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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Divine Strake - Initial Press Coverage

The Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post provided a surprisingly confusing description of the Divine Strake test. The source of the garble is the incoherent policy on nuclear weapons to defeat underground targets, which is the source of the Divine Strake test. While it has become politically inconvenient to develop improved earth penetrating nuclear warheads, the massive Divine Strake test was planned in order to evaluate the effectiveness of earth penetrating nuclear warheads. Thus it becomes politically neccessary to make silly statements denying the connection between this test and nuclear weapons. The initial Associated Press article was rather less detailed, somewhat less garbled, but still left something to be desired. And the Reuters reporting included a few puzzling points as well. The fault is not so much that of the reporters as it is with the incoherence of the governments policy.

A week after her first report, Tyson penned a followup story, "Pentagon Clarifies Nevada Intent" that further compounds her initial errors. This second story verges on the bizarre, since the primary effect seems to be to rescue her first story, with the secondary effect of continuing the hoax that Divine Strake has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. While the Defense Threat Reduction Agency has already acknowledged to others that the test is a nuclear weapons effects test, in the parallel universe created by Tyson and inhabited by Washington Post readers, manifestly silly claims are made to sustain the fiction that the test has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Tyson's rationale is that she is accurately reporting the statements of James Tegnelia, director of the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is conducting the test. There does not appear to be any obligation here to try to understand whether these statements bear any relationship to objective reality.

Pentagon Clarifies Nevada Intent: Explosives Test Not 'Nuclear' By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post April 7, 2006, Pg. 12De-garbled
" ... an unusual military experiment to detonate 700 tons of explosives ... " There is nothing particularly unusual about this test, since nuclear weapson effects tests have been conducted since the early 1960s.
"They said the budget documents' references to simulating a nuclear explosion were in error." The Tunnel Target Defeat ACTD [Advanced Concept and Technology Demonstration] began in FY2003, and has been consistently described ever since then as " ... using high explosives to simulate a low yield nuclear weapon ground shock environment ..." [FY2006 budget request]. Are we truely to believe that such a fundamental error could have persisted un-noticed in so many venues for so long???
" ... the test could help determine the damage if an underground target were struck simultaneously with multiple conventional bombs. ... " This is patent nonsense. The relatively shallow depth of the Divine Strake detonation is consistent with defeating tunnels with shock from a nuclear detonation propagating through the surrounding rock. Conventional munitions would defeat a tunnel target by the blast of exploding gases spreading through the interior of the tunnel itself. These are entirely different damage mechanisms, and require entirely different depths of penetration and detonation. A nuclear weapon has to penetrate a few dozen feet to ensure that the shock wave couples strongly with the rock surrounding the tunnel, hence the shallow depth of burial of Divine Strake. A conventional munition has to penetrate to the full depth of the tunnel, which might exceed 100 feet, as with the Big BLU Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). A more direct way of simulating simultaneous strikes with multiple conventional bombs would be simulaneous strikes with multiple conventional bombs. Unlike a above ground detonation of an atomic bomb, which since the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 has required simulation using large conventional explosions such as Divine Strake, conventional bombs do not require surrogate simulations. Divine Strake would seem to be an awfully indirect and inaccurate means of testing something that could far more readily be tested with complete fidelity and realism.
"Another purpose of the test is to gauge the potential of "advanced conventional explosives with much higher energy" or "high energetic explosives," said DTRA spokeswoman Irene Smith. ... " This is also rather silly, and begins to sound like a lawyer arguing in the alternative, as in, if one explanation is not convincing, perhaps another one will be. Such Novel Energetic Materials are at present little more than a theoretical possibility, and a very far away from field testing, much less field testing on such a massive scale. Budget documents covering the Tunnel Target Defeat ACTD make no mention of Novel Energetic Materials, and budget documents covering Novel Energetic Materials make no mention of any field test remotely resembling Divine Strake, since they make no mention of any field tests whatsoever, since at present such Novel Energetic Materials remain unobtanium. Eventually these energetic materials will have the potential of providing factors of 3 to 4 in increased energy release rate compared with conventional formulations. Divine Strake has an explosive yield equivalent to nearly 600 tons of TNT, and thus would simulate a weapon with a net explosive weight of between 150 and 200 tons of Novel Explosive Material. The largest bomb currently in the American inventory is the GBU-43/B "Mother Of All Bombs" MOAB - Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb. This bomb weighs 10.85 tons [9,500 kilogram] and contains 9.35 tons of H6 explosive. But such a thin skinned bomb must be detonated just above the surface of the earth, because it would not withstand impact with the ground. The 15 ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) Direct Strike Hard Target Weapon / Big BLU is designed to penetrate into hard rock, but would only contain 3 tons of explosive fill. It must be evident that the Divine Strake shot cannot be simulating the detonation of a single deliverable bomb, which even if filled with Novel Energetic Materials would surely weigh several hundred tons.
" ... although DTRA was not "disavowing" the budget documents, "things change. That has changed and the wording got left in" improperly, she said, meaning the references to "nuclear." " How absolutely marvelous that a test initially intended to simulate the effects of a nuclear weapon could turn out to be exactly suited to testing completely two completely unrelated and totally different weapons such as multiple strikes by conventional weapons or Novel Energetic Materials.
Pentagon to Test a Huge Conventional Bomb By Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post Friday, March 31, 2006; Page A09De-garbled
"Pentagon To Test A Huge Conventional Bomb" The headline leaves the impression that a bomb is to be tested, that is, a deliverable muntion such as the 5,000 lb [2.5 ton] GBU-28 Bunker Buster or the vastly larger 30,000 lb [15 ton] Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) Direct Strike Hard Target Weapon / Big BLU . In fact the test is a detonation of an underground pool of 700 tons [1,400,000 pounds] of ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate - Fuel Oil), a slurry used in the mining industry, and long used to simulate the blast effects of nuclear weapons.
" ... the biggest open-air chemical blast ever at the Nevada Test Site ... "

