Obstacles to nuke tests proposed

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, a Democrat, has reintroduced his 2004 legislation, the “Safety for Americans from Nuclear Weapons Testing Act” in an effort to block resumption of nuclear bomb tests in Nevada.

The measure would prevent starting up tests again unless Congress specifically authorized it, order environmental impact studies for each and every test, establish a Citizens Review Board for the Nevada Test Site, hold public hearings, and other provisions to inform the public of any radiation releases and track the radiation.

It would also order a study to determine the amount of radiation released by previous tests and establish a Center for the Study of Radiation and Human Health. Republican Sen. Robert Bennett, also of Utah, has introduced a Senate version of the bill.

The Nevada testing program was originally described by federal officials as all but harmless, and scientists who departed from that line were demonized. When the dangers of testing finally became public, the drift of fallout was described as mainly east of the test site. In more recent years, however, there have been studies indicating the fallout traveled longer distances than formerly believed and also drifted north as well as east.

In a statement, Matheson recalled his father, former Utah governor Scott Matheson, who died of cancer.

“I remember my father telling me about how people in southern Utah would watch the sky light up from the nuclear tests and how Utahns supported the program because they were strong patriots who believed in their country and trusted their government. Many untimely deaths later, we’ve learned to be skeptical of the government’s safety claims regarding this issue.”