Monday, April 02, 2007

Press on the Nevada Test Site and Divine Strake

More press articles about the Nevada Test Site and the successful effort to stop the "Divine Strake" test of a huge non-nuclear bomb that could have redistributed radioactive materials deposited on that site from previous decades of nuclear tests, down wind, and poisoned a new generation with old nuclear fallout. Additionally, the test is a bad sign of the Bush Administration and the military-industrial complex's current direction, one that spurs on other nations to continue to develop their nuclear arsenals, or to establish themselves as new nuclear states.

MERCURY, Nev. - Government doublespeak is nothing new in Indian country; virtually from the days of first contact, Natives have been deflecting verbal and political subterfuge, broken treaties and both covert and blatant threats to Mother Earth. In a contemporary, ongoing battle and multi-state, multi-agency and multi-cultural effort to halt what the U.S. government called ''a scientific experiment designed to significantly advance the nation's ability to defeat underground facilities that produce and store weapons of mass destruction,'' the Western Shoshone Nation was at the heart of the feds' decision to back off from the proposed Divine Strake test detonation.

In a Feb. 22 statement, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Director James Tegnelia said, ''I have become convinced that it's time to look at alternative methods that obviate the need for this type of large-scale test. This decision was not based on any technical information that indicates the test would produce harm to workers, the general public, or the environment.''

Conversely, Western Shoshone elder and activist Carrie Dann last year asserted that the indigenous peoples of North America ''decry all weapons of mass destruction as they are first tested upon us, and we oppose the use of these weapons against all other peoples or nations.''

The 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil test - touted as non-nuclear by the DTRA - at the Nevada Test Site is a vivid illustration of how the American government consistently attempts to impose its will on its citizens. And in a long-term display of unity and solidarity that included members of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, senators and representatives from Nevada and Utah, and ''downwinders'' and their survivors, the people have spoken, creating enough pressure that forced the government to finally cancel the explosion that would have created a mushroom-shaped cloud in the desert.

[Read More -> Wishelle Banks, Indian Country Today]

Thyroid cancer, a normally rare cancer, has plagued a long generation of kids who drank fresh milk during the 50's and 60's, which concentrated Iodine 131 from test at the Nevada Test Site. Fallout from these tests was deposited nationwide, but heavily in many states, including Utah, so it is not surprising there is a Congressman from Utah that lost a parent to cancer as a result of nuclear weapons testing.

map of I-131 exposure from Nevada Test Site tests

For four decades, the Nevada Test Site was ground zero for hundreds of nuclear-weapons tests.

Then in 1992, the United States conducted its last such test at the outdoor lab, leaving the tightly guarded installation the size of Rhode Island in a bit of limbo.

Although the bombs have gone silent, the Bush administration has left the door open to a return to testing, pushing a more aggressive nuclear posture and seeking money to cut the time it would take to begin testing at the site.

A large public outcry from residents in Utah, Nevada and Idaho forced the Defense Department two weeks ago to cancel its proposed Divine Strake test _ a huge blast of 700 tons of conventional explosives _ and raised the question of whether the public could ever stomach renewed nuclear tests at the site.

"If you look at (Divine Strake) as a litmus test for how comfortable the public is with the idea of renewed nuclear testing, well, the answer is crystal clear: Don't even think about it," said Vanessa Pierce, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. "Utahns are unwilling to consider allowing anything that brings us even one step closer to the days of nuclear blasts."

But some, including Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, whose father died of cancer as a result of radioactive fallout from the Cold War nuclear tests, fear that is the direction the Bush administration is headed.

On Friday, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced its new design for the "Reliable Replacement Warhead," the next-generation U.S. atomic weapon. Matheson questions the rationale for the new weapon, and how it can be built without being tested.

"I think we're going down the path of new nuclear weapons, which takes us down the path to new ... testing," Matheson said.

Between 1951 and 1992, when the United States ceased testing, a total of 925 atomic tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site, 825 of them underground. President Bill Clinton issued a moratorium on testing, and in 1996 signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, although it was never ratified by the Senate.

Since then, the test site has been used for hazardous-chemical testing, emergency-response training and conventional-weapons testing. The National Nuclear Security Administration has put in place an extensive program designed to maintain atomic weapons without relying on full-scale testing.

In 2001, the Bush administration also issued a new Nuclear Posture Review that envisioned a significant shift in U.S. weapons policy, moving from the Cold War-era strategy of deterring enemy strikes to a position of using tactical nuclear weapons to defeat fortified enemy positions.

[read More -> Robert Gehrke, Scripps News Service]

This is a more serious post, since I didn't get the obvious spike in traffic I was hoping for in my last post about this, in which I made up a story involving celebrity upskirt pics of Martin Sheen, who really was cited, at the April 1st event at the Nevada Test Site called the Nevada Desert Experience.

An additional dense and descriptive resource: Utah History to Go: Nuclear Testing and the Downwinders

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