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U.S.: Energy Department To Conduct Non-Nuclear Explosion Test

Washington, 1 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The United States plans to explode plutonium in an underground test that it says will not be a nuclear blast.

The U.S. Department of Energy says the experiment will be carried out Wednesday at a test site in the western state of Nevada.

It is described as a subcritical nuclear-related test because it is designed n o t to form a critical mass that would produce a self-sustaining chain reaction as in nuclear explosions.

But nuclear materials will be involved. Conventional explosives will blast plutonium pellets to collect data on nuclear behavior.

The Energy Department says information from the test will help maintain the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear stockpiles.

It says the test is permissible under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by the U.S. last year.

A second test planned in a similar way is to take place later this year.