What is Nuclear Testing?

美国可以进行更多的核试验. It shouldn’t.

Published Jul 11, 2023


An explosive nuclear test is the intentional detonation of a nuclear weapon, leading to an uncontrolled, highly destructive release of energy produced by a fission and/or fusion reaction .

It can be done to learn about the weapon or to communicate a political message. 多亏了冷战结束后的军备控制努力, every nuclear weapons-possessing country except for North Korea currently upholds a decades-long, 自愿暂停核爆炸试验.

Whether or not countries are conducting nuclear tests can be verified by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization through the 国际监测系统, an elaborate network of monitoring stations and laboratories across 89 different countries.

随着美国之间的地缘政治紧张局势升级, Russia, and China, these countries may reconsider their current commitment to refrain from nuclear testing. 只要其中一个国家决定恢复核试验, 其他人可能会用自己的测试来回应.

A resumption of nuclear testing would increase the risk of nuclear war.

Nuclear testing raises the perceived importance of nuclear weapons to security, increases the risk of conflict between countries with nuclear weapons, 并允许国家发展 新型核武器. Nuclear testing would also damage already fragile international nuclear arms control efforts, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. If these international agreements fail, more countries might seek nuclear weapons for themselves.

重新进行核试验也是一种道德上的不公正 frontline communities 他们仍在努力清理被污染的土地,并得到 compensation 对辐射照射造成的持续健康后果. 人们仍在因核试验而死亡 decades ago.

Future nuclear tests would almost certainly be conducted at underground test sites, which present less risk of public exposure because they are designed to contain radioactive material rather than release it freely into the atmosphere. However, underground tests can and have resulted in contamination of land and underground water. Occasionally, underground tests have also resulted in local and even widespread contamination through the accidental leakage of radionuclides into the air from the surrounding rock.

Dr. 康拉德检查夸贾林岛的土著男孩
一位医生在夸贾林岛给一个男孩做检查, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands following US-led nuclear tests.
National Archives


The United States initiated the first nuclear explosion in New Mexico in 1945, 被称为三位一体测试. Since then, at least eight countries have collectively conducted over 2,000 nuclear tests. The United States has conducted over 1,000 nuclear tests, more than any other country.

在冷战初期, 数百次核试验在地面或水下进行, 通常在殖民地和/或土著土地上. The radioactive materials generated by these nuclear explosions mixed with debris from the blast, 随雨落在地上, 或者被风吹散了几百英里, where they exposed hundreds of thousands of people globally to dangerous levels of radiation. Materials from these powerful explosions were also lofted high into the atmosphere, 它们在那里广为流传.

One of the worst disasters in the history of testing, the 1954 Castle Bravo test 是由美国政府实施的, 放射性物质扩散到数千公里之外, sickening nearby inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and Japanese fisherman, and causing incalculable and intergenerational impacts to the environment, health, 和马绍尔人的文化.

Residents of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands board landing craft
Residents of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands board US landing craft during nuclear testing. 美国政府进行的“布拉沃城堡”试验, 放射性物质扩散到数千公里之外, sickening nearby inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and Japanese fisherman, and causing incalculable and intergenerational impacts to the environment, health, 和马绍尔人的文化.
National Archives


大气试验的放射性尘埃引发了一场全球健康危机. A 1961 study 发现了锶-90, a radioactive isotope, 生活在圣. Louis, Missouri area, hundreds of miles away from the nearest nuclear test site in the Nevada desert. Efforts by thousands of scientists and the international public raised the alarm about contamination from atmospheric nuclear tests and urged global leaders to act.

By 1963, the international community had negotiated the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits carrying out nuclear tests in any environment that would allow radioactive material to spread across a country’s borders, 包括大气试验, underwater tests, and tests in outer space.

The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty dramatically reduced and eventually ended atmospheric nuclear testing. 但是核试验并没有减缓. Instead, countries with nuclear weapons shifted to underground test sites.


When the Cold War ended, the international community moved to end nuclear testing for good. This effort was critical to secure the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, one of the greatest international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. 《517888九五至尊娱乐》, 1996年谈判,几乎得到普遍支持, 禁止任何核爆炸试验.

目前已有超过175个国家签署并批准了该公约, 《517888九五至尊娱乐》尚未生效. 让条约生效, a specified group of 44 states—those deemed most likely to be capable of testing—must first ratify it. Most of the 44 states have done so, but eight, including the United States and China, have not. A resumption of nuclear testing would make the possibility of the treaty’s entry into force yet more remote.

去污监测器定位 & 在人身上标记放射性斑点.
去污监测器定位 and 在人身上标记放射性斑点 following nuclear testing.
National Archives

How long would it take for the United States to resume nuclear testing?

How long it would take the United States to be ready to conduct an explosive nuclear test depends on whether the purpose of the test is to collect technical information or to fulfill a political objective.

Though the United States has observed a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing since 1992, it has also maintained the ability to resume such testing at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site. According to the 国家核安全局 (NNSA), it would take 24 to 36 months of preparation to conduct an instrumented test—one designed to collect useful technical data—for an existing warhead in the current stockpile and as much as five years to prepare tests aimed at developing new nuclear capabilities. According to the NNSA, it would take as little 6-10 months of preparation to conduct a simple test for “political purposes,例如展示武力或试图向另一个国家施压, 如果总统暂停监管要求.

The United States doesn’t need to test for scientific or safety reasons

The United States has determined that there is no need for nuclear explosive testing to maintain its nuclear arsenal. 根据联邦法律的规定,美国宪法规定.S. Code Title 50, Section 2525 requires annual assessments and reports about the condition of the US nuclear weapons stockpile to be submitted to the president and Congress. The directors of the US nuclear-weapon laboratories and the Commander in Chief of the US Strategic Command rigorously review the safety and reliability of each nuclear weapon type and certify each year that the US stockpile is safe and reliable through a program of 基于617888九五至尊娱乐的库存管理. 这需要结合非核实验室实验, advanced computer simulations and forensic monitoring of the health of existing weapons. Replacement of some non-nuclear components with limited lifespans is undertaken through ‘life extension’ programs. According to the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, “the Department of Energy’s 国家核安全局 (NNSA) stockpile stewardship program enables the United States to ensure a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent without requiring a return to nuclear explosive testing. This helps advance US non-proliferation objectives and sets a responsible example for all nuclear weapons states.”


Right now, any US president could order the resumption of nuclear testing for any reason. Congress can take action to ensure that a US president could not demand a nuclear test for political purposes. 例如,他们可以:

Ratify the CTBT: 美国参议院应该批准《517888九五至尊娱乐》. Doing so will strengthen the norm against nuclear testing and pressure other states, including China , 也加入了条约. US ratification is a critical and necessary step towards the treaty’s entry into force.

通过立法限制核试验; 直到《517888九五至尊娱乐》生效为止, the US Congress should pass a law that would require Congressional approval before funds could be used for a nuclear test.

停止发展新的核武器; The United States should refrain from developing and deploying new weapons with designs that, over time, 是否会越来越不同于那些经过充分测试的. While many changes could be implemented without the need for nuclear testing, the cumulative effect of those changes could eventually erode confidence in the weapons design and encourage calls for resumed testing.

为受害者提供援助和环境修复; 这不足以阻止新的核试验. 美国应该全面解决经济问题, environmental and health consequences of its testing program in the United States, the Marshall Islands, and elsewhere. 国会应该扩大 辐射暴露补偿法 包括所有核试验的受害者, including the communities in New Mexico affected by the first nuclear explosion. It should also fully address the nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands through agreements like the 自由联合契约.

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