Russia’s remote island of Novaya Zemlya in the Artic far north has been the site of hundreds of atomic bomb tests stretching back to Soviet times. Now the frozen crescent-shaped island looks set once again to act as the laboratory for some of the Kremlin’s latest nuclear weapon developments, if the time comes.
With worsening relations with the West and the war in Ukraine threatening a global nuclear standoff, the Russian military stands ready for Putin’s order to relaunch testing at Novaya Zemlya.
According to a source closely associated with the Russian Defense Ministry, the preparedness to resume nuclear tests, if required, as directed by Putin, will be fulfilled through the maintenance of “operational readiness” at the Novaya Zemlya.
This information was reported by the Russian news agency TASS back in February.
Pavel Podvig, senior researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) has told the Express.co.uk that Novaya Zemlya being prepared for the resumption of nuclear tests is not surprising.
He told Express.co.uk: “This is a deliberate policy adopted by Russia at the time it ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 2002. It was a deliberate political decision that is supposed to provide a degree of deterrence against other states resuming nuclear tests.
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“The United States has a similar policy – the test site in Nevada is prepared to resume nuclear tests in about six months or so if the decision to resume will be made.
“Note that the United States has not ratified the treaty, so it would face at least one fewer hurdle should it decide to resume the tests.”
Mr Pavel added that in the case of Russia, as a treaty ratifier, the formal process of “withdrawing” its ratification and declaring non-binding obligations must be undertaken to no longer consider itself bound by the treaty Mosow ratified in 2000.
He told Express.co.uk: “In the case of Russia, since it ratified the treaty, it will have to formally “withdraw” its ratification and officially declare that it no longer considers itself bound by the obligation it was prepared to assume when it ratified the treaty in 2000. This would be simply a declaration, of course, so it’s not that difficult a step, but it must be made.
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“In any event, I would consider the statement made in February as more of good news – the Russian president is in fact committed not to resume nuclear tests if the United States does not resume them first.
“I don’t believe that the United States will start testing again, so in effect, the Russia president added one more hurdle to Russia’s resuming its tests.”
The maintenance of the Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site is handled by the 12th Main Department of the Russian MoD.
A total of 130 tests were carried out at the location between September 21, 1955, and October 24, 1990, including 88 air tests, three underwater tests, and 39 underground tests.
During his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly, Putin made a statement earlier this year on the resumption of nuclear tests.
He instructed the Defense Ministry and the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation to be prepared for nuclear tests if deemed necessary.
However, Putin emphasised that Russia would not be the first to initiate such tests.
In a statement to TASS on February 8, Vyacheslav Solovyov, the scientific director of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, mentioned that nuclear tests could be resumed at the Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site if the need arose and a political decision was made. He further explained that there is an ongoing special program in place to maintain the readiness of the testing site.
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