Britain Joins US in Nuke Experiment
By KEN RITTER
.c The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Government scientists from the United States and Britain successfully exploded a small amount of nuclear material underground in a joint subcritical experiment, an official with the National Nuclear Security Administration said Friday.
No nuclear reaction was triggered by Thursday's experiment, said administration spokesman Darwin Morgan. The explosion was 960 feet beneath the surface at the Nevada Test site, about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
``It doesn't shake the ground,'' Morgan said. ``There's nothing you can see, nothing you can feel.''
Morgan said data from such experiments helps scientists create computer models to chart the reliability of the nation's aging nuclear weapons stockpile. The United States has conducted 16 subcritical tests since July 1997.
The experiment was the first time Britain has taken part in a subcritical nuclear experiment at the Nevada Test Site, Morgan said. The British had taken part in 24 underground nuclear weapons tests before full-scale nuclear testing was put on hold indefinitely by the United States in 1992.
The British joined in the experiment under the terms of a 1958 Mutual Defense Agreement. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Britain's Atomic Weapons Establishment were involved.
Anti-nuclear groups have criticized subcritical nuclear tests as counter to the spirit of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear arms. The U.S. Energy Department says the tests do not violate the treaty because no critical mass is formed and no full-scale nuclear explosion.