from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2017, Issue No. 43
June 12, 2017

Secrecy News Blog:


The ability to detect a clandestine nuclear explosion in order to verify a ban on nuclear testing and to detect violations has improved dramatically in the past two decades.

There have been "technological and scientific revolutions in the fields of seismology, acoustics, and radionuclide sciences as they relate to nuclear explosion monitoring," according to a new report published by Los Alamos National Laboratory that describes those developments.

"This document... reviews the accessible literature for four research areas: source physics (understanding signal generation), signal propagation (accounting for changes through physical media), sensors (recording the signals), and signal analysis (processing the signal)."

A "signal" here is a detectable, intelligible change in the seismic, acoustic, radiological or other environment that is attributable to a nuclear explosion.

The new Los Alamos report "is intended to help sustain the international conversation regarding the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] and nuclear explosive testing moratoria while simultaneously acknowledging and celebrating research to date."

"The primary audience for this document is the next generation of research scientists that will further improve nuclear explosion monitoring, and others interested in understanding the technical literature related to the nuclear explosion monitoring mission."

See Trends in Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Research & Development -- A Physics Perspective, Los Alamos National Laboratory, LA-UR-17-21274, June 2017.

"A ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda," the Congressional Research Service noted last year. "Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear explosions. In 1997, President Clinton sent the CTBT to the Senate, which rejected it in October 1999."


New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Qatar and its Neighbors: Disputes and Possible Implications, CRS Insight, June 6, 2017:

Burma's Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy: In Brief, updated June 6, 2017:

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities -- Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 6, 2017:

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism, updated June 2, 2017:

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy, updated June 6, 2017:

Ransomware Attacks Renew Focus on HIPAA Security Standards, CRS Insight, June 5, 2017:

Unmanned and Unregulated? Court of Appeals Rejects FAA Regulation of Many Drones, CRS Legal Sidebar, June 6, 2017:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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