“Testing, 1, 2, 3. Testing”

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Speaking of nuclear weapons: if the experts can’t agree, what help is there for the rest of us?

The former director of Sandia National Laboratories, one of the nation’s nuclear-weapon development centers, said the self-imposed moratorium on U.S. nuclear weapons testing is dangerous, and is only getting more so with each passing day (the U.S. hasn’t tested a nuclear weapon in 20 years; the government says computer simulations and other techniques ensure the weapons will work if needed). Locking in such a ban in the yet-to-be-ratified Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, Paul Robinson argued, is not in the nation’s best interests.

Robinson said Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation that the prospect of cyber-espionage heightens the risk. A foe, he warned, could even “get to our design codes” and the nation wouldn’t know it the weapons had been sabotaged until it was too late. This growing uncertainty, Robinson said, ultimately will lead the U.S. to declare “we have to [test] – if we’re lucky and we don’t lose our nation first.”

The guy in charge of such things, not surprisingly, disagrees, at least as far as he can see.

“Obviously it’s hard to say what 20 years from now looks like because you’re going to have a different set of people in our laboratories,” Tom D’Agostino, chief of the National Nuclear Security Administration, told Battleland last month. “There might be people that say, `You know what, I actually have to see the test.’ I’m not going to presume what they’re going to say,” D’Agostino said. “But I’m going to say from my tenure in this job and for however long it’s going to be out into the future, I’m supremely confident that we do not need to test a warhead.”