209 Days - Nuclear testing


Subcrits are getting less subcritical


209 days since the latest Nuclear test on April 14, 2022

When the Biden administration carried out its second subcritical nuclear experiment in September 2021, it remained a secret for 209 days.

   US says it will do more subcritical nuke tests, sparks debate - It takes some guts to come to a nuclear test ban meeting and to announce upcoming tests, but the United States did that without batting an eyelid.

What are subcritical nuclear tests?

Subcritical nuclear tests are nuclear experiments designed to explosively bombard small amounts of weapon-grade plutonium-239.

Carried out by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) periodically in an underground alcove in Nevada, the experiments do not reach a runaway fission chain reaction. 

Critical problems remain, like the insensitivity of carrying out explosive nuclear experiments to local, national and international hibakusha/downwinders. Read more in my PDF flyer 'What are subcritical nuclear tests?' and an article in Russian, The Nuclear Tests in Verbal Camouflage (Oct. 11, 2012) 

Expose from Nuclear Free Local Authorities on Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Dump Plan to Poison the Pacific / Exploring Tritium Dangers free ebook

Is the Release of Radioactive Contaminated Water from the Fukushima Nuclear Site to the Sea Acceptable? Is it Safe?

Aug. 22, 2023 - Ruined Fukushima plant to release radioactive water in 48 hours, Years of U.S. Occupation irreparably harmed Japan's ability to resolutely affirm there is no safe level of radiation,  Read about alarming shortcomings and shocking manipulations in the US monitoring response to the Fukushima disaster in my 2015 paperback Rig, Rad, Run: Radiation Monitoring, Fukushima, and Our Nuclear Dystopia

PRIMER ON SUBCRITICAL TESTS: The U.S. has conducted DOZENS of subcritical nuclear experiments since the end of the Cold War to allegedly ensure the stockpile is resilient. 

The U.S.’s extremely poor modeling of responsible ‘nuclear nation’ behavior, as evidenced by these non-verifiable, extremely low-yield plutonium explosive tests conducted underground at a not shuttered nuclear test site in Nevada, has led to proliferation of subcritical testing in several countries, including North Korea. 

Claimed at its inception and until a few years ago as purely a stockpile science program essential for assuring that plutonium fuel in warheads actually works as intended while it ages, the subcritical nuclear testing effort was started under the Department of Energy and later absorbed into the National Nuclear Security Administration. Both agencies quietly spun the program for its plurality of ills including as a poison pill to the notion of test bans, a tool for fomenting instability for chaos-curious policymakers, a primer to the Nevada nuclear testing site for possible full-scale resumption and training new classes of nuclear test managers, and a technical assist in designing and building new nuclear weapons. Efforts by the government to promote transparency of its subcritical test program through quarterly reports and PR spin are a sham, much like the opposition to their program, which has been illusory. A fake resistance by anti-nuclear and peace activist groups to the program has meant that activists have become as much an enigma as the program itself--their mid-1990’s fiery and fierce bursts of protests were followed by eerie non-action since the early 2000s. The testing program has adopted ‘scaled’ configurations since the Obama administration. These ‘scaled’ subcritical tests have occurred in a mockup of a nuclear warhead primary. 

The joint U.S./U.K. subcritical testing program is a holdover of three-quarters of a century of nuclear addiction that is wrapped in three-quarters of a century of censorship. I urge Americans, Britons, and American observers—including nations benefiting from the nuclear umbrella—to reflect on the violations of the U.S.’s subcritical testing program on: Western Shoshone sovereignty, the dignity of downwinders and hibakusha whose souls are stepped on with each experiment, and American’s right-to-know. We ought to all be demanding a full set of disclosures of the censored nuclear activities at the Nevada National Security Site because no one in their right mind will accept what LANL and LLNL are really doing with subcritical nuclear tests. They are doing stuff that is so far from stockpile stewardship that your head will spin.

Excerpt from  U.S. Sneaks In Vega, Its 28th subcritical nuclear test:

'In 1997, beginning with 'Rebound,' the Department of Energy started providing a 48-hour notification prior to each subcritical test to various governments, organizations, and the media.

