Tea partiers talk nuke tests

The right wing revolt in the Utah Republican Party that denied renomination to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett has now produced an issue affecting Nevada.

The two Republicans contending in the primary election to replace Bennett have both talked about reviving nuclear testing in Nevada.

“We need to always have our eye on the ball for developing new weapons systems, and that is going to require new testing,” candidate Mike Lee told the Salt Lake Tribune.

His opponent Tim Bridgewater agreed. “I would support that,” he said. “I would prefer that we don’t have to move down that road, but … we shouldn’t give up our strong position in the world because more nations are becoming nuclear powers, and the greater the deterrent, the less likely we ever have to use them.”

Utah is the state hardest hit by the downwind effects of Nevada testing, with high levels of cancers and leukemia. Both candidates’ fathers were downwinders who died of cancer.

Testing was halted in Nevada in 1992 and there has been an informal moratorium since then, but “national security” groups have been pushing candidates to sign pledges calling for a revival of tests. Lee has signed the pledge, to the consternation of downwinder groups. Both candidates backed off on their comments after adverse public reaction. U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat whose father also died of cancer, opposed a testing revival and his likely Republican opponent, Morgan Philpot, said, “I think the world would be a better place without nuclear weapons.”