146. Paper Prepared by the Special Coordination Committee Working Group on Nuclear Testing1

[Omitted here are a cover page and table of contents.]


I. Introduction

PRM–16 of January 25 directed that the Special Coordination Committee undertake a preliminary review of the major issues involved in the termination of all nuclear testing.2 Included were to be an analysis of the problem of verifying a complete prohibition of weapons tests and peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs), an analysis of the effects of such a prohibition on the US and Soviet nuclear weapons programs, and a discussion of the various scenarios which might be utilized in moving toward this goal, including both moratoria and more permanent types of agreement. A discussion of the pros and cons of moving ahead with ratification of the Threshold Test Ban (TTBT) and Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNET) Treaties currently before the Senate was also to be included. The attached report was prepared by an SCC Working Group in response to PRM–16.

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II. Recent US and Soviet CTB Statements

The US has long declared its support of the goal of an adequately verified prohibition of nuclear testing and has undertaken commitments in treaties such as the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) to work toward that goal. Since assuming office, the President has on several occasions strongly expressed his intention to move immediately and aggressively toward cessation of all nuclear weapons testing.

Advocacy of a complete cessation of nuclear weapons testing has long been a central feature of Soviet declaratory foreign policy. A recent public declaration of this policy was contained in the September 23 speech of Foreign Minister Gromyko before the UNGA 3 and a Soviet memorandum on disarmament4 which was subsequently circulated as a UNGA document. The two statements were notable in that they conveyed the impression that verification measures beyond national technical means, including some limited form of on-site inspection, might be negotiable. This position had been signaled to US Ambassador Stoessel last Spring by Gromyko and one of his deputies in conversations which also hinted at some flexibility in the established Soviet position that all nuclear powers would have to participate in a CTB.5 A draft CTB Treaty tabled by the Soviets at the UNGA in November contains a provision for “voluntary” acceptance of on-site inspection,6 but does not extend the scope of prohibition to include PNEs.

III. Historical Background

The concept of nuclear test bans as measures independent of more comprehensive disarmament arrangements dates from the middle 1950s when first India and later the Soviets proposed test bans that did [Page 324]not contain verification provisions. In March 1956 the Soviets declared a suspension of testing and called upon the West to follow their example, but the US and UK declined to do so because of the verification problem, and in October the Soviets resumed testing.

In the summer of 1958 the US, UK and USSR agreed to commence negotiations for a test ban treaty that would include an international system of control posts, and the US and UK proposed a reciprocal suspension of testing for one year from the commencement of negotiations. The Soviets ceased testing in November, and this moratorium lasted until 1961. In December 1959, we announced that we felt free to resume testing but did not do so. In 1959 and in March of 1961 the Soviets informed us that they considered that continued testing by France was giving NATO a unilateral advantage. In August 1961 they announced that they would resume testing and did so with an intensive, well-planned program. Although the US responded with a proof test of a stockpiled weapon within a few weeks, due to the decline of the weapons program during the moratoria it was well over a year before a developmental test of any significance could be conducted.

The first agreement concerning limitation of nuclear testing to be achieved was the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 which banned explosions in the atmosphere, outer space and under water. The Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 recognized the connection between the cessation of weapons testing and the achievement of non-proliferation objectives, and obliged its parties to pursue good-faith negotiations toward that end. The TTBT and PNET, signed in 1974 and 1976 respectively, will, if ratified, limit the yield of individual US and Soviet nuclear explosions to 150 kilotons.

Although the US has long been politically committed to the concept of an adequately verifiable CTB, the issues of verification and adherence have been among the obstacles to a serious attempt to reach that goal. We have taken the position that national technical means alone are not adequate for verification and that some measure of on-site inspection would be required for adequate assurance of treaty compliance. The question of the need for adherence by all nuclear weapons states has also been an obstacle, in that the Soviets have stated it as a condition precedent to an agreement, and the PRC and France have adamantly refused to consider a CTB. (For the last few years, the US has not expressed a position on the adherence issue.) As discussed in Section II, there are now some indications of Soviet flexibility on these issues.

IV. Key CTB Considerations

A. Verification Capability

The historical record shows that the Soviets, in complying with international treaties and agreements, can be expected to exploit fully the [Page 325]limits specified in these treaties. This has been our own experience in verifying both the SALT ONE accords and LTBT and, more recently, the 150 kt limit of the TTBT. However, a nuclear test under a CTB would constitute a major and deliberate violation and despite their tendency to take advantage of loopholes, we have no evidence of any such gross violation of an arms control agreement. Nonetheless, it is important in any CTB considerations to recognize the limits that can be achieved in detecting and identifying nuclear explosions and to understand fully the impact that testing at or below these limits would have on US national security. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the Soviets would be uncertain as to the specific limits of our detection capability, and the potential consequences of being caught could be expected to constrain the political leadership from cheating unless there was an urgent national security reason for doing so. The US can verify a comprehensive test ban only above certain yield thresholds which are established by the capabilities and limitations of US national technical means, and by the extent of Soviet efforts to evade US surveillance. At current test sites and under current Soviet test practices, this threshold is very low. However, assuming they are willing to test underground in seismic or remote ocean areas and take measures to conceal the nature of their test operations, [14 lines not declassified]

[1 paragraph (12 lines) not declassified]

The Soviets undoubtedly have a better capability than the US to marshal resources to accomplish evasive testing at yields of a few kilotons. If the Soviets were to carry out nuclear tests in evasion of the provisions of a CTB Treaty, they could continue the development of some nuclear weapon systems. By conducting tests at or below our detection threshold, they would be able to improve their design capabilities in areas such as tactical weapons, certain ABM systems, and weapons effects. The conduct of such tests would make it easier in the long term for them to maintain some measure of their scientific, engineering and computer capabilities relating to the design and stockpile maintenance of nuclear weapons.

