Las Vegas Review-Journal

Friday, December 15, 2000
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News Wrap


Subcritical experiment conducted Thursday

Government scientists successfully conducted the nation's 13th subcritical experiment Thursday at the Nevada Test Site as part of a series that began in 1997 to check the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Energy Department officials said scientists from California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory detonated a small amount of plutonium at 3:28 p.m. in a below-ground facility, 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

As designed, the experiment, dubbed Oboe 6, remained subcritical, meaning it did not erupt into a nuclear chain reaction, test site spokesman Derek Scammell said.

Subcritical experiments are designed to help nuclear weapons scientists understand how tiny bits of plutonium blow apart when shocked with the force of high-explosives.

Scientists have relied on subcritical experiments and a variety of high-tech machines and computers to check the nation's aging stockpile in the absence of full-scale nuclear tests.

Full-scale testing was put on hold indefinitely after the last test, Divider, on Sept. 23, 1992.


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