India’s 1998 Nuclear Test Was A FailureAugust 27, 2009
Indian Nukes Need More Testing, Say Scientists
As if the embarassment over India’s missiles capability wasn’t enough, a senior Indian scientist has admitted for the first time that India’s 1998 Pokhran II nuclear tests were actually far from the success they have been claimed to be. The yield of the thermonuclear explosions was much below expectations and the tests more a ‘fizzle’ rather than a big bang.
It is important to note that India does not have a functional long range missile. The 250 km ‘Prithvi’ is the only fully tested, functional, and ready deployed nuclear-capable missile that India has in its arsenal. With doubtful nuclear capability, India’s missiles might not be more than a set of expensive fireworks.
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Full Story from Times of India: The controversy over the yield of the tests, previously questioned by foreign agencies, has been given a fresh lease of life with K Santhanam, senior scientist and DRDO representative at Pokhran II, admitting for the first time that the only thermonuclear device tested was a “fizzle”. In nuclear parlance, a test is described as a fizzle when it fails to meet the desired yield. (Watch Video)
Santhanam, who was director for 1998 test site preparations, told TOI on Monday that the yield for the thermonuclear test, or hydrogen bomb in popular usage, was much lower than what was claimed. Santhanam, who was DRDO’s chief advisor, could well have opened up the debate on whether or not India should sign CTBT as claims that India has all the data required and can manage with simulations is bound to be called into question.
“Based upon the seismic measurements and expert opinion from world over, it is clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed. I think it is well documented and that is why I assert that India should not rush into signing the CTBT,” Santhanam told TOI on Wednesday.
He emphasised the need for India to conduct more tests to improve its nuclear weapon programme.
The test was said to have yielded 45 kilotons (KT) but was challenged by western experts who said it was not more than 20 KT.
The exact yield of the thermonuclear explosion is important as during the heated debate on the India-
US nuclear deal, it was strenuously argued by the government’s top scientists that no more tests were required for the weapons programme. It was said the disincentives the nuclear deal imposed on testing would not really matter as further tests were not required.
According to security expert Bharat Karnad, Santhanam’s admission is remarkable because this is the first time a nuclear scientist and one closely associated with the 1998 tests has disavowed the government line. “He is not just saying that India should not sign the CTBT, which I believe is completely against India’s interests, but also that the 1998 thermonuclear device test was inadequate.
His saying this means that the government has to do something. Either you don’t have a thermonuclear deterrent or prove that you have it, if you claim to have it,” said Karnad.
Sources said that Santhanam had admitted that the test was a fizzle during a discussion on CTBT organised by IDSA. Karnad also participated in the seminar. He told TOI that no country has succeeded in achieving targets with only its first test of a thermonuclear device.
“Two things are clear; that India should not sign CTBT and that it needs more thermonuclear device tests,” said Santhanam.
The yield of the thermonuclear device test in 1998 has led to much debate and while western experts have stated that it was not as claimed, BARC has maintained that it stands by its assessment. Indian scientists had claimed after the test that the thermonuclear device gave a total yield of 45 KT, 15 KT from the fission trigger and 30 KT from the fusion process and that the theoretical yield of the device (200 KT) was reduced to 45 KT in order to minimise seismic damage to villages near the test range.
British experts, however, later challenged the claims saying that the actual combined yield for the fission device and thermonuclear bomb was not more than 20 KT.