Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Historic Soviet Nuclear Test Site Offers Insights For Today's Nuclear Monitoring

Date:
April 18, 2008
Source:
Seismological Society of America
Summary:
Newly published data from the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, the Soviet Union's primary nuclear weapons testing ground during the Cold War, can help today's atomic detectives fine-tune their monitoring of nuclear explosions around the world, according to new research. The treasure trove of data from Semipalatinsk are especially important in light of the fact that only three nuclear tests -- back-to-back tests in India and Pakistan in 1998 and a 2006 test in North Korea -- have been conducted since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996.

Newly published data from the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, the Soviet Union's primary nuclear weapons testing ground during the Cold War, can help today's atomic detectives fine-tune their monitoring of nuclear explosions around the world, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America.

From 1949 to 1989, Semipalatinsk was scrutinized furtively by U2 spy planes, satellites and seismologists hoping to learn more about the Soviet Union's weapons capabilities. Now, for the first time, researchers can compare the information gleaned from these operations with the actual records from the test site to see how accurate Western researchers were in predicting the number and size of Semipalatinsk's nuclear detonations.

The treasure trove of data from Semipalatinsk are especially important in light of the fact that only three nuclear tests--back-to-back tests in India and Pakistan in 1998 and a 2006 test in North Korea--have been conducted since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996, said Paul Richards of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

As nuclear monitoring techniques have improved over the past ten years, "there has also been a lack--thank goodness--of weapons tests to actually record, from which to gain monitoring experience," Richards, an expert in using seismological methods to detect nuclear tests, said. "It is therefore helpful in training ourselves today, in the work of monitoring, to look back at monitoring efforts in the past --- to see how well we did and what the challenges were."

The first nuclear detonations near Semipalatinsk in the 1940s were above ground, and the U.S. Air Force collected atmospheric traces of the explosions. Testing moved underground in later decades, and seismological data became the primary way of monitoring the tests. In all, 456 nuclear tests took place at the site, with the last occurring in 1989. The veil of secrecy surrounding the site was lifted in the 1990s, when details of the tests were published in numerous books and scientific papers in Russia and Kazakhstan.

By comparing historical monitoring data with information from the new publications, Richards and colleagues can determine which underground tests were detected through seismic data at great distances, versus which kinds of tests would be detected by regional seismic stations today. They can also compare the monitors' estimates of weapons yield--the size of the explosions--with the official estimates in the publications.

So far, the comparisons suggest "that today we can do a very good job indeed" of monitoring nuclear tests using seismological and other data, Richards said.

The new publications also offer a glimpse at how the Soviet-era nuclear program was organized and led, how radioactivity from the explosions affected people and animals, and how the overall environmental health of the area was altered by decades-long testing, he noted.

Presentation: Historical Materials Characterizing Activities at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, 1949 to 1989. Khalturin, V.I.; Rautian, T.G; Richards, P.G., Lamont-Doherty

Earth Observatory of Columbia University


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Seismological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Seismological Society of America. "Historic Soviet Nuclear Test Site Offers Insights For Today's Nuclear Monitoring." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417105453.htm>.
Seismological Society of America. (2008, April 18). Historic Soviet Nuclear Test Site Offers Insights For Today's Nuclear Monitoring. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417105453.htm
Seismological Society of America. "Historic Soviet Nuclear Test Site Offers Insights For Today's Nuclear Monitoring." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417105453.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Several companies unveiled virtual reality headsets at the Tokyo Game Show, Asia's largest digital entertainment exhibition. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple's iOS8 Includes New 'Killswitch' To Curb Theft

Apple's iOS8 Includes New 'Killswitch' To Curb Theft

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) Apple's new operating system, iOS 8, comes with Apple's killswitch feature already activated, unlike all the models before it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar. Stocks hit an all-time high on the news. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins