Nevada blast test put on hold amid court fight
From Larry Shaughnessy
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon plans for an explosive test next month in Nevada have been delayed for at least three weeks because of a lawsuit over the experiment, which critics say may be part of an effort to develop new nuclear weapons.
The National Nuclear Security Administration announced Tuesday that the blast planned for June 2 -- intended to help the military learn how to better target underground facilities -- had been postponed because of the "scheduling of legal proceedings" in a federal court suit.
While the blast does not involve nuclear material, the experiment is planned for the NNSA's test site north of Las Vegas, where most of the nation's nuclear testing was once done.
Despite assurances from the Pentagon, critics of the plan, including Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, say they are concerned the experiment may be part of an effort to develop and potentially test new nuclear weapons. Matheson said such a test would amount to "ignoring" a requirement for congressional approval.
The Pentagon has conceded that information learned in the test could be applied to existing nuclear weapons.
A spokesperson for Matheson said he hoped the delay announced Tuesday would allow the public to learn more about the planned blast.
In the test, known as "Divine Strake," more than 700 tons of fuel oil and fertilizer -- 280 times the amount used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing -- would be exploded in a huge pit, in an attempt to heavily damage or destroy a 1,100-foot tunnel beneath the pit.
Planners hope the explosion will help them develop new techniques to attack underground targets, such as facilities used by North Korea and Iran to shelter their nuclear infrastructure.
The