Administration, OTA differ on test verification



When the explosion went off, a large area of barren brown ground above the test hole rose into the air, pitched and rippled like a stormy sea, and settled again in a cloud of dust. The scene was recorded by television cameras in helicopters above the desert at the Nevada Test Site, and, for the first time, by Soviet scientists. The outcome of this test and a similar experiment in the Soviet Union next month could set the tone for future test ban negotiations.

Meanwhile, a new study from the Office of Technology Assessment claims that seismic networks, traditionally favored by the Soviet Union, can be used to verify reliably compliance with current treaties and be the basis for a new 10-kt testing limit. Seismic Verification of Nuclear Testing Treaties, released in late May, also concludes that the on-site hydrodynamic CORRTEX technique favored by the Reagan administration is intrusive, no more accurate than remote seismic methods, and useless against clandestine testing. Defense department officials have harshly criticized the report, while many seismologists have defended its general conclusions.