" "To my knowledge, this will be the largest open-air chemical explosion that we've conducted," said Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the Energy Department's test site. "
Divine Strake is far from the biggest chemical blast ever, and indeed far from the biggest open air non-nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site. The Non Proliferation Experiment conducted at the Nevada Test Site on 22 September 1993 involved 1,410 tons of ANFO, twice the amount of Divine Strake.
" "This is the largest single explosive we could imagine doing," said James A. Tegnelia, director of the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is conducting the test. " The 700 ton explosion is apparently the largest deemed needed under the Tunnel DefeatAdvanced Concepts and Technology Demonstration Program (ACTD). But is is far from the largest that could be imagined. The Minor Scale Event was a high-explosive test simulating the air-blast effects a nuclear weapon, involved seven times as much ANFOR. MINOR SCALE was a high explosive (HE) test sponsored by the Defense Nuclear Agency. It was detonated at 1220 hours on 27 June 1985 on the White Sands Missile Range, NM. The explosive charge consisted of 4744 tons of ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) poured in bulk into a 44-foot (13.4-m) radius fiberglass hemisphere. The resulting airblast provided the scaled equivalent airblast of an 8 KT (33.44 TJ) nuclear device. The coal mining industry routinely uses ANFO charges of several thousand tons, in a practice known as explosive casting or cast blasting.
"The test is aimed at determining how well a massive conventional bomb would perform against fortified underground targets ... " Surely this is untrue. It is a general principle of weapons effects testing that the test weapons should closely approximate the weapon that would be used in combat. The 30,000 lb [15 ton] Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) Direct Strike Hard Target Weapon / Big BLU is the largest munition currently under development by the United States. Heavy bombers such as the B-52 or the B-2 could carry a pair of such bombs. It is manifestly implausible that one would detonate 700 tons of explosive in order to evaluate the effects of a 15 ton bomb. Somewhere along the line, the fact the Divine Strake is associated with the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator RNEP or possibly the B61-11 Earth-Penetrating Weapon became obscured. The source of this obscurity is obscure in and of itself.
"Tegnelia said there is a range of technical hurdles to overcome. He suggested that big conventional bombs are unlikely to solve the overall problem of buried threats." Yes, which is why this test to evalute the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator RNEP or something very much like it is being conducted.
" The June test will detonate 700 tons of heavy ammonium nitrate-fuel oil emulsion -- creating a blast equivalent to 593 tons of TNT -- in a 36-foot-deep hole near a tunnel in the center of the Nevada Test Site ... " The depth below ground of the Center of Gravity of the ANFO pool is roughly equivalent to the depth to which the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator RNEP is expected to penetrate, sufficient to provide significantly improved coupling of shock effects relative to a surface burst. The less fragile non-nuclear Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) Direct Strike Hard Target Weapon / Big BLU is projected to penetrate to some considerable multiple of this depth.
Plans for Massive Blast in Nev. Draw Fire By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY The Associated Press Friday, March 31, 2006De-garbled
" The test, named "Divine Strake," will involve nearly 40 times the amount of commercial ammonium nitrate and fuel oil explosive set off in the largest open-air, non-nuclear blast at the site to date. In 2002, 18 tons of explosives were set off at the Nevada Test Site." Divine Strake is far from the biggest chemical blast ever, and indeed far from the biggest open air non-nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site. The Non Proliferation Experiment conducted at the Nevada Test Site on 22 September 1993 involved 1,410 tons of ANFO, twice the amount of Divine Strake.
" "I am concerned that tests of this magnitude have been planned without providing Nevadans with any information about the possible impact on their health or safety," said Demcratic Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid in a statement Thursday." The Environmental Assessment "Large Scale, Open Air Explosive Detonation, DIVINE STRAKE, at the Nevada Test Site" dated November 2005 covered these issues. While one might take issue with the adequacy of the EA, the term "any information" suggests that there was no information, which appears counter-factual.
"Disarmament activist Pete Litster said tests at the site violate international law. Litster, executive director of the Shundahai Network ... " There is no indication provided about just what internation law the test violates. Some disarmament activists asert that any ongoing nuclear weapons related activities by nuclear weapons states violate their obligations to disarm under the Nuclear Non-Proliferatin Treaty, but this view is not widely shared. Such an entirely non-nuclear test surely does not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT], though some disarmament activists claim that hydro-nuclear tests, which unlike Divine Strake produce quite modest nuclear yields, violate the spirit if not the letter of the CTBT. Again, these views are not widely held.