There are, however, several factors that would mitigate the incentive to conduct such low-yield evasive testing. [4 lines not declassified] the possibility that even a low-yield test might be detected and identified. The Soviets would also have to take into account the fact that information on an evasion program might become available from human sources.

B. Impact on US/Soviet Weapons Programs

The US has conducted over 480 underground nuclear weapons tests since 1963, of which about 300 were under 10 kt. [2 lines not declassified] The US in general has developed a wider selection of nuclear [Page 326]warheads which probably are more advanced technologically. [3 lines not declassified]

A mutual cessation of testing would essentially freeze nuclear weapons technology at current levels for both sides.

In the short term, the effect of a CTB on US strategic systems would be to inhibit development of optimum, cost-effective upgrades in US strategic deterrent and warfighting capability. Weapons which could be affected to some degree include B–77 (the new strategic bomb), M–X, Evader MARV and MK–12A. The impact would be much more severe on the tactical nuclear systems upgrade currently planned. An immediate cessation of testing would preclude much of the theater nuclear forces improvement program which is currently underway. These improvements are designed to provide tactical weapons with increased flexibility, reduced collateral damage, improved safety and security, and faster response time. The major portion of our current tactical nuclear weapons stockpile was developed prior to 1965 and lacks these features. As indicated in Table I,7 a prioritized test program of up to one year’s duration would permit completion of some of this programmed improvement in the tactical area, but completion of some strategic programs would require two years. (The MK–12A warhead and B–77 bomb could probably be completed within one year, however.)

Some of these key programs, including the low SNM options for the MX, and the Cruise Missile, may well experience one or more test failures and therefore be impossible to complete in the projected time frame. There are others for which development has been started at DOD request, but for which testing could not be completed within two years under the most optimistic conditions. These include Standard Missile 2, PERSHING II and the Minimum Residual Radiation (MRR) tactical bomb. Under normal conditions, these programs would be continued for as long as necessary to complete their essential testing.

In the longer range (out to twenty years), US research shows that the US should be able to achieve many new capabilities to meet anticipated DOD requirements. These include, as examples: (1) New designs employing current technology to meet new, more stringent Defense requirements for radiation hardness, warhead size and weight, and warhead delivery modes; (2) Higher yields with reduced weight and smaller size to meet the requirements for the next generation MIRVs, or for new artillery shells; (3) Whole families of low residual radiation bombs and warheads which obtain a very small fraction of their yield from fission; (4) Very small, very clean weapons that provide a few tens of tons yield in a few tens of pounds; and (5) New bombs and warheads [Page 327]which are safe against misuse, tampering, HE detonation from impact, and plutonium scattering.

A mutual cessation of testing would prevent the Soviets from fully exploiting their missile throw-weight advantage through optimum MIRVed warhead development. This probably would not affect current Soviet strategic systems (e.g., SS–17, 18 and 19) but would constrain their expected follow-on ICBM, SLBM and cruise missile systems. [2 lines not declassified]

Design capability on both sides would degrade eventually under a mutual cessation of tests. The Soviets might have some advantage in slowing this degrading through provision of domestic political incentives to their scientists and if necessary conscripting their services, and through evasive testing (although, as noted earlier, this would involve a major decision by the Soviet leadership, and slowing this degradation might not offer enough advantage to justify the risk). On the other hand, the US leads the USSR in computer hardware and software to simulate and model new weapons design, but would probably not stockpile new weapon designs without testing.

It is difficult to assess the relative impact of a mutual testing cessation on stockpile reliability. This is a very contentious issue and little is known about whether present reliability levels can be maintained under a CTB or, if not, about the strategic significance of any degradation. The Soviets might have an advantage due to [less than 1 line not declassified] their ICBM throw-weight advantage, and perhaps a better ability to marshal laboratory resources in a CTB context. On the other hand, the US might have an advantage due to its better quality control, computer simulation and componentry testing. Because of the relatively rapid introduction of new systems in the US stockpile, it has not been generally necessary to conduct confidence testing in order to assess reliability. [less than 1 line not declassified] There is general agreement that stockpile reliability degradation would be slight over the short term (e.g., up to 5 years) but could become more significant in the longer run (e.g., 10 to 20 years). The degree to which stockpile reliability degradation would be significant to national security would depend on our ability to continue manufacture of old designs and components, and on perceptions of the relationship of stockpile reliability for deterrence and war-fighting capability.

Many weapons design experts believe that in the long run (20 years), there would be a nearly complete loss of confidence in the reliability of our stockpile. Others believe, however, that this judgment overstates this loss of confidence since a properly drawn CTB agreement would impose substantially similar constraints on the US and USSR and it may overstate the stockpile reliability problem in that no [Page 328]comprehensive effort has yet been undertaken by the US to establish designs, facilities and procedures to cope with this unique situation.

