Jeffrey LewisTest Ban Verification

If you are like me, you were no doubt very excited about the first-ever CTBTO on-site inspection exercise at Semipalatinsk. (Rebecca Johnson turned in a some wonderful dispatches for the Bulletin, while Oliver Meier had a nice write-uP for Arms Control Today.)

Well, Andreas Persbo actually got to participate. Andreas will be in town this week, so I am hosting him for a meeting on Wednesday, along with David Hafmeister and James Acton to discuss how the CTBT can be verified.

Please RSVP

Is the Nuclear Test Ban Verifiable?

The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosions for military or civilian purposes, but the question remains: can we verify compliance with the Treaty?

Last year, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization held a very successful mock “on site inspection” at the former Soviet nuclear test site near Semipalatinsk, in Kazakhstan.

The panelists, including VERTIC’s Andreas Persbo — who participated in the inspection exercise — will discuss on site inspection to explore the scope and reach of verification measures in light of a changing international political and security environment.

Start: 01/28/2009 – 10:00am
End: 01/28/2009 – 11:30am
New America Foundation
1630 Connecticut Ave NW, 7th Floor
Washington, 20009
United States


Featured Speakers
Andreas Persbo
Senior Researcher
Verfication Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC)

Dave Hafemeister
Senior Technical Advisor
Arms Control Association
Former lead technical-staff on nuclear testing, Department of State

James Acton
Associate, Nonproliferation Program
Carnegie Endowment for National Peace

Jeffrey Lewis
Director, Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative
New America Foundation


  1. Miles Pomper (History)

    Thanks for the plug for Oliver’s piece.
    Your readers might also be interested in the cover piece that David Hafemeister wrote for ACT some months ago on CTBT verification.

  2. Major Lemon (History)

    Semipalatinsk presumably still glows in the dark?

  3. Yale Simkin (History)

    Let’s hope that the CTBT finally goes live.

    I have a couple questions to be forwarded to Dr. Hafemeister. I read his CTBT verification article and would like to know:

    1) He stated that the NK test was 0.6 kilotons (a terrifying device with a greater than 1 km lethal zone). I have seen estimates from less that 200 tons to 1000 tons. Is his number authoritative?

    2) He discusses in detail the likely ineffectiveness of a violator using cavity decoupling to conceal explosions. Cavity decoupling is a passive method. How sanguine is he in the detectability of actively suppressed detonations? In 1970 the verification detection test, “Diamond Dust”, was conducted at the Nevada test site. The device was detonated in a carbon filled chamber to absorb the energy pulse and suppress the seismic and crack-producing over-pressuring.

  4. David Hafemeister (History)


    thanks for comments.

    1) 0.6 kt, see Kim and Paul Richards, EOS, 88, April, 3, 2007, pages 157-161

    also Nature physics, 3, pages 4-6, Jan. 2007

    2) I haven’t seen the data on Diamond Dust, if you can steer me to it, I would appreciate that,

    thanks, dh

  5. Yale Simkin (History)

    Thanks for the yield reference for the NK test.
    I was interested because it seemed a bit higher than most references.
    The 0.6 kt yield is the same as the one I used in my post where I had NK nuke Boston

    Here is some background on the Diamond Dust energy-quenching experiment:

    Diamond Dust was part of the Vela Uniform program examining seismic detection capability.
    It included seven tests at various locations over an eight year span: 10/63 to 6/71
    Diamond Dust and Diamond Mine were energy-quenching tests.

    Test Series: Operation Mandrel
    Test Name: Diamond Dust
    Test Date: 05/12/1979
    Test Time: 14:00:00.04 UTC
    Test Location: Nevada Test Site
    Type: Shaft
    Area: 16a
    Drill hole: U16a.05
    Coordinates: 116.202W 37.010N
    Depth: -253 meters
    Yield: <20 kt

    No radiation detected off-site

    I have not seen data on the test results in the open literature.
    You may be able to find a copy somewhere of:

    Interpretation of Seismic Measurements Taken in the DIAMOND MINE Series.

    Abstract: The Geophysics Section of the Infrared and Optics Division of the Willow Run Laboratories has participated in the MIGHTY MITE series of experiments at the Nevada Test Site by measuring and analyzing near-field seismic phenomena resulting from the events of the series. This technical report discusses in detail the results from the DIAMOND MINE and the DIAMOND MINE HE shots, and makes correlations between these events and the DIAMOND DUST EVENT. (Author)

    Description: Informal technical rept.
    Pages: 89
    Report Date: MAY 1972
    Contract Number: F4462071C0033, ARPAOrder1316
    Report Number: 0386647
    Report Unavailable

  6. kme

    I notice that South Africa’s suspected test is missing from the list of first tests.

  7. Yale Simkin (History)

    A minor edit for the specs of the Diamond Dust test. I rechecked my notes. It was a tunnel test, not a shaft test.

  8. Andreas Persbo

    Major. I brought the glow with me to D.C. Congratulations on number 10,000!

  9. Yale Simkin (History)

    I did it again..

    The test date for the Diamond Dust test was NOT 1979, it was 1970

    It would be great if there was a way to edit posts.

    They always look correct in the preview. Not until its too late do the errors become painfully and irrevocably obvious.