If They’ll Work, None Can Say

The United States can never know that its nuclear arsenal is functional and effective under the current self-imposed test ban, and the problem is only worsening with time, said Paul Robinson, former director of Sandia National Laboratories. “To live without testing is to live with uncertainty,” stressed Robinson during a panel discussion on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty sponsored by the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. As US warheads have aged and technology has continued to advance, “that uncertainty has grown . . . and continues to grow today,” he explained. New trends like cyber espionage heighten the uncertainty, adding the potential that an enemy could even “get to our design codes,” noted Robinson. In the past, testing actual warheads from the stockpile served as a hedge against sabotage. Today, that safeguard no longer exists, he observed. “We’re fooling ourselves to think we’ve designed them correctly when we have no idea whether the systems are still representative of a good design,” he added. Someday, uncertainty as to the health of US nuclear warheads will grow to the point where “we’ll say we have to [test]—if we’re lucky and don’t lose our nation first,” summed Robinson. The United States has signed, but not ratified the CTBT; if President Obama wins a second term in November, securing ratification is likely to be a top foreign policy goal of his Administration. (Heritage Foundation webpage of event)