Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2021

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Nevada can never let its guard down against Trump on nuke tests, waste

Donald Trump’s presidency poses a danger to Nevada on nuclear waste and weapons, and it will remain one until he steps out of office.

Trump upped the toxic ante with last week’s revelation that he remains enthralled by the idea of conducting nuclear bomb testing in our state.

Trump’s lunatic notion was first reported by Time magazine back in 2018, but it seemed to vanish after fierce pushback from Nevada’s state and congressional leaders. Then-Gov. Brian Sandoval said at the time that he had received “100% confirmation” from the administration that it wouldn’t restart bomb tests here.

It was yet another 100% worthless promise from a 100% untrustworthy White House.

The Washington Post reported that on May 15, administration officials discussed conducting a test in response to an unsubstantiated assertion that Russia and China recently conducted low-yield tests of their own.

An unidentified senior official told the Post that while officials didn’t come to an agreement on whether to detonate a bomb in Nevada, the proposal was “very much an ongoing conversation.”

To that, we offer a response from our state.

No. Hell no. Not now. Not ever.

Nevada will not be subjected to nuclear bombing again.

The state endured four decades of nuclear tests — more than 1,000 in all, before testing ceased in 1992 via an international moratorium. We and our downwind neighbors in Utah endured nuclear fallout in above-ground tests during the 1950s and 1960s, and our desert remains irradiated by underground tests conducted later.

We will fight any effort to reopen the door to that dark era. Nevada proudly and fiercely supports the U.S. Armed Forces in the defense of our nation from foreign adversaries, but we have already sacrificed greatly.

Beyond that, this test is strategically nightmarish. The stated purpose is to drive China and Russia to the negotiating table for a trilateral agreement to regulate nuclear arsenals. But the outcome will almost certainly be more testing by those and other nuclear-armed nations.

More importantly, Trump is admitting grave weakness in this move. If the U.S. has so little power that it must explode a nuclear weapon to get rivals to a negotiating table, Trump has fulfilled his mission to Make America Weak Again. Strong countries don’t need to engage in nuclear testing to call countries to the table. Weak countries resort to such tactics. Trump’s clownish rule weakened the U.S. to the point he thinks he must use the exact tactics Kim Jong Un employed to force Trump to the table.

But there’s another troubling aspect to this that rumbles through Trump’s psyche like megatonnage deep in the earth. His intellectual development stopped somewhere in the late 1950s. Back then, little Donnie Trump pressed his nose to a three-channel TV and watched his beloved Donna Reed Show, dreaming of being famous himself, gasping at the glory of open-air nuclear tests and imagining parades and rockets and someday a man on the moon! The marvels of it all. And now, little Donnie Trump’s toy box includes his very own Space Force, and a renewed mission to go to the moon, and a wife he says is just like Jackie Kennedy, and talks of un-American activities. And he still compares women to Donna Reed (psst, she was a feminist and peacenik, little Donnie).Of course we need nuclear tests to complete the set.

It is as if this presidency is some kind of deranged version of “Pleasantville,” where the flickering black-and-white images on TV have merged with crazy dreams of corruption and power in Trump’s impaired mind. He is living in the drooling madness of his childhood Saturday morning TV show fantasies while we endure the nightmare of the Trump years.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told the Post: “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, called the strategy “delusional.” He’s right.

“How can the United States persuade North Korea not to test and to give up its nuclear weapons, and how can we persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, if we set the destructive example of testing nuclear weapons for coercive purposes?” Biden said in a statement from his presidential campaign.

As Biden also correctly pointed out, nuclear detonations are no longer necessary in assessing the reliability of weapons. Scientists in the nation’s nuclear laboratories can make that determination without setting off bombs, thanks to advancements in science since the nuclear testing moratorium was established in 1992.

Nevada isn’t alone in its opposition to resumption of testing. Utah leaders and so-called “downwinders” are standing with us.

“I burst into tears when I read that,” said Mary Dickson, a longtime advocate for downwinders, in a story published by the Salt Lake Tribune. “I live every day with watching the effects that testing all those years ago had on so many people I know and love. We’re still living with the consequences of fallout from testing. … Their cancers are coming back. They are more at risk during the pandemic. But we think of doing it again.”

Although the tests being discussed by the Trump administration would be conducted below ground, as opposed to the tests that carried fallout through stretches of Nevada and other states decades ago, underground tests can leak and vent radiation downwind. Then there’s the danger underground tests pose to groundwater supplies, which can become contaminated with radioactive particles.

Nevadans can’t let that happen.

The Trump presidency has been a continuous Paul Revere moment for our state on nuclear issues. We fought the president’s men to a standstill on their bent to reopen the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, but they kept coming. We defended ourselves against the administration in Congress and the courts after discovering that the feds had secretly shipped radioactive plutonium to the state in 2019, but they kept coming.

Now they’re on the verge of revoking their worthless promise on nuking Nevada.

What’s clear in all of this is that Nevada can’t let down its guard for one second on the Trump administration until the moment Trump is out of the White House. He’s forced us all to become modern-era, nuclear age Minutemen in the defense of our state.

This is a moment we must remember this fall, for the protection of Nevada and the entire nation.