The United States is losing the capability to conduct underground nuclear tests that could be needed in the future to gauge the reliability of the nuclear arsenal.
According to John C. Hopkins, former head of nuclear testing at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Energy Department needs to bolster testing capabilities that could be needed in a future national emergency.
“With every day that passes, the United States grows more out of practice and out of resources—including the most important resource: people with experience—that are critical to nuclear testing,” Hopkins stated in an article published Wednesday in the Los Alamos newsletter.
He urged the three national laboratories, Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia, to set up a unified test preparation program.
“The time delay following the decision to resume testing would, in my opinion, be dangerously long,” Hopkins said, adding that archiving of past testing procedures should be carried out right away.
Hopkins is among a dwindling number of experts involved in past U.S. nuclear tests. He took part in five atmospheric tests in the Pacific and 170 tests in Nevada through the 1980s.
Based on his experience and knowledge of what is needed in terms of skills, equipment, facilities, and infrastructure for a full-scale nuclear test, “I have grown increasingly concerned at the steady degradation of U.S. nuclear test readiness—that is, the capability of the United States to test its nuclear weapons should the need to do so arise,” Hopkins said.