It would be appropriate to consider possible safeguards in the context of a mutual cessation of testing, such as the ones which were adopted following the LTBT. These safeguards would include attempting to maintain an R&D and production capability, simulation, and readiness to resume testing if necessary; and pursuit of an aggressive program to improve US verification capabilities.

C. Significance of Low-Yield Clandestine Testing. Although the significance to deterrence and stability of a possible decline in nuclear weapons design capability and a stockpile reliability is difficult to assess, it is in this area that concerns about possible asymmetries are most acute. [5 lines not declassified]

Thus it is important to examine the military importance of testing in these low-yield ranges. There are defense needs for very low-yield nuclear weapons such as the HARPOON anti-ship missile, anti-submarine torpedoes, air defense weapons and precision guided air-to-surface weapons. These warheads could be developed with testing in the sub-kiloton range, and it is obvious that such testing would contribute significantly to maintaining a viable weapons design capability and some stockpile reliability problems could be solved. [5 lines not declassified]

It is questionable whether such [less than 1 line not declassified] testing would provide such sufficient military advantages that the Soviet leadership would be willing to assume the risk of violating the CTB Treaty with its attendant costs to their relationship with the US and their international stature. Nevertheless, it might be possible to significantly reduce such incentives and asymmetries by defining nuclear tests under a CTB as applying to events of nuclear origin [1 line not declassified] At least at these larger yields, however, the treaty should clearly be labeled a threshold ban rather than a CTB, and the perception that testing would continue would reduce the non-proliferation benefits. It could be defended, however, as [7 lines not declassified] Little work has been done on this definitional issue, and further study would be necessary to determine whether a definition could be found that would minimize possible asymmetries in the areas of stockpile reliability and maintaining design capability without significantly undermining the non-proliferation impact of a CTB. Alternatively, it can be argued that the Soviets would not exploit such opportunities and that, in any event, the national security significance of these potential asymmetries would be outweighed by the beneficial impact of a CTB on US-Soviet relations and in limiting nuclear proliferation.

D. Nuclear-Weapons States Participation

Even after a bilateral/multilateral CTB has been achieved, it is likely that China, France, and perhaps other nations would continue to [Page 329]test. China has accorded high visibility to weapons testing which it has indicated that it would continue, and could be expected to severely criticize a CTB as superpower collusion. While we could not expect to alter Peking’s opposition to a CTB, we should consult with them early in the process to minimize any possible concerns that we would seek to isolate or embarrass them through a CTB.

Similarly, it may be expected that France will be reluctant to adhere to any test-limiting agreement within the near term. (Embassy Paris reports that even a leftist government would be expected to continue testing in the near term.)8 They are currently in the midst of major strategic and tactical weapons modernization efforts. The UK, on the other hand, although concerned as to whether its Polaris Improvement Program could be completed, could be expected to respond favorably to a US CTB initiative and adhere to a CTB agreement.

The fact that some nations, particularly China, will continue to develop nuclear explosives would undoubtedly be viewed with concern by the Soviet Union. However, since current Chinese weapons technology is believed significantly inferior to that of the US and USSR, the Soviets would probably be less concerned about a short-term continuation of Chinese testing. In the long term, this situation would be viewed as a serious problem by the Soviets and could even pose a problem for the US from the national security standpoint. The result is that an indefinite duration CTBT without periodic reviews is unlikely to be acceptable to the Soviets. A more realistic test ban goal for both US and Soviet interests would be a treaty which had to be reviewed periodically and which provided a supreme interests escape clause.

E. Allied Perceptions

Allied confidence in the reliability of our commitment to their security is based on their perceptions of a number of factors including the quality and level of US conventional forces assigned to their defense, the quality and level of US tactical and strategic nuclear forces relative to those of their potential adversaries, alliance doctrine and declaratory policy on the use of nuclear weapons and their perceptions of US political will to defend them. A mutual cessation of testing by the US and USSR would probably not, in and of itself, particularly concern them. Indeed, most have strongly supported the concept of a CTB in their declaratory policies. However, if it were to be interpreted by them as a signal of the beginning of US disengagement from its commitment, this would create the potential for serious political and non-proliferation considerations. Thus, while all our allies except France would publicly [Page 330]support a US CTB initiative, careful consultations would be required to reassure them as to the constancy of our purposes.

There is a special problem with NATO allies who regard our theater nuclear capability as a major deterrent against Soviet aggression in Europe. We have assured the allies that we intend not only to maintain but to upgrade and modernize this capability unless mutual reduction of forces with the Soviet Union are negotiated. Allied concern has been with war-fighting capability as it affects deterrence, but we believe they would be willing to forego modernization in a CTB context. In fact, while the Allied interest in maintaining a large and viable stockpile remains high, there has been some concern over technological improvements that could be viewed as increasing the likelihood of using these weapons on Allied territory. While theater force modernization is not an issue with our Allies in the Far East, there is still some concern resulting from the Vietnam debacle that the US may lose interest in the region. Thus they would be sensitive to any implication that the US might be less willing and less able to carry out its security commitments. Steps would have to be taken to assure all our allies that we could maintain a credible nuclear deterrent posture under CTB conditions.

