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Friday, January 15th, 2021

New House legislation would put nuclear testing decisions in congressional hands

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Democratic representatives and senators have introduced the No Nuclear Testing Without Approval Act to make nuclear testing dependent on Congressional authorization.

The effort comes from U.S. Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Reps. Susie Lee (D-NV), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and TJ Cox (D-CA), along with U.S. Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV) with an eye on barring nuclear testing in Nevada and elsewhere. The issue has been particularly heated regarding Nevada, as the state currently houses the only site in the nation capable of underground nuclear testing.

“The Secretaries of Defense and Energy have reported to the President that the U.S. stockpile is safe, secure, and effective in the absence of nuclear testing,” Horsford said. “Restarting nuclear testing is unnecessary and would have far-reaching consequences on Nevada’s environment and the health and safety of my constituents. Any decision that brings dangerous explosives to our backyard must carefully consider the long-term effects on our state. This legislation will ensure that Congress can provide the appropriate oversight and accountability measures necessary and determine any risk this many pose to the surrounding area.”

The legislation would create a congressional approval process that would keep National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) duties intact. It would update the Atomic Energy Defense Act to require a Joint Resolution of Approval from Congress for any resumption of explosive nuclear testing. Further, it would allow any resumption to move forward only after a foreign state has conducted a nuclear test, or if all three national security labs and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command can agree on a technical need for one.

Alternatives would also have to be detailed in a report explaining why testing should proceed.

“The President should not be using dangerous nuclear tests as a political tool, especially when it threatens the lives of millions of Americans,” Cox said. “Any decision that puts the use of nuclear weapons on American soil should require Congressional approval to ensure that nuclear testing is only done when absolutely necessary and that it is done in a way that won’t put American lives at risk.”