Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, slammed the Trump administration on Wednesday following a report that senior officials discussed resuming U.S. nuclear testing 28 years after the last test was conducted at the Nevada Test Site.
Biden, in a statement released to The Nevada Independent, said that the possibility that the Trump administration might conduct the first U.S. nuclear test following a decades-long moratorium is “as reckless as it is dangerous.” According to The Washington Post, senior officials representing the top national security agencies discussed at a May 15 meeting resuming U.S. nuclear testing after administration officials accused Russia and China of conducting low-yield nuclear tests amid ongoing nuclear talks.
Officials cited in the Post’s report did not mention resuming nuclear testing specifically in Nevada, though the last U.S. nuclear weapons test took place on Sept. 23, 1992 at the Nevada Test Site. The site is known today as the Nevada National Security Site.
“We have not tested a device since 1992; we don’t need to do so now,” Biden said.
A senior administration official who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity said that proving that the U.S. could “rapid test” could prove helpful in negotiations as the Trump administration seeks a trilateral nuclear deal with Russia and China. However, the article also noted that the assertion that the two countries are conducting low-yield nuclear tests has not been backed up by publicly available evidence and has been denied by both countries.
Biden, in a statement, dismissed the idea that resuming nuclear tests could aid in the trilateral talks as “delusional” and said that the move might instead encourage other countries to resume “militarily significant” nuclear testing and undercut nuclear nonproliferation goals.
“How can the United States persuade North Korea not to test and to give up its nuclear weapons, and how can we persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, if we set the destructive example of testing nuclear weapons for coercive purposes?” Biden said.
The Post’s report comes as President Donald Trump has been pushing for a new trilateral nuclear treaty that would include China as an existing bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Russia, the 2011 New START treaty, is set to expire early next year unless renewed. China, however, has telegraphed its disinterest in a trilateral nuclear accord.
In his statement, Biden called on Trump to reaffirm the country’s commitment to no nuclear testing.
“It is not the time to discard our mantle of nonproliferation leadership, when there is no justifiable purpose for conducting a nuclear test,” Biden said.
Biden said that when he was vice president the secretaries of defense and energy certified each year that the country’s nuclear stockpile continues to be “safe and reliable” without need for nuclear testing and that “by all accounts that remains true today.”
He also said that scientists who lead U.S. national nuclear labs have “regularly affirmed” that they have learned more from the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which conducts scientific experiments to keep the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile reliable and secure, in two decades than during four decades of nuclear weapons testing.
According to the Post, one senior administration official said resuming nuclear testing is “very much an ongoing conversation,” while another person familiar with the meeting said that a decision was reached to take other action to threats posted by Russia and China and to avoid resuming testing.