This alarm is served up with a heavy dose of irony because the theme of “limited federal government” was a primary ingredient in Mike Lee’s and Tim Bridgewater’s less-than-respectful ousting of Sen. Bob Bennett. The current political fortunes of both candidates are tied to the philosophy—as witnessed during the recent state Republican convention—of “Hey, federal government, don’t tread on me.”
Yet, the tragic history of nuclear testing in Nevada is one of the worst examples of the federal government not merely “treading on” but, in fact, contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of its own citizens. Furthermore, the fathers of both Lee and Bridgewater were “downwinders.” With their personal histories, we should ask this question: Is their endorsement of more nuclear testing callous cheerleading for Utahns to continue nobly taking “hits for the team,” or just a case of being badly uninformed?
Perhaps they are unaware that underground nuclear testing poses significant environmental and health hazards. Many underground nuclear explosions have vented radioactive gases. The Energy Department admits that 114 of the 723 underground U.S. nuclear tests since 1963 released significant radioactive material into the atmosphere.
Even nuclear tests that go as planned are an environmental and public-health assault. One study concluded that underground nuclear tests have contaminated 1.6 trillion gallons of underground water in Nevada, an amount equal to 16 years of Nevada’s Colorado River allotment. And the contaminated water underground is slowly migrating to other aquifers.
Medical scientists now know that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. Even limited exposures increase disease rates, especially cancer. From a public-health perspective, when millions have their risks increased even slightly, there will be thousands of disease victims and premature deaths.
For my opponents to promote more nuclear testing is as outrageous as offering more drilling permits to British Petroleum while the already unprecedented disaster in the Gulf continues to unfold.
U. S. Senate Democratic Candidate
Salt Lake City