For over a decade, the Energy Department, and later the NNSA, consistently adhered to this policy of prior notifications and also issuing a press release within hours or a day of each test.

In September 2010, for its 24th subcritical nuclear test named 'Bacchus,' the NNSA abandoned its voluntary policy of providing a 48 hour notice and, months later, the agency began to opt out of issuing a press release following a subcritical test. In fact, in late 2010 and early 2011, the NNSA conducted two subcritical tests, 'Barolo A' and 'Barolo B,' that were not followed up by any confirmatory announcements for months.'

Pres. Joe Biden's belated 209-day announcement for a 2021 subcritical nuclear test set a new record of SNEs non-transparency.

'subcrits are getting less subcritical'

A new GAO report (Government Accountability Office) has been issued that perhaps waxes philosophical about subcritical nuclear tests. A sidebar titled 'Principles of Zeus' notes that a stimulus to an assembly 'can initiate' a chain reaction 'based on the properties of the assembly, such as the geometry (e.g., sphere or flat sheet) and the density,' which means Zeus was a wise dude. In all seriousness, GAO says that subcrits are getting less subcritical: 'The Zeus system simulates that process by bombarding the subcritical assembly with many additional neutrons to increase the number of fissions and gamma rays.'

"[A] 1998 European Parliament resolution stated that the U.S. was creating a crisis of confidence in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by conducting subcritical experiments." - see map of the global voices on subcrit experiments

U.S. subcritical nuclear tests

1997 to present

2 July 1997, Rebound
18 September 1997, Holog
25 March 1998, Stagecoach
26 September 1998, Bagpipe
11 October 1998, Cimarron
9 February 1999, Clarinet
22 March 2000, Thoroughbred
14 February 2002, Vito 
29 August 2002, Mario 
26 September 2002, Rocco 
19 September 2003, Piano 
25 May 2004, Armando 
23 February 2006, Krakata
30 August 2006, Unicorn 
15 September 2010, Bacchus 
1 December, 2010, Barolo A
2 February, 2011, Barolo B

Scaled-----5 December, 2012, Pollux 
Scaled-----13 December, 2017, Vega
Scaled-----13 February, 2019, Ediza

Scaled-----3 November, 2020, Nightshade A
Scaled-----22 June, 2021, Nightshade B
Scaled------16 September, 2021, Nightshade C


Next subcritical test series: Nimble (three shot series planned through 2026)

Other subcrit tests not included in the above list: Oboe 1-9, 1999-2002
Interesting fact: The Oboe 7 subcritical test (Dec. 13, 2001) was preceded by the Oboe 8 test (Sept. 26, 2001)

Feb. 15, 2023 - Plans for Pres. Biden's 3rd subcritical nuclear test emerged at a deterrence conference (Nuclear Deterrence Summit 2023) where a Livermore lab official disclosed that the first subcritical nuclear test in the new Nimble series would be happening this August (2023).


A recent assignment by a teacher in a U.S. school system posed to students a practical scenario about decision-making in the event of a nuclear attack. Americans aren't ever pressed for how we will make decisions regarding nuclear attacks. Why not? Assignments like this, in my opinion, can be valuable learning experiences. Regarding 'At the fallout shelter..' (link to article), my 'group' would pick the following individuals, and for the reasons provided:

* the 16-year old pregnant girl, the 75-year old priest, and the architect - why, because this grouping of persons would have the motivation, historical context and technical knowhow, respectively, to devise a way to sabotage the shelter, therefore they should be invited

* the former cocaine addict musician and the married couple (alcoholic) - why, because their exposure to addiction issues will give the shelter occupants an advantage in overcoming grief and positively reframing the physical and mental struggles related to the topics of destruction and nuclearism

There was a girl who lived in one of New York City's boroughs who would ask her father if an H-bomb hit the city, would they be safe. Her curiosity propelled her to complete, later in life, one of the defining works of the nuclear age and of America's Downwinders. Her name is Carole Gallagher and her groundbreaking book is titled American Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War. We should not be suppressing young minds on the topic of nuclear war.