7-23 Should We Have Nuked Ourselves?
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- Should the United States have conducted a nuclear test on American soil? Columnist Michael Swickard, who writes out of Las Cruces on Heath Haussamen's blog, has an interesting take on that.
Swickard says no, even though he strongly supports having used the bomb to end World War II. His problem is the health consequences for those living downwind from the test area.
His grandfather's ranch was 23 miles downwind from Trinity Site, where the United States tested it's first bomb in 1945. Swickard has had thyroid cancer and wonders if that might have been the reason.
The Trinity test differs from other nuclear tests because no one was notified to evacuate the surrounding area or told of recommended precautions.
This test was the first of its kind but the Los Alamos scientists knew enough to hunker down well away from ground zero . And they knew enough to suggest their wives sit on a hillside in Los Alamos to watch the blast.
Long term effects of the blasts or the radiation left in the soil downwind from the tests also were unknown. We now have learned from the nuclear tests in Nevada and the Marshall Islands that cancer and birth defects can result.
Now we have seen the test of a non-nuclear bunker-buster bomb cancelled at the Nevada test site because it might suck up nuclear particles in its mushroom cloud and spread them downwind. The final stake was driven into the heart of the test when two members of Congress from Utah saw that their state would be a "downwinder."
While the Defense Threat Reduction Agency was fighting attempts to cancel the blast, Sen. Pete Domenici suggested the test be moved to White Sands Missile Range.
Lest you get too upset with Sen. Pete for endangering New Mexicans, the test was not to be held anywhere near Trinity Site and a similar test of much greater magnitude already had been conducted at White Sands in 1985 with no apparent negative effects.
But Domenici was notified that plans to move the test to New Mexico had been cancelled because of the time it would take to make the switch. Now that the Nevada test has been completely cancelled, might they take another look at New Mexico?
The test's name is Divine Strake. It sounds mysteriously as though it might come from a Harry Potter book. Maybe J.K. Rowling helps the Defense Department choose names.
Condoleezza Rice might also be another name consultant. A whole series of "Divine" tests are under a program containing her favorite word, the "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators."
White Sands Missile Range also has been home to Divine Warhawk, which are "deep underground operational tunnel facility defeat demonstrations." Last in the "Divine" series is Divine Hates, "a WMD production and storage tunnel complex functional defeat effort," located in Nevada.
Suffering by far the most from U.S. nuclear testing were inhabitants of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. Names like Bikini and Enewetok burst into our vocabulary in the 1950s as testing of hydrogen bombs, the most fearful of all, began.
There were people who lived on those islands. They suffered even worse indignities than the White Sands ranchers who were displaced, first for a World War II bombing range, and then for missile testing which likely will continue forever.
Both were chased off their land in the name of patriotism, national defense and world peace. Both were given token amounts of money but their lives were permanently disrupted.
The islands on which the hydrogen bomb tests were conducted are still radioactive. Their inhabitants likely can never return. The effort for reasonable reparations continues.
On the island of Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, is a Nuclear Reparations Office. On the weekday when we visited two years ago, the office door was locked.
On the main street of town is a stark reminder of the sad reality -- a small building with a large sign saying Bikini Atoll Town Hall.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com