View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 3, 1993

Background Information:

              U.S. Policy on Nuclear Testing and a 
                      Comprehensive Test Ban

The President announced in his weekly radio address today that his Administration had completed its review of U.S. policy on nuclear testing and a Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB).

Last year, Congress passed the Hatfield-Exon-Mitchell Amendment that directed that a CTB be negotiated by 1996. To allow time to review whether further tests were needed, the Amendment also established an interim moratorium on nuclear testing through July 1, 1993. The Amendment provides that between 1993 and 1996, the United States could carry out up to twelve tests to improve the safety and confirm the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons. Three other tests could be conducted in cooperation with the United Kingdom.

During the campaign, the President underscored his commitment to achieving a CTB, a commitment that he reaffirmed with President Yeltsin at the Vancouver summit. On April 23, President Clinton announced that we would be starting a consultative process with Russia, our allies and other states, aimed at commencing CTB negotiations at an early date.

After a thorough review, the Administration determined that the nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal are safe and reliable. Additional nuclear tests could help us prepare for a CTB and provide some additional improvements in safety and reliability. However, the President determined that these benefits would be outweighed by the price we would pay in conducting those tests now -- through undercutting of our nonproliferation goals.

The President has therefore decided to extend the current moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing at least through September of next year as long as no other nation tests. He has called on the other nuclear powers to do the same. The President believes that if these nations join the United States in observing this moratorium, we will be in the strongest possible position to negotiate a CTB treaty.

The President will decide next year whether to extend this "no first test" policy beyond September 1994. His decision will depend on a number of factors, including the status of the CTB negotiations and the willingness of the other nuclear powers to show reciprocal restraint in foregoing their own testing plans. If, however, this moratorium is broken by another state, the President stated that he would direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare to conduct additional tests while he seeks approval by Congress to test pursuant to the Hatfield-ExonMitchell Amendment. He has, therefore, directed DOE to maintain a capability to resume testing.

To assure our nuclear deterrent remains unquestioned under a CTB, the President has also directed DOE to explore other means of maintaining our confidence in the safety, reliability and performance of our nuclear weapons and to refocus much of the talent and resources of our nation's nuclear laboratories on new technologies to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and verify arms control treaties.