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August 30, 2006
The Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory successfully conducts a subcritical experiment, Unicorn, at 11:00 a.m. at the Nevada Test Site. The experiment provides crucial scientific information to maintain the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons without having to conduct underground nuclear tests. Unicorn is the 23rd subcritical experiment to date. Subcritical experiments examine the behavior of plutonium as it is strongly shocked by forces produced by chemical high explosives. The experiments are subcritical; that is, no critical mass is formed, and no self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction can occur; thus, there is no nuclear explosion.