A Soviet Defense Ministry official proposed yesterday that the United States and the Soviet Union exchange scientists and test methods for monitoring each others' nuclear tests to improve verification of compliance with nuclear agreements.
He also said the two countries possibly could set off atomic blasts at the other's nuclear testing sites to serve the same purpose, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The suggestions of Col. Nikolai Chervov at a Washington luncheon, according to U.S. officials, reiterated earlier and more detailed Soviet proposals at a July 13-20 meeting of experts of the two nations at Geneva.
"As regards nuclear explosions, the Soviet Union is prepared to accept any type of verification," Chervov said at a luncheon honoring the Soviet delegation to the unofficial conference on U.S.-Soviet relations last week at Chataqua, N.Y. He went on to discuss in general terms the proposals that had been made earlier at Geneva.
The nature, accuracy and positioning of devices to monitor each other's nuclear tests have long been in dispute between the two superpowers, and at times have been a major stumbling block to progress on limiting or banning nuclear explosions. The Reagan administration has been pushing a test-measurement method known as CORRTEX which involves placing cables underground at test sites, while the Soviet Union has preferred seismic devices that measure tremors generated by an explosion.
When Secretary of State George P. Shultz visited Moscow in mid-April, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze suggested the two sides consider a "joint verification experiment" to break the deadlock on how to monitor nuclear tests. The U.S. side was interested, and details were spelled out in the mid-July Geneva talks.
The Soviets proposed that U.S. scientists come to a Soviet nuclear testing site, presumably the Semipalatinsk test range, and measure test yields using both the CORRTEX system and seismic methods, according to U.S. sources. In return Soviet scientists would measure a U.S. test at the Nevada test site using both methods.
The Soviets also held out the possibility that if both sides agree each could bring its own atomic explosive device to the other's testing range.
U.S. experts at the Geneva meeting gave a generally positive response, officials said, but asked for more details of the Soviet proposal, including the issue of conditions that might be placed on it. In general, the Soviets have been seeking major reductions in numbers and yields of nuclear tests or an outright test ban, while the U.S. administration has favored better verification leading first to implementation of two unratified treaties limiting the size of nuclear tests.