F. Non-Proliferation

The objective of preventing the proliferation of nuclear explosive capabilities has been identified as a major focus of US foreign and national security policy. A CTB is widely perceived as an important step towards this objective. A prohibition on nuclear testing would impose a significant constraint on the development of a nuclear weapons capability for those states adhering to the measure, even though the possibility exists for technically advanced states to obtain a relatively crude nuclear weapons capability without testing. In addition, a CTB is seen by non-nuclear weapon states as a key step by the nuclear powers required to balance the self-denying obligations other countries accepted in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It is doubtful that states apparently intent on keeping the nuclear explosives option open (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, and Pakistan) would, at least at present, be prepared to join a CTB, but the political costs to them of a decision to go nuclear would be increased. On the other hand, a number of states that have not adhered to the Non-Proliferation Treaty but have gone on record as supporting a CTB, might well decide to join. Examples are South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Chile, Algeria, Indonesia, and Egypt. Even in the case of India, an early cessation of US and Soviet testing might persuade them to defer further testing.

The conclusion of a CTB can be expected to improve international perceptions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and raise the barriers to [Page 331]possible withdrawal from the treaty. The practical implications of this perception are difficult to predict, especially for those states that currently pose the most serious proliferation risks. However, for some countries, a CTB might well tip the balance of a decision against going nuclear or retaining a nuclear option.

An important factor enabling most of our NATO allies, Japan and South Korea to foreswear the development of nuclear weapons has been confidence that their security requirements would be adequately met in the context of their alliance relationship with the US. If the CTB were perceived as indicative of a general US intention to withdraw over time from its military and political commitment, it could have adverse implications for non-proliferation. CTB negotiations should therefore be accompanied by extensive consultations and corollary policies to assure our allies that a CTB will not erode their security.

G. Stability Implications

It is difficult to assess the impact of possible diminished confidence in stockpiled nuclear weapons on stability. To the extent that some degradation were perceived to occur, a nuclear weapons state would have somewhat less confidence in its ability in the future to develop and maintain a disarming first-strike capability against the other side’s strategic missiles and reduced confidence in its second-strike capability or any other strategic objectives as well. In either case, possible degradation would be less significant in the shorter run. In any event, despite possible decreased reliability of their weapons, both sides would continue to be able to inflict massive damage on soft targets and population of the other side, due to the large numbers and capabilities of present strategic weapons. If the numbers of weapons were reduced to much lower levels, under a future SALT agreement, however, their decreased reliability could be more important.

Some believe that a CTB could enhance strategic stability in that due to gradual degradation in stockpile reliability of both sides, there would be reduced confidence in abilities to successfully carry out a disarming first-strike. Others believe that a CTB could create instabilities since if first use of nuclear weapons was considered less likely, the Soviets might be tempted to take advantage of their conventional superiority in Europe. Finally, if numbers of weapons were reduced to very low levels and if the decline in their reliability was perceived as asymmetric, there could even be incentives to strike first while there was still high confidence in one’s own weapons, or, subsequently, to strike first if the other side’s retaliatory forces were perceived to be ineffective.

H. Impact on US-Soviet Relations

Comprehensive test ban negotiations would be but one strand in the interlocking web of US-Soviet relationships in which vital arms [Page 332]control negotiations and agreements play a central role. A ban on nuclear weapons testing is a declaratory goal of Soviet foreign and arms control policy, and successful conclusion of such an agreement would have certain beneficial results for the overall US-Soviet relationship.

The Soviets view a ban on nuclear weapons testing as a means both to separate Washington and Peking and to de-emphasize the competitive military component of US policy toward the Soviet Union—both primarily political goals which fit in with Moscow’s other efforts to derive the benefits of a more composed relationship with the West. Secondarily, the Soviets hope to isolate France, as well as China, as arms control hold-outs, and to lessen the likelihood of nuclear proliferation, particularly along the Soviet periphery.

Given the limited sphere of US and Soviet overlapping interests, movement toward further limits on nuclear testing would serve as a counterweight to more competitive aspects of the relationship (for example, potential US-Soviet disagreements on southern Africa, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe). US movement toward testing restraints before Chinese accession would compensate, at least partially, in Moscow’s eyes, for American actions to normalize relations further with Peking. The divisive potential of a comprehensive test ban for Sino-American relations, however, may be a central element in Moscow’s calculations.

The political benefits to US-Soviet relations of further testing limitations would be lessened to some extent by whatever strains emerged in negotiating mutually acceptable provisions on verification, peaceful nuclear explosions, and, possibly, participation. Nonetheless, a negotiated long-term agreement would greatly reduce the possibility of using renewed testing as a political tool (as the Soviets did in the 1958–61 Berlin crisis).9

A moratorium on weapons testing as an interim measure before negotiation of a full test ban agreement would probably have an initially positive effect on US-Soviet relations, but would run the risk both of being manipulated for political ends and of reducing pressure for early conclusion of a negotiated agreement.

V. General Conclusions

This section sets forth general conclusions on some of the issues raised in PRM–16; the following sections present general options for decision.

