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  Key Issues Nuclear Weapons Issues Testing Statement by Federico Pena

Statement of the Secretary of Energy Federico Pena on the Schedule for Subcritical Experiments

At the United Nations last year, as the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, President Clinton firmly committed the United States to the pursuit of a wold free of nuclear testing, observing that this treaty was the culmination of the work of American Presidents -- both Republican and Democrat -- over the past four decades.

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When the President made the decision to pursue a zero yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, he stated that, even in the absence of nuclear testing, we would maintain "strategic nuclear forces sufficient to deter any future hostile foreign leadership from acting against the interests of the United States." The President also declared that the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile is a necessary condition for U.S. entry into a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile is the direct responsibility of the Department of Energy (DOE). To this end,*** we are announcing today a schedule for subcritical experiments -- an essential component of the Department's program for ensuring the safety and reliability of the stockpile. The first in a series of these experiments is now scheduled for June 1997, with a second similar experiment to follow sometime this fall.***

Over many decades, a group of distinguished scientists know as the JASONs has provided the U.S. Government independent, expert analyses in defense and arms control issues. At the request of the Department of Energy, the JASONs conducted a review of the designs of the Department's first two subcritical experiments. in a January 19997 letter transmitting this review to Acting Secretary of Energy Charles Curtis, the JASONs  concluded that "these particular experiments will add valuable scientific information to our database relevant to the performance of our nuclear weapons, and that there is no conceivable scenario in which these experiments lead to criticality." Yesterday, the JASONs formally released their report.

Subcritical experiments are essential to our commitments to a world free of nuclear testing and a reliable nuclear deterrent and are fully consistent with the CTBT. In addition, these experiments complement other elements of DOE's Stockpile Stewardship and Management program such as the National Ignition Facility and the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative -- additional tools which will help supply the confidence in stockpile safety and reliability the President has required in order to support the CTBT.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty represents an advancement of peace and security for the American people. It is a clear demarcation between the Cold War Era and the post-Cold War world: between a runaway arms race, fear of nuclear proliferation and concern about environmental degradation -- and increased stability, enhanced security and ongoing international cooperation. The Department of Energy is proud of its contribution toward these important national and international goals.