What is a subcritical nuclear test?
Subcritical nuclear tests are nuclear experiments designed to explosively bombard small amounts of weapons-grade plutonium-239. Carried out by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) periodically in an underground alcove in the State of Nevada, the experiments, also dubbed ‘subcrits,’ do not reach a self-sustaining “critical” fission chain reaction. However, several critical problems remain.
From my Handout , 'What are Subcritical Nuclear Tests'
There are other ways of defining a subcritical nuclear test that get even closer to the core of why these experiments are controversial. Consider another definition of a subcritical nuclear experiment:
What's a nuclear test that's not a nuclear test in name only?
What is allowable by test ban treaties because it escapes identity with the term 'nuclear test'?
Scan the global conversation map for more perspectives. See the article below for more on subcritical testing transparency!
Subcritical nuclear tests by U.S. - 2006 to present
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 (preceded by Miramar atomic collaboration *)
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 first 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.
In June 2011, the NNSA proudly announced via a press release posted online that it was introducing a new practice of issuing quarterly summaries of its stockpile stewardship experiments, which included reporting on any recent subcritical tests.. and other stockpile experiments, many of them occurring at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the press release, the NNSA remarked that the move was in keeping with its 'commitment to promote transparency.' For years, a growing collection of quarterly summaries was hosted on a NNSA web page but then in late 2015 the summaries were discontinued and in 2017 the webpage disappeared altogether without any notification or reason given.