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A. TTB/PNE Ratification

As requested in the PRM, the issue of ratification of the TTB/PNE Treaties has been analyzed in the context of alternative approaches to a CTB. Arguments in favor of ratifying these treaties include:

—The Soviet leadership is firmly committed to these treaties as tangible evidence of the benefits of US-Soviet cooperation, and have repeatedly stressed the importance of their ratification.

—There would appear to be a distinct advantage to the US in codifying the innovative verification provisions of these treaties both in the CTB context and in other arms control areas.

—The treaty provisions would be helpful in verifying the present mutual restraint in limiting tests to 150 kt, particularly if CTB negotiations are prolonged.

—It would also be advantageous to ratify the treaties to preclude Soviet renouncement of this constraint and resumption of high-yield testing.

On the other hand, critics of the treaties have argued that the 150 kt threshold is too high and that the PNE Treaty would legitimize PNEs. However, these treaties represent the first real progress towards a CTB in many years and an Administration perceived as urgently working towards a CTB should have little difficulty in overcoming any opposition to ratification.

As a result, there is consensus in the Working Group that these treaties should be ratified as a common step in all of the alternative approaches to a CTB which follow.

B. Participation in Negotiations. There is also interagency agreement that, whether or not preceded by a moratorium, a CTB should be embodied in a binding international agreement open to all states; that any CTB initiative should be preceded by thorough consultations with our allies; and that CTB negotiations should begin with a bilateral US/Soviet phase (possibly trilateral, including the UK), and should eventually proceed to a multilateral phase in which the agreement would be concluded. There is also agreement that such multilateral agreement would probably not take effect in the foreseeable future if it required adherence by all nuclear powers before entry into force. Accordingly, if we decided to commence CTB negotiations at this time, the most realistic near-term possibility would be an agreement of limited duration that needed only US and Soviet adherence to enter into force. The question of possible LTBT amendment as the enabling mechanism for a CTB was investigated on a preliminary basis. There would be obvious difficulties in managing a 103-nation negotiation and some risk that the LTBT might be undermined in the process. It might be possible to “bind” countries, such as Egypt, Israel or Brazil, who are parties to the LTBT but have refused to accede to the NPT. However, these countries could find a pretext to withdraw from the LTBT if they perceived it in [Page 334]their interest to do so. These issues are complex and would require extensive further study both from a policy and legal standpoint prior to a determination whether LTBT amendment could be a desirable multilateral basis for a CTB.

C. Moratorium Concerns. The implications of both unilateral and bilateral moratoria have been considered as a means to a cessation of testing. As noted above, our previous experience with the Soviets concerning a testing moratorium in the late 1950s was an unfortunate one, and as a result there would be substantial opposition to a moratorium without active CTB negotiations at this time. A unilateral moratorium might have non-proliferation advantages but would suffer from the serious disadvantage of permitting the Soviets to continue testing and might allow them to complete priority tests before halting their own program. Even if the moratorium were bilaterally undertaken, there would be an obvious disadvantage in that there would be no verification provisions to assist us in monitoring Soviet compliance. As a result there is interagency agreement in the Working Group that a moratorium should only be considered during negotiations toward a formal verifiable agreement and that, even in this case, the moratorium should have a tight time limitation to provide leverage in the negotiations and avoid an indefinite moratorium.

VI. The CTB Decision

This section discusses the national security advantages and disadvantages of a CTB. The arguments which favor a CTB are:

—A CTB is a key element in achieving the US objective of curbing nuclear weapons proliferation, because:

(1) As indigenous nuclear capabilities spread to many countries, political decisions to refrain from building nuclear weapons will be increasingly dependent on whether the US and USSR are perceived to be accepting restraints on their nuclear arms. A CTB is widely considered to be a main symbol of such restraint.

(2) Some states which have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty might accept the constraints of a CTB.

(3) The Non-Proliferation Treaty regime would be strengthened, and potential withdrawals made less likely, if the nuclear powers fulfilled their pledge in that treaty to stop nuclear testing.

—A CTB would reinforce SALT agreements and have a positive effect in improving the overall USUSSR relationship.

—A CTB would impose significant restraints on the USUSSR arms race by prohibiting further refinement of nuclear warheads and by prohibiting nuclear weapon effects tests.

—By reducing Soviet confidence in the long-term reliability of their missile warheads, a CTB would reduce the risk of their employing a first-strike strategy.

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—A CTB would be responsive to growing international and domestic political pressures to end nuclear testing. It would fulfill US pledges to seek this goal which have been made in the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, UN and CCD speeches, and most recently, by President Carter.

Arguments against a CTB are:

—Since World War II the US has depended on nuclear weapons to deter nuclear and conventional attacks on the US and its allies. In particular, nuclear weapons have served to counterbalance the overwhelming superiority of Soviet conventional forces in Europe. A CTB will inevitably result in some deterioration of US nuclear weaponry.

—If the Soviets decide to violate or circumvent the CTB Treaty and are successful, at least in the low-yield range, this could result in further military asymmetries favoring the Soviet Union.

—Future foreign concern over US capability to oppose Soviet aggression in the event of a perceived degradation in our nuclear deterrent could result in international realignments and possibly further proliferation.

—Specific strategic and tactical weapons will not be optimized and may even have to be cancelled because of technical difficulties.

—Continued testing by other weapons states, notably China, could eventually have an adverse effect on US national security.

