The United States, despite international and domestic protest, today conducted a twice-postponed nuclear weapons test 1,300 feet under the Nevada desert, the Department of Energy said.
The official Soviet press agency Tass quickly condemned the test as a “dangerous destabilizing step” that casts doubt on the reliability of the United States as a partner in arms control efforts.
The Soviet Union, which has been under a self-imposed eight-month moratorium on test blasts, had said it would be forced to resume testing if the United States did. But Tass did not say whether the Soviet moratorium is now lifted.
No Renewal Timetable
Later, a commentator on the nightly television news, Vremya, said, “The further carrying out of nuclear tests by the United States will force the Soviet Union to renew its tests.” But no timetable was given.
As many as eight anti-nuclear protesters were believed on the sprawling Nevada Test Site when the blast went off at 6:08 a.m. But an Energy Department spokesmen said no protesters were near ground zero at the time of the detonation in a tunnel under Rainier Mesa, 93 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The explosion, which had a yield of less than 20 kilotons, had been scheduled for Monday and then Tuesday. It was delayed for what government officials said variously were technical reasons or weather problems.
The detonation was the second announced test this year. Called “Mighty Oak,” it was the 648th announced test at the site since testing began there in 1951.
‘Stake Is Too Great’
“The Nevada blast completed another period in the history of efforts for a comprehensive nuclear test ban,” Tass said. “It did not, however, mean an end to these efforts. The stake is too great.”
It said the explosion attests “not to the present Administration’s resolution, but to its moral and political weakness and its unwillingness to take the first step to bridling the arms race for the last five years.”
The test has become the focus of criticism in Congress from members who urged the Administration to call off the blast and go along with the Soviet moratorium on testing and an offer by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to halt all testing if the United States does.