Although the Senate never ratified the treaty and it never entered into force, all countries that signed the test ban, including the U. But in recent weeks, the Trump administration and Congress have begun debating whether to restart active testing of nuclear weapons on U. Some conservative Republicans have long expressed concerns over the reliability of aging U. Additionally, the U. Some politicians in the U. We are two nuclear weapons researchers — a physicist and an arms control expert — and we believe that there is no value, from either the scientific nor diplomatic perspective, to be gained from resuming testing.
In fact, all the evidence suggests that such a move would threaten U. Why did the US stop testing? Since the Trinity Test in July , the U. These were done to test new weapon designs and also to ensure the reliability of older ones. When the Cold War ended, the U. The goal of the test ban treaty was to hinder new nations from developing nuclear arsenals and limit the capabilities of nations that already had them. Subcritical testing to maintain the arsenalAfter the U.
S moratorium went into effect, the U. Department of Energy created a massive program called the Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the safety and reliability of U.
Instead of crudely blowing up weapons to produce a nuclear explosion, scientists at facilities like U1A in Nevada began conducting what are called subcritical tests. There is still a big bang, but no nuclear chain reaction. Rather, these experiments produce data that researchers feed into elaborate supercomputer programs built using the massive amounts of information collected from earlier live tests.
Using these subcritical tests and earlier data, scientists can simulate full-scale detonations with incredible accuracy and monitor the current arsenal without blowing up nuclear warheads. What could be going wrong in the bombs?
All nuclear weapons currently in the U. Put simply, hydrogen bombs work by using a smaller nuclear bomb — akin to the bomb dropped on Nagasaki — to detonate a second, much more powerful bomb.
Nearly all the components of a nuclear weapon can be replaced and updated except for one piece — the explosive plutonium core known as the pit. These pits are what trigger the second, larger explosion. The weapons in the U. The main concern of people pushing to resume testing is that the plutonium pits may have deteriorated from their own radiation in the 25 years since they were made and will not properly trigger the second fusion stage of the explosion.
Since most of the previous tests were done on much younger bombs with newer plutonium pits, supporters of testing claim that the subcritical tests cannot accurately test this part of the process.
The deterioration of the plutonium pit is a valid concern. To study this, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used a far more radioactive type of plutonium and artificially aged the metal to simulate the effects of what would be equivalent to years of radiation on a normal plutonium pit. However, these scientists do not suggest that it is necessary to conduct live nuclear tests. Decades of experimental studies by nuclear weapons laboratories have led experts to believe that the U.
Additionally, a new, billion-dollar facility is currently being built in Nevada that will provide even finer detail to the data from subcritical test explosions.
Once subcritical test facilities are up and running, it is relatively inexpensive to run experiments. So is it politics? Currently, nuclear powers around the world are all improving the missiles that carry nuclear warheads, but not yet the warheads themselves.
With little evidence, the Trump administration has sought to sow suspicion that Russia and China may be secretly conducting very low-yield nuclear tests, implying that the countries are trying to build better nuclear warheads.
In response, movement towards testing in the U. The Senate Armed Services Committee recently approved an amendment to spend US million to cut the time it would take to conduct a test if the president ordered one. Some officials seem to believe that a resumption of U.
But we believe the opposite to be true. Even though the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force, nearly every nuclear power on earth has more or less followed its rules. But if the U. No other country, aside from Russia, has as robust a foundation. If the ban were broken, it would give other countries like Iran, India, Pakistan and China a chance to gather huge amounts of information and improve their weapons while the U.
When it comes to the U. This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Some insects, like mosquitoes, bite people and make them sick — remember Zika? Now the U. Some insects, like bees, are pollinators that help produce our food. Others, like locusts, currently threaten crops in East Africa and Asia, preferring to eat our food instead. Insects have proven themselves extremely capable at evolving strategies to get around control methods, such as chemical insecticides and habitat modification, and current pest control technologies are simply not keeping up.
We are both insect scientists. Our research has included engineering a fungus to control malaria mosquitoes, uncovering the reproductive biology of honey bee workers and understanding the health impacts of invasive ticks. This technology can guarantee that a trait will be inherited by the next generation. Such traits include making mosquitoes immune to the malaria parasite so they cannot spread the disease to humans. Recently we contributed to a statement that advocates for continuing gene drive research.
In light of calls for a moratorium, this statement recognizes that a ban on gene drive research would hamper a better understanding, and thus mitigation, of risks associated with this technology.
Moratoriums on gene drive technology have been called for and rejected at the last two United Nations Conventions on Biological Diversity. But there is a new push for a moratorium.
What is gene drive? Gene drive is a technology that could allow society to control insects in a more targeted manner. The general underlying principle of all gene drives is an organism that will produce offspring similar to themselves.
Some characteristics are randomly passed on from parents to the next generation. However, gene drive forces a different type of inheritance that ensures a specific characteristic is always present in the next generation. Scientists engineer gene drive using various molecular tools. Gene drive is not just a human invention; some occur naturally in insects. This type of genetic phenomenon has been well studied by scientists. To date, gene drive has been discussed in the media primarily in order to eradicate malaria.
This may give you the impression that gene drive can be used only to drive mosquitoes to extinction. However, gene drive technologies are highly versatile and can be designed to bring about different outcomes. They can also be applied in most insect species that scientists can study in the laboratory.
Why insects? Insects reproduce quickly and produce lots of offspring, which makes them obvious candidates for a technology that relies on inheritance like gene drive. This is why insects are at the leading edge of gene drive research. Gene drive is a new technology that could provide a solution to a variety of insect issues society faces today.
For instance, a gene drive has been developed to stop a major crop pest, the spotted-wing Drosophila. Insecticide sensitivity could be spread through populations of this pest species to stop tens of millions of dollars in crop damage every year in the United States. In the United States, millions of dollars have been spent on removing fire ants using techniques including chemical insecticides, but if these persistent ants are not completely eradicated, they invade again.
Aside from how good insects are at circumventing our strategies to control them, another major struggle for controlling insects is finding them.
Insects have evolved to quickly find the opposite sex to mate, and gene drives, which are passed on by mating, can take advantage of this fact of insect life. This also means this technology targets only the intended species, which is not the case for chemical insecticides currently in use. Insect scientists, inspired by natural examples of gene drive, have wanted to design gene drive in insects for decades.
For now, gene drive insects live in laboratories and none has been released into the wild. Still, a lot can be learned about how gene drive works while it is safely contained in a laboratory. Criticisms of gene driveUsing gene drive is not a universally popular idea.
Criticisms tend to fall into three categories: ethical concerns, mistrust of technology and unintended ecological consequences. Ethical concerns about gene drive are often motivated by larger issues, such as how to stop gene drive from being used in biological weapons by engineering insects that are more dangerous.
Then there is the question of who should decide which gene drive projects move forward and what types of insects with gene drive can be released into the environment. Societal mistrust of technology is a hurdle that some powerful, innovative technologies must overcome for public acceptance. The issue of technological mistrust often stems from disagreements about who should be developing technology to control insects and for what purposes. The third common argument against gene drive technologies is that they might cause unintended consequences in the ecosystem because gene drive is designed by humans and unnatural.
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