The history of the attempts at seismic control of nuclear tests shows that even before the discovery of decoupling or muffling—known in seismic exploration from shooting in a dry cavity—of explosions, the state of the art favored the cheating nation. With muffling, detection lags concealment of small nuclear tests by a factor in excess of one hundred.
Technical and political considerations cannot be separated. A multibillion dollar effort such as the 180 seismic-station Geneva system should not be undertaken without virtual certainty of adequate detection. If delays in construction, operation, and in situ inspection rendered the program ineffective within Russia and China after the free world had spent billions on the network in other parts of the world; the West would have suffered a sensitive cold war defeat and incurred the resentment of the underdeveloped nations. It would face frustration and loss of confidence at home. A fraction of the number of Geneva stations within the U.S.S.R., supplemented by a world-wide net of seismological observatories of universities and other bodies with standard modern equipment and exchange of personnel and data, would have all the indirect advantages claimed by Dr. H. Bethe for the full Geneva system.
A break-through in research to advance detection by a factor in excess of one hundred is needed before an effort of DEW line magnitude appears justified. The probability of radical break-throughs in research is never large. This diminishes the importance of attempts to improve detection by factors of two or three and of auxiliary development projects, such as those connected with on-site inspection which presuppose effective seismic detection by a world-wide net of stations.