Jeffrey LewisIranian Test Shaft Redux

I finally dug up the DTRA brochure, Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Indicators (March 2004), describing the signatures that distinguish a nuclear test site from a conventional mining operation:

Some features common to legitimate mining and excavation activities can suggest nuclear explosive testing. Sites conducting nuclear testing usually require facilities and equipment not normally associated with commercial operations, such as added security and safety measures.

These may include specialized structures to house sensitive equipment and nuclear materials, as well as structures to house scientific personnel. Additionally, roads leading to a nuclear test site may generally be of better quality than the surrounding commercial roads, in order to facilitate the safe transport of nuclear materials. Buildings within the facility will generally be more secure and weatherproof than similar commercial facilities, and the area will require extensive surface excavation, treatment, and grading. Finally, facility structures for nuclear testing programs will likely require wellheads and casings for emplacing an explosive device, subsurface instrumentation, and post-shot sampling tools.

In most cases, facilities that support nuclear testing programs will require more specialized equipment than commercial mining and excavation activities. For example, a nuclear testing program usually will require lifting and backfilling equipment for vertical explosive emplacement. Tunnel emplacements require loading and handling equipment not typical of commercial operations. Instrumentation for nuclear testing programs should differ from commercial activities, as should requirements for power, compressed air, ventilation utilities, and sophisticated electrical equipment. Such facilities also require large cables for data acquisition that are made of extensive coaxial or fiber-optic materials to facilitate high-speed, high-quality data transmissions.

Finally, such a site or facility would require low permeability materials, equipment, and activities. These may be used to seal a shaft or a tunnel to contain radioactive gas, or to keep debris from escaping into the atmosphere, for example.


  1. hass (History)

    Of course, even the info from the laptop does describe a nuclear test shaft, there’s no real reason to assume that the laptop itself is anything other than a plant.

  2. rtalcott (History)

    that reads like 4 paragraphs that should have been just one.


  3. Yale Simkin (History)

    Not sure if you have this in your library:

    Nuclear Weapon Proliferation Indicators and Observables

    Los Alamos

  4. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Thanks, Yale. Here is the relevant paragraph from that doc:

    Preparation of a site for an underground nuclear test would probably be characterized by the following kinds of observable:

    * drilling rigs, mining operations, road construction, or other signs of activity in a “new” location, isolated or otherwise suitable for an underground test;

    * sections of large-diameter (up to about 1.2 m, or about 4 ft) pipe for casing laid out near drilling rig; and

    * contacts (possibly through their embassy in the U. S.) with large drilling companies in the U.S. who know “large-hole” drilling technology by virtue of experience with the U.S. testing program.

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