—An early cessation of nuclear testing would eliminate our current objectives to improve the safety, security, command/control features, and reduction of collateral damage from all classes of nuclear weapons.

—The Soviets could have an asymmetric advantage in maintaining stockpile reliability and nuclear weapons design capability.

—[2 lines not declassified] Such testing could be important for development of some tactical weapons.

VII. CTB Implementing Options

A. Negotiations with Continued Testing

Under this option we would initiate CTB negotiations with the Soviets as soon as practicable, but would continue testing pending conclusion of a CTB Treaty. (It is considered likely that negotiation of a CTB would take at least a year, particularly if PNEs were allowed.)


—Together with renewed SALT negotiations, would demonstrate US commitment to arms control and enhance prospects for our non-proliferation objectives.

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—Would be constructive step in US-Soviet relationship and could improve prospects for accomplishment of other US bilateral objectives with the Soviets.

—Due to likelihood of protracted negotiations, would permit accomplishment of some planned US weapons testing objectives.


—Could be criticized for permitting continued testing, particularly if negotiations were protracted.

—Alternatively, if negotiations were completed quickly, could preclude completion of any remaining US weapons test objectives.

—Similarly, the Soviets might exploit the situation by announcing an immediate moratorium and calling for the US to halt testing, thus making it difficult for the US to continue testing.

B. Negotiations with Cessation of Testing

This option is essentially the same as option A, except that we would seek a time-limited bilateral moratorium on testing during the negotiations.


—It would restrain the Soviets from improving their nuclear warheads or correcting possible deficiencies during a possibly protracted period of negotiations.

—It would be widely supported internationally as clearly demonstrating US and Soviet good-faith commitments to fulfill their non-proliferation treaty pledge to end nuclear testing.

—It would strengthen US efforts to dissuade India and other nations from further testing.


—It would preclude completion of certain planned strategic and tactical weapons tests programs.

—During the period of the moratorium, we would be limited to national means of verification only, thereby increasing the risk of clandestine Soviet testing at low yields.

—If prolonged, a moratorium could result in loss of skilled personnel from the US weapons program, as well as funding reductions by the Congress. In that case, subsequent failure to achieve a permanent CTB and resumption of testing by both sides could leave the US at a disadvantage.

C. Phased Approach

The primary difference between this option and Option A above is that this option would defer CTB negotiations for perhaps two years to provide for a deliberate linking of the various steps required to reach any CTB with satisfactory progress on a wide variety of other arms control measures and demonstration of Soviet commitments to a stable US/USSR national security relationship.

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The following pros and cons are in addition to those in Option A above.


—Provides time for multinational exploration on verification measures which could be incorporated in an eventual CTB.

—Provides experience in implementing TTB/PNE Treaties and in assessing Soviet cooperativeness with regard to these treaty provisions.

—Provides time for a US assessment of progress on a broad range of the US/USSR security relationships.


—Would be viewed by some as inconsistent with stated US objective of prompt cessation of testing, and thus could complicate TTB/PNE ratification.

—Would probably delay the earliest date of a CTB agreement.

—Possible non-proliferation benefits would be deferred until favorable CTB decision is clearly demonstrated by initiating CTB negotiations.

—Would defer possible benefits to US-Soviet relationship.

D. Lowered Threshold

This option could be accomplished as an additional step in either Option A or C above. It would involve lowering the threshold at an early date to perhaps 75 kt or so, and could also include further scheduled reductions towards a very low threshold or CTB. This might provide some of the non-proliferation advantages of a moratorium with reduced verification risks, and at 75 kt would permit completion of much of our tactical weapons modernization effort. It could also assist us in ratification of the TTB/PNE Treaties by demonstrating the President’s commitment to progress in this area and would mitigate criticisms that the 150 kt threshold is too high. If the period of testing at 75 kt were prolonged, however, it would be desirable to review and possibly amend the TTB/PNE Treaties to ensure adequate verification. (This could be a complex negotiation in itself.)

VIII. PNE Accommodation Considerations

A. Introduction

Since the initiation of US arms control policy to limit nuclear weapon testing, it has been recognized that peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) present special and difficult problems for the achievement of an adequately verified test ban. In seeking a test ban agreement with the Soviet Union, the US must take account of the facts that the US currently has only a very small PNE program while the Soviets have an active PNE program and have expressed their desires and plans for continuing that program during a test ban. Because of economic factors, [Page 338]environmental concerns, and other factors, it is assumed unlikely that the US would embark on a large-scale PNE program after entering into a weapons test ban. However, it is possible that the US would pursue a limited PNE program, possibly within the confines of the Nevada Test Site.

The Soviet PNE program is very broad in scope and includes water resource development, oil and gas stimulation, mining, storage and disposal of wastes, storage of petroleum and other hydrocarbons, and extinguishing gas well fires. The Soviets claim to have reduced the last two applications to practice, but most of their PNEs have been experimental in nature. The best known Soviet PNE project is their plan to build a canal to reverse the head waters of the Pechora River to flow into the Kama, Volga, and then the Caspian Sea. This is a major project which at one time was described as requiring as many as 250 nuclear explosives fired in salvos of up to 20 explosives at a time. The Soviets conducted one PNE salvo along the canal route in 1971 and have had a second apparently ready for firing for more than a year. There is some uncertainty as to whether the Soviets will proceed with this project, and substantial engineering and feasibility questions probably remain. However, at least five other PNE tests (for other applications) are known to be in preparation and the Soviets seem determined at present to continue their overall program. However, it is difficult to assess how strongly the Soviets would resist a US proposal to ban PNEs in the context of a CTB other wise acceptable to them, particularly if the PNE ban were only for a limited number of years.

