After 28 years, should the U.S. resume testing nuclear weapons? November 19, 2020

The United States conducted its last nuclear test explosion in 1992. Is it time to start up testing again? As you can imagine, PSR’s answer is, “Absolutely not! ” This month, a House-Senate Conference Committee is debating whether or not to fund nuclear testing as it irons out a compromise for the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House version of the NDAA bill includes an amendment introduced by Rep. Ben McAdams (UT)  to prohibit any funding for tests. The Senate version, however, includes an amendment from Senator Tom Cotton (AR) to spend $10 million in taxpayer funds to prepare the Nevada test site for future tests. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee, is in a pivotal position to influence this decision.  “Ranking member” means highest ranking member in the minority party.

On November 12, PSR sent a letter about the nuclear testing debate to Ranking Member Reed, as well as Senate Armed Services Chair James Inhofe (OK), House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (WA), and House Armed Services Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (TX). In this letter, PSR outlined the case against nuclear weapons tests, including:

  • aboveground nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands and underground testing at the Nevada Test Site have been linked to well-known adverse environmental and health impacts
  • it would be a violation of international law for the United States to conduct a nuclear test by virtue of the U.S. having signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996
  • if the United States were to resume testing, it would undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty, and it might prompt resumption of testing by Russia and China, and perhaps also by North Korea, India, and Pakistan
  • University of Maryland polling in 2019 indicated that 86.8% of Americans approved of continuing the United States moratorium on nuclear tests

1993 Seattle demonstration by Washington PSR and Womens’ International League for Peace and Freedom

PSR has opposed nuclear weapons tests—because of their public health impact—ever since the organization was originally launched in 1961. PSR’s first big victory was the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which was followed by a U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing that began in 1992, and then the U.S. signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. The Senate failed to ratify the CTBT in 1999, but since then, no nation except for North Korea has exploded a nuclear device. Now is not the time to slip up. Will you help PSR convince Senator Reed to work within the House-Senate Conference Committee to eliminate nuclear testing from the budget?

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