13. SCIENTISTS SAY REAGAN MISPOKE: SOVIETS DIDN'T
President Reagan got front page coverage when he charged the Soviets
with cheating on nuclear weapons testing agreements. He also suggested
this cheating could justify our renunciation of most existing nuclear
weapons related treaties. It seems the military would like to test the
MX missile which has a payload which exceeds the 150 kilotons (KT) allowed
by the 1974 Threshold Test Ban.
The press didn't give comparable coverage, however, to highly respected
U.S. scientists who did not support the President's charges.
Peter Moulthrop, a leading physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's
Lawrence Livermore National Lab's treaty verification program, co-authored
a classified document which analyzed Soviet nuclear tests from 1976
to 1981. While unable to discuss classified data, Moulthrop stated "We
see no evidence the Soviets cheated."
Dr. Lynn Sykes, a Columbia University seismologist and member of the
U.S. team that negotiated the 1974 agreement, said "None of the
Soviet tests appears to go above the threshold."
Jack F. Evernden, a leading geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey's
Center for Earthquake Research, said "We have not found a single
instance in which the size of a Soviet test exceeded the threshold."
The Swedish National Defense Research Institute in Stockholm and the
British Ministry of Defense both said they have no evidence that the
Soviets have exceeded the limit.
Senator James McClure, who supports Reagan's position, is the leading
accuser of Soviet cheating in the Senate. He based his arguments on
the work of Harold Agnew, a former director of the Los Alamos nuclear
weapons laboratory, who once stated that Soviet tests "appear to
go as high as 400 KT." Agnew subsequently admitted that his figures
were based on detection criteria which were later totally discredited.
Meanwhile we recently learned that, without any public announcement,
the Reagan administration reversed an eight-year-old policy in 1983
when it stopped announcing each nuclear test the U.S. held in the Nevada
desert. When challenged about this censorship, a high Department of
Energy official said "It takes a lot of work to announce each of
those tests and it was information that was not germane to the general
Ironically, the frequency of Soviet underground tests has declined
in recent years, from 20 in 1978 to six in 1982, while the number of
announced U.S. tests has increased from 12 to 18 over the same period,
according to U.S. Energy Department figures.
INDEPENDENT PRESS SERVICE, DESERET NEWS, 5/15/83, "Soviet Cheating
on N-tests?," by Jonathan King; BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS,
March, 1983, "TTB Treaty: No Evidence of Cheating / Seismic Verification,"
by John Wilke and Gerald Marsh; SCIENCE, 5/13/83, "Scientists Fault
Charges of Soviet Cheating," by R. Jeffer Smith; NEW YORK TIME,
1/29/84, "Government Conceals Nuclear Tests," by William J.