Shundahai Network is an anti-nuclear collective founded by Corbin Harney, a Western Shoshone Elder and Spiritual Leader. The Shundahai Network claims that the Nevada Test Site is part of the military occupation of Western Shoshone lands. The Shundahai Network believes that US nuclear programs within their country are part of the ongoing efforts of genocide against their people. The Shundahai Network claims that most of Nevada is Western Shoshone land. See the Western Shoshone Defense Project and coverage of Western Shoshone Land and Sovereignty for more information.

Congress ended treaty-making with Indian tribes in 1871. Since then, relations with Indian groups are by Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements. Between 1788, when the first treaty was made with the Delawares, to 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the US Senate ratified 370 Indian treaties. At least 45 others were negotiated with tribes but were never ratified by the Senate. The treaties that were made often contain obsolete commitments, which have either been fulfilled or superseded by Congressional legislation. General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) of February 8, 1887 provided for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations. With the Curtis Act of June 28, 1889, Congress accomplished by legislation what the Dawes Commission had been unable to do by negotiation - effectively destroy the tribal governments in the Indian Territory. The US Supreme Court upheld in United States v. Dann, 470 U.S. 39 (1985), stating that "the Shoshone's aboriginal title has been extinguished".

Pentagon plans gigantic explosion at Nevada site Reuters March 30, 2006De-garbled
" ... it's the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," James Tegnelia, director of the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, told a small group of reporters." Almost any above ground detonation of any appreciable size will produce a mushroom cloud, which results from the hot gas from the detonation rapidly rising through the much cooler ambient atmosphere. The Non Proliferation Experiment conducted at the Nevada Test Site on 22 September 1993 would not have produced such a mushroom cloud, since it was an underground test. The Distant Image event at White Sands clearly produced such a mushroom cloud. Nuclear mushroom clouds at the Nevada Test Site ended with the cessation of above ground nuclear tests in 1962, while the undeground nuclear tests that continued for three decades thereafter did not produce mushroom clouds.
"Tegnelia said the "Divine Strake" test represents the largest conventional explosion Pentagon officials could imagine triggering to address the issue..." of "...deeply buried tunnel structures ..." Several days will be required to truck in the 700 tons of ANFO slurry that will be used in this test. This amounts to roughly twice the takeoff weight of a C-5 cargo plane, and some 20 times the total payload of the B-52 bomber. Since it is manifestly impossible to deliver such a great mass of explosives by an airplane, are we really to imagine that the Iranians will stand by an watch as the Americans truck in all this explosive material and pile it up on top of their deeply buried facilities???
" Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democrat, said she had numerous concerns over the test. "I need to be certain that if we set off huge explosives at the Test Site, there are no potential health or environmental risks to the Nevada public. "Given the level of contamination in areas where nuclear tests were conducted, I have real concerns about the dust and other pollutants that will be released into the air as a result of this explosion," Berkley said in a statement. " The November 2005 Environmental Assessment states on page 3-13 that "NNSA has determined that radioactively contanimated soils are not present within the vicinity of the proposed DIVINE STRAKE detonation. There are no radiologically controlled areas in the southwestern part of Area 16, signifying that there are no known radiological hazards within this area."



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