Russia, China and the US are all expanding facilities at nuclear test sites, new satellite images show.
Pictures obtained by CNN reveal the three superpowers have embarked on substantial construction and tunnel-digging activities at their respective bases. Express.co.uk currently has images of the Nevada testing site and is working to obtain images from the Russian and Chinese sites.
The development has unfolded against the backdrop of escalating tension among the nuclear powerhouses.
While there is currently no evidence indicating immediate preparations for testing by Russia, the US, or China, these images show notable expansions at three distinct nuclear test facilities when compared to their conditions just a few years ago.
One is operated by China in the far-western region of Xinjiang, another is managed by Russia in an Arctic Ocean archipelago and the third is located in the Nevada desert.
According to Jeffrey Lewis, an adjunct professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, an analysis of satellite images spanning the past three to five years showcases the emergence of new tunnels beneath mountains, the construction of fresh roads and storage facilities, and an increase in traffic entering and exiting these sites.
Lewis told CNN: “There are really a lot of hints that we’re seeing that suggest Russia, China, and the United States might resume nuclear testing.
“It’s very clear that all three countries, Russia, China and the United States have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in not only modernising their nuclear arsenals, but also in preparing the types of activities that would be required for a test.”
None of the three countries have carried out testing since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996 banned underground nuclear testing.
Notably, while China and the US are signatories to the treaty, they have yet to ratify it.
It is worth noting that although Moscow has ratified the treaty, in February Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed a willingness to order a nuclear test if the US took the first step, emphasising that “no one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed”.
The ongoing expansions at the test sites carry the inherent risk of sparking a competitive rush to modernize nuclear weapons testing infrastructure.
Professor Lewis added: “The threat from nuclear testing is from the degree to which it accelerates the growing arms race between the United States on one hand, and Russia and China on the other.
“The consequences of that are that we spend vast sums of money, even though we don’t get any safer.”
Lewis’s comments align with those of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a prominent nuclear watchdog group, which earlier this year adjusted its Doomsday Clock – an indicator of how close the world is to annihilation – to just 90 seconds to midnight.
This is the iconic clock’s most precarious setting since its creation 1947.
The group attributed their renewed assessment to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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