B. National Security Implications of PNEs under a CTB

There is international agreement that the technology required for PNEs is indistinguishable from that required for nuclear weapons tests, and that any country engaged in PNE device development or testing inevitably receives weapons-related benefits. This agreement is reflected in the NPT, and one of the key objectives of our non-proliferation policy has been to deter non-nuclear weapon states from indigenous development of PNE technology.

Because of the indistinguishability of PNE technology and weapons technology, our lack of interest in PNE applications, and because of nuclear weapon proliferation considerations, there is complete agreement among the participants in this study that a CTB banning all nuclear explosions is more desirable from the US national security standpoint than a ban which accommodates PNEs. In the context of a ban of all nuclear explosions, including PNEs, the capability to verify whether a nuclear explosion has taken place is the same for both a PNE and a nuclear weapon detonation.

If peaceful nuclear explosions are allowed to continue in some form in the context of a comprehensive test ban, an opportunity for [Page 339]evasion of test ban constraints is immediately introduced. Without adequate restrictions, ostensible PNEs could be exploited to gain practically any nuclear weapon-related benefits that can be achieved by a declared nuclear weapon test of equivalent yield.

Further, there is concern that an accommodation for PNEs could increase belief in the value of PNEs, thereby stimulating interest in indigenous PNE programs. This would diminish one of the principal non-proliferation benefits of a CTB which prohibited PNEs—namely, a closing of this avenue to potential weapons development (as in the case of India). A contrary but probably weaker effect would be that some states, which felt that they had a real economic need for PNEs, would continue to have an alternative to indigenous PNEs and thereby might accede to such a CTB.

Even with a PNE allowance, a CTB would act as an important political restraint on a decision to develop nuclear weapons overtly, and would deter overt political use of a weapons capability. Thus, while it is clear that a CTB banning PNEs would be highly preferable, one which allowed PNEs (if necessary to accommodate Soviet interests) would still probably contribute to our non-proliferation objectives and might have enhanced value in terms of its impact on the US-Soviet relationship.

C. PNE Accommodation Options

If the Soviets insist on a PNE accommodation, the fundamental issue is whether a verification arrangement can be devised that would adequately protect US security interests. To reduce the weapon-related benefits attendant on accommodating PNEs under a test ban, restrictions would have to be devised that guard against: substitution of a weapon or weapon development explosive for the ostensible PNE explosive; detonation of a collateral weapon or weapon development explosive near the PNE, simultaneously or nearly simultaneously, with it; or acquisition of weapon effects data. A number of specific PNE verification procedures have been considered in an attempt to satisfy these general objectives; however, none would provide adequate unilateral assurance that the country testing the PNE would not obtain weapons-related benefits. Consequently, our attention has focused on highly intrusive cooperative verification arrangements which would seek to ensure that the US would share at least equally in any weapons-related data generated in PNE activities.

These procedures are extensions of the PNET provisions and as common elements include: (a) certification of the nature and peaceful purpose of each PNE project; (b) review of the proposed project by the verifying party on the basis of data supplied by host party; (c) observation of the preparation, emplacement, execution, and post-shot activ[Page 340]ities; and (d) on-site seismic monitoring. Opportunities for detection of a collateral clandestine test or weapons effects experiments would depend on the details of the on-site observation and monitoring that was permitted, the relative yields of the PNE and the clandestine weapons test, and national technical means. Four alternative, supplementary procedures are considered below:

(1) Registration and Measurement of Explosive Characteristics

This procedure consists of (a) registration of the characteristics of a limited set of explosives; (b) firing of the explosives by observers; (c) on-site electronic monitoring; and (d) collection of post-shot radiochemical samples. For this system of constraints, the parties would have to make available to each other the electronic signatures and radiochemical samples from the explosives they propose to use.


—May be easier to negotiate than other options considered; it permits host to use his own explosives.

—Least complicated of options.

—May be made multilateral.


—Stockpile reliability testing could be accomplished by preregistering stockpile weapon signatures.

—Radiochemical and electronic signatures may not suffice to identify adequately the character of the registered explosive.

—Radiochemical samples could be difficult and costly to obtain from deep contained explosions.

—Unforeseen circumstances may require new PNE explosive designs which could not be accommodated.

(2) Warehousing

This procedure involves international warehousing, whereby a stockpile of PNE devices provided by the US and Soviets adequate for several years of PNE applications would be established under international surveillance and used as needed for PNE applications.


—Reduces opportunities for checking weapon stockpile reliability.

—May be as negotiable as option (1).

—May be made multilateral.


—Requires large initial stockpile with attendant security problems and cost.

—Poses problems related to how the explosives in the stockpile could be maintained and how to replenish the stockpile without per[Page 341]mitting the introduction of new weapons for testing or the disclosure of design information.

