In 1996, the U.S. signed the United Nations Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, banning live nuclear weapons tests.
The Department of Energy instead turned to computer simulations and laboratory experiments to evaluate its stockpile, and established the Institute for Shock Physics at Washington State University to support these efforts.
This “is very basic science associated with what happens to matter when it’s compressed under very high pressures,” said Christopher Keane, the university’s vice president for research and a professor of physics.
This research, funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration, has contributed to certification of “the nuclear stockpile components over 25 years without nuclear testing,” Keane said. “It’s a tremendous technical achievement.”