updated 2/24/2006 8:31:56 AM ET 2006-02-24T13:31:56

U.S. and British government scientists performed an underground nuclear experiment, short of a nuclear blast, at the Nevada Test Site this week, the National Nuclear Security Administration said.

The experiment on Tuesday involved detonating high explosives around radioactive material in a vault about 1,000 feet below ground at a remote part of the desert testing range 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

No radioactivity was released in the subcritical experiment, said Nancy Tufano, spokeswoman for Bechtel Nevada, a contractor at the nuclear security administration in North Las Vegas.

Scientists for the first time posted a nearly eight-minute video Web log of preparations for the experiment.

Tufano described the material tested as specially processed nuclear plutonium, but said she could not disclose the isotope for security reasons. The test was designed to examine the effects of the explosion on the nuclear material.

It was the 22nd subcritical test at the site since 1997.

Anti-nuclear groups criticize the subcritical experiments as contrary to the spirit of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear arms.  The U.S. has observed a moratorium on full-scale nuclear testing since 1992, but has not ratified the treaty.

Federal officials call subcritical experiments essential to maintaining the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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