Rosen Transcript Following Armed Services Subcommittee Hearing on Posture for U.S. Nuclear Forces

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Department of Defense officials about the potential consequences of resuming nuclear explosive testing in Nevada and authorizing nuclear waste transportation through Nevada.  A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.

ROSEN: Ms. Tomero, as you know, in 1993, Congress created the Stockpile Stewardship Program, a science-based program to ensure the mission-critical readiness and reliability of our nation’s nuclear stockpile. Congress tasked NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) with ensuring, and I quote, “that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable without the use of underground nuclear weapons testing.” End quote. 

The subcritical and physics experiments conducted at the Nevada National Security Site – the only facility in the nation where subcritical experiments can be executed – combined with advances in nuclear modeling, reduce the need for explosive testing, while ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. 

Last year, after it was suggested that the previous Administration was considering resuming explosive nuclear testing, Senator Cortez Masto and I introduced legislation requiring congressional approval before any future explosive nuclear weapons test could take place. Nevadans do not want to return to a time when explosive nuclear testing put the health and safety of our residents in jeopardy, and the states around us.

And Ms. Tomero, as you well know from working for former Nevada Senator Harry Reid and former Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, and from working on the House Armed Services Committee when I served on it, Nevada also does not want to become the nation’s dumping ground for nuclear waste, including defense nuclear waste.

So, Ms. Tomero, could you discuss the potential consequences of resuming explosive nuclear testing at the Site, and could you include, if you might, the potential environmental impacts, and of course, the potential strategic implications, please?

TOMERO: Thank you, Senator. It is the objective of this administration to support the continued moratorium of nuclear testing as a policy position, and my understanding is we have the nuclear lab directors look at the need for testing and look at what would be required to sustain an effective and safe nuclear stockpile every year. But, for the details on if we would have to resume nuclear testing for technical reasons, I would refer back to my colleague [Andrew] Walter.

WALTER: Thank you, ma’am. I think the Stockpile Stewardship program you mentioned is one of the great success stories of the last 30 years in the nuclear enterprise. The Stockpile Stewardship program has invested in the workforce at NNSA, the scientists, and engineers, and technicians, as well as the key capabilities needed to certify the stockpile’s safety and reliability in the absence of nuclear testing. During the Cold War, nuclear explosive testing was used to do that. We’ve invested in means to do that without explosive testing, and the lab directors continue to certify that explosive nuclear testing is not needed. 

I think, for Nevada, one of the key capabilities that the National Nuclear Security Administration is investing in today is the enhanced capabilities for subcritical experiments in U1a, and this is a critical capability where the lab directors at NNSA will use to gather the data they need from subcritical experiments to continue to certify the stockpile and ensure the designs we use in the future remain safe and reliable. 

So, I think ECSE (Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments) in the Nevada Test Site, the Nevada National Security Site, is just incredibly important to maintaining that unbroken record since the 1990s of not doing nuclear explosive testing.