Now that it’s not the done thing for the superpowers to explode nuclear weapons for testing purposes in somebody else’s backyard, they can at least argue over who can simulate the larger nuclear detonation. In July last year the US announced that its Department of Energy had asked IBM Corp to build the ‘world’s fastest supercomputer’ to simulate nuclear detonations and the aging of the weapons stockpile (CI No 2,966) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Not to be outflanked, Russia’s atomic energy minister Viktor Mikhailov said on Monday that the nation’s two top nuclear research centers are buying supercomputers to simulate nuclear explosions. Last year the US had rebuffed Russia’s attempt to buy the machines after Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House national security subcommittee, complained that they could help Russia improve its nuclear weapons. According to Mikhailov, the new supercomputers will be used not to improve the destructive capability of nuclear weapons, but to improve the safety of Russia’s atomic arsenal. It has not been announced exactly whose supercomputers Mikhailov will be buying.