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CTBTO Head Visits Top U.S. Nuclear Security Sites



Nevada National Security Site P-Tunnel
Nevada National Security Site P-Tunnel

Dr. Lassina Zerbo of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, center, inside the P-Tunnel at the Nevada National Security Site, constructed solely for assessing radiation effects on equipment. Credit: NNSA

The Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Dr. Lassina Zerbo, last week visited several installations important to U.S. nuclear security.

Dr. Zerbo started off the official visit with a stop at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), followed by an inaugural visit to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). Zerbo then closed the tour with a stop at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

At LLNL, Zerbo received an overview of the lab’s activities, focusing NNSA’s Seismic Cooperation Program, the Lab’s Regional Seismic Travel Time (RSTT) outreach efforts, on-site inspection Continuation Period Technologies (CPT) and advances in seismic monitoring technologies.

Dr. Zerbo additionally participated in several hands-on demonstrations of LLNL’s monitoring tools and toured some of the lab’s facilities, including the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the High Performance Computing Facility

The visit was Zerbo’s first to NNSS, the former U.S. nuclear explosive test site that has since been transformed into an experimental testing facility and training ground supporting a variety of unique nuclear nonproliferation and advanced technology missions.

“It is a significant opportunity to be able to host Dr. Zerbo on his first visit to NNSS and to show him how our former nuclear explosive test site has been transformed into a key resource that supports nonproliferation, arms control, emergency response, and environmental activities as well as the stewardship of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile,” said Anne Harrington, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.

At the NNSS, Zerbo learned about the history of the U.S. nuclear explosive testing program and saw firsthand the results of atmospheric and underground nuclear explosions.  He also saw how the Stockpile Stewardship Program has allowed the United States to maintain its stockpile without nuclear explosive tests since 1992, and learned about current nuclear explosion monitoring and verification efforts at NNSS.

Zerbo also discussed the progress being made as NNSA prepares to host On-Site Inspection (OSI) trainees and CTBTO experts in May 2016 at NNSS, an activity designed to enrich the training and experience of CTBTO on-site inspector trainees by providing controlled access to a former nuclear explosive test site.

At the conclusion of his visit to NNSS, Dr. Zerbo said, “It is a sobering thing to visit a place where so many nuclear explosions were conducted, and I appreciate this tremendous opportunity.  I applaud the United States for foregoing nuclear explosive testing for over 23 years and I hope that will continue, along with the U.S. support for our efforts to make a global ban on nuclear explosions the international norm.  I was greatly impressed by what I saw in Nevada, and it has given me a renewed motivation to make nuclear explosions a thing of the past for all nations.”

Zerbo concluded his lab visit at Los Alamos, where he discussed the laboratory’s technical support of the CTBTO and their role in maintaining the U.S. stockpile without nuclear testing. This included tours of the Nonproliferation and National Security Center and the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DARHT), a critical component of Los Alamos’ stockpile stewardship mission, that helps scientists ensure that weapons in the stockpile are safe, secure and effective. Experts from Sandia National Laboratories also joined in the discussions.