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From National Cancer Institute Study Estimating Thyroid Doses of I-131 Received by Americans From Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Test, 1997. To go to the National Cancer Institute and get the full report, click here.

June 28, 2001



Is the Bush Administration preparing to break out of the nuclear weapons testing moratorium?

Recent statements and actions by top players within the Administration and its shadow cabinet of unreconstructed Cold Warriors may just be trial balloons to test the waters to see if anyone will object to a resumption of testing and abbrogation of treaties subscribed to by the U.S. If these are only trial balloons, they must be pierced now before they take flight, and the Utah congressional delegation has a moral responsibility to wield the pins.

In the last week of June, the Bush team ordered nuclear weapons scientists to study a range of options to "reduce lead times" to resume nuclear bomb explosions at the Nevada Test Site. The weapons laboratories argue that testing is needed to assure that the stockpile is reliable, and some fear that the long lead times to prepare tests give political opponents opportunities to prevent renewed testing. A February 1 report commissioned by Congress bemoaned the deteriorating state of nuclear weapons testing and production facilities, leading the Administration to consider a six-year, $2 billion initiative to up-grade the weapons programs.

Frank Gaffney, a former defense official and prominent conservative analyst and advisor, stated in May that "we're going to have to resume on a limited basis underground testing of our nuclear arms". In a March 12 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms called on the Administration to repudiate the signed but unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The New York Times reported May 9th that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems more inclined to deploy missile defenses and develop nuclear forces than negotiating with Russia or China. "Before taking office Mr. Rumsfeld argued that the U.S. should not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty because it might need to develop new nuclear weapons," the Times reported. So far, President Bush has refused to place the treaty before the Senate. "'This is a paradigm shift,' said a senior Pentagon official. `We are probably not going to be hampered by arms control agreements.'" (NYT, 5/9/01)

In April and May, the U.S. accused the Chinese of preparing for a nuclear weapons test (Washington Times 4/9/01, 5/11/01), and similar accusations have been leveled at the Russians (NYT, 3/4/01). In the meantime, the Bush Administration is putting on the diplomatic pressure to dismantle the ABM Treaty to pave the way for ballistic missile defense. Secretary Rumsfeld has stated that there may be a dozen different components to BMD, including the stationing of weapons in space. Not only would this constitute a unilateral abbrogation of the Outer Space Treaty, it would likely involve a resumption of nuclear testing to complete development of Nuclear Directed Energy Weapons (NDEW) projects the national weapons labs have experimented with for two decades. Other darlings of the weapons labs, new "low yield" warheads and the earth penetrating "bunker busting" nuclear warhead, are in favor with the hawks in ascendance within this Administration. These too will require nuclear tests to perfect.

Taken together, these developments lead to an inescapable suspicion -- that the U.S. is preparing to unilaterally jettison a less-than-perfect arms control regime fostered by every President since Eisenhower that has kept Armaggedon at bay. These policy maneuverings threaten a costly and dangerous new arms race and are alarming to our allies as well as our adversaries. Most alarming to the constituents of Utah's congressional delegation is the prospect of more nuclear tests upwind, especially those who have suffered painful losses and grievous wrongs from being unwitting "active participants in the nation's nuclear weapons program".

Despite the commendable efforts of Utah's congressmen to achieve a greater measure of justice for the downwinders, uranium miners, atomic veterans, and defense workers exposed to radiation in the name of national security, allowing testing to begin again promises new generations of victims even as the those sick and dying from the last round hold their government- issued IOU's. We know now that 58% of the more than 900 underground nuclear tests conducted over 33 years leaked radiation, many of those exposing citizens far from the Nevada Test Site borders to harmful doses. Resuming the bomb blasts after a nine year hiatus further increases the risk of Baneberry-like catastrophic leaks, as it will take the bomb testers time to re-learn the techniques for containing the blasts underground. More nuclear tests means more leaks, more victims, and less security.

The people will not tolerate being bombed again! No political spin, no tortured logic, no fear mongering that the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans will be here in the morning, no assurance that "THERE IS NO DANGER" will suffice this time. The assurances we need are that our elected representatives will do everything in their power to prevent a resumption of nuclear testing. Utahns must demand this now!

Steve Erickson
Citizens Education Project
961 East 600 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
(801) 359-4929

Preston J. Truman
Downwinders, Inc.
P.O. Box 111
Lava Hot Springs, ID 83246-0111


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