—Unforeseen circumstances may require new PNE explosive designs which could not be accommodated.

—Some stockpile reliability testing could be accomplished by putting certain weapons in the PNE explosive stockpile.

(3) Explosives Supplied by Observing Party

This procedure would include a provision that the observing party would supply, maintain custody of, and detonate the explosive. The procedure would presumably have to include a veto right for the supplying State with respect to safety and treaty obligations.


—Makes explosive substitution very difficult for PNE projects in host country.

—Because of possible large Soviet PNE program, US may supply many explosives helping to maintain US nuclear explosive design capability.

—Similar to IAEA PNE supplier approach, making it more acceptable internationally.


—Probably not negotiable because of Soviet concern that military advantages accrue to US, and because of US veto power.

US may have problems of explosive supply, logistics and liability.

—Melt material left in host country is revealing of explosive design.

—Has US/USSR condominium aspects to other nations.

USSR may test new weapon designs by providing PNE services to friendly states.

(4) US/USSR Cooperative PNE Program

This last procedure is based on the establishment of a comprehensive and effective US/USSR PNE cooperative program that encompasses all aspects of PNE technology, including mutual disclosure or joint development of explosive designs. Such a cooperative program must include verification procedures that assure that the explosive used is of the same design as that disclosed or developed for the project. Both sides would share in the weapons-technology benefits of PNEs. This procedure could also include provisions to maximize non-nuclear assistance in the proposed projects in an attempt to reduce the numbers of nuclear explosives required.


—Allows US to obtain large amount of information concerning Soviet PNE program, and some insight into Soviet explosive design.

—Cooperative aspects could enhance US/USSR relations (dé-tente), and might be negotiable for that reason.

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—Cooperative US/USSR program may provide international PNE benefits not otherwise attainable.


—Arrangement might be criticized as a cooperative US/USSR weapon development program (condominium).

—Requires extreme care in the disclosure of design information to avoid enhancing existing Soviet weapon design capabilities.

—May not be negotiable with Soviets because of high degree of intrusiveness.

D. Negotiating Strategy

As outlined above, it would appear to be clearly in our interest to exert maximum pressure to convince the Soviets that PNEs should be banned under a CTB. If this proves unacceptable to the Soviets, an alternative would be to include in the CTB agreement a provision for consideration of a PNE accommodation at a later time. This was the final resolution of the Soviet desire for PNEs above 150 kilotons during the PNET negotiations.

If this approach proved unsuccessful, we might attempt to negotiate a PNE accommodation that would be restricted to the Pechora-Kama Canal project. This might be negotiable, would limit the scope of the Soviet PNE effort, and upon completion could lead to a complete test ban. There would be important disadvantages, however, in that since only the Soviets would benefit, other nations could criticize it as discriminatory.

More importantly, the project would involve only excavation explosions and we have repeatedly stated that major PNE excavation projects would violate the LTBT. This would preclude treating the LTBT problem as we did in the PNET by including a provision for strict LTBT compliance and not differentiating between contained and excavation PNEs. Finally, the project is so large, and would take so long (perhaps 10 years), that this option would not significantly reduce weapons-related benefits compared to a general PNE accommodation.

Under either the restricted Pechora-Kama or an unrestricted PNE accommodation, their negotiability would obviously depend on the degree of intrusiveness of the accommodation arrangement we selected. None of the four such arrangements outlined above has been examined in detail, and all should receive further careful review before proceeding with negotiation of any PNE accommodation.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–80–0017, Box 63, A–400.112 Test Ban (Jan–July) 1977. Secret. Attached to a February 16 covering memorandum from NSC Acting Staff Secretary Michael Hornblow to Mondale, Vance, and Brown. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 141.
  3. Gromkyo actually spoke on September 28, 1976. He said that “nuclear weapons testing should be stopped everywhere and by all. This would put an end to the qualitative improvement of those weapons.” He also charged that “the start of negotiations on this question is being unjustifiably delayed. The problem here is not the absence of objective conditions—–they have long existed—–but the unwillingness of some nuclear Powers to begin negotiations.” (Documents on Disarmament, 1976, pp. 643–650)
  4. On September 28, 1976, the Soviet Union introduced a resolution at the UN General Assembly that claimed it was “prepared, as it has been in the past, to conduct negotiations on the most radical disarmament measures, going even so far as general and complete disarmament.” Among other measures, the resolution called for “the prohibition of all nuclear-weapon tests. This problem,” the Soviets contended, “should be tackled without waiting for the outcome of negotiations on complete nuclear disarmament.” (“Soviet Memorandum on Questions of Ending the Arms Race and Disarmament [Extract],” September 28, 1976, Documents on Disarmament, 1976, pp. 631–641)
  5. The Gromyko-Stossel conversation occurred on April 12, 1976 and is reported in telegram 5682 from Moscow, April 13, 1976; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760143–0740.
  6. The proposal is available in telegram 279503 to Colombo, November 13, 1976; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760425–0034)
  7. Attached but not printed.
  8. The report is available in telegram 3727 from Paris, February 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770042–1173)
  9. On November 27, 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced that he would unilaterally recognize Eastern Germany as a sovereign state, touching off the 1958–1961 Berlin Crisis, which culminated on August 13, 1961, when East German troops and workers began building the Berlin Wall.