Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

Currently: 103° — Complete forecast

Sun Editorial:

Nuclear weapons testing on U.S. soil is as pointless as it is dangerous

Three paragraphs into Time magazine’s Feb. 12 cover story came a sentence that should have contained a warning for Nevada residents: Do not read this while standing up.

The sentence revealed that the Trump administration had ordered the Department of Energy to be ready to conduct a nuclear test at the Nevada National Security Site in as little as six months. Time reporter W.J. Hennigan went on to write that the White House was considering conducting a nuclear test as a show of force.

“The point, this and other sources say, would be to show Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Iran’s Ayatullah Ali Khamenei and other adversaries what they are up against,” Hennigan reported.

For a megaton of reasons, this test absolutely must not happen.

First and foremost, there’s simply no need to stage this kind of demented theater, because the nation’s adversaries are well aware “what they’re up against.” It’s annihilation. There are nearly 7,000 warheads in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, deliverable across the globe at a moment’s notice by missile, aircraft and submarine. The biggest nuke is the B83 bomb, which at 1.2 megatons is 80 times more powerful than the World War II bomb that wiped out Hiroshima and killed at least 90,000 people.

Triggering a U.S. nuclear strike would be suicide. That’s not in question.

So it’s no more necessary to prove that point with a nuclear test in the Nevada desert than it is to stage a military parade, yet another stupid idea that has spun out of the White House during President Donald Trump’s 13 months in office.

It demonstrates an astonishing lack of understanding about the nation’s military and the world’s perception of the U.S. More than anything, it proves that Trump’s feelings of inadequacy and inferiority know no bounds.

To be clear, Trump hasn’t ordered a nuclear test. But the fact that the administration has even considered it is chilling. A U.S. test would almost certainly provoke other nations into following suit and building up their own arsenals.

And for what? It’s not as if there’s any question that nuclear weapons work. The U.S. conducted more than 1,000 tests, many at the test site 90 miles north of Las Vegas, during an arms race that culminated when the former Soviet Union unleashed a 50-megaton monster of a bomb in 1961.

For Nevadans to allow a new test would be to disrespect generations of heroic state residents who fought to stop the testing. That fight led to George H.W. Bush imposing a self-imposed moratorium in 1992, and there hasn’t been a U.S. test since then.

The door should remain closed.

The good news is that Gov. Brian Sandoval says he has received “100 percent confirmation” that the Trump administration isn’t planning to test a nuclear device in the Nevada desert.

But just in case Trump or anybody on his team is wondering whether Nevadans want him to set off one of his oversized firecrackers in our state, the answer is a loud hell no.

It’s bad enough that Trump’s new budget contains funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, a project that would lead to high-level nuclear waste being transported through the heart of Las Vegas.

That project should be buried and forgotten, and so should any notion of testing a nuclear device in the Nevada desert.

Trump should stop treating our state like enemy territory.