlefield unit or formation, rather than destroying a major city.

In a 2022 report for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, researchers Michael Frankel, James Scouras and George Ullrich suggest that the US might hesitate to retaliate for a Russian low-yield attack because it has not tested the types of weapons it would need to use.

“While the United States now has several lower-yield weapons in its arsenal, they are insufficient in quantity and diversity of delivery systems,” their report, titled “Tickling the Sleeping Dragon’s Tail,” says.

In particular, the report says, smaller nukes, with yields lower than a kiloton (for comparison, the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotons) that can be delivered by aircraft or ships have been proposed a deterrent to Russian nuclear threats.

“Such weapons are unlikely to be available absent testing,” the report says.

The United States, the world’s first nuclear power, has conducted 1,032 tests, the first coming in 1945 and the last coming in 1992, according to the United Nations’ data. The Soviet Union – now Russia – conducted 715 between 1949 and 1990, and China has tested 45 times between 1964 and 1996.

Lewis believed an urge for the US, Russia and China to be the first to develop “exotic” weapons of the future also instills a need for nuclear testing of those possible systemsl.

Some of these may soon be in the Russian arsenal, as Putin has boasted about weapons like an nuclear-armed doomsday torpedo and a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

“We’re on the verge of this kind of science fiction future where we are resurrecting all of these terrible ideas from the Cold War,” Lewis said.
The threat of world war is increasing day by day, folks.

@Nilgiri @Cabatli_TR @TR_123456 @Mis_TR_Like @Test7 @Zafer @OPTIMUS @Sanchez @Saithan @TheInsider @Afif @Rodeo @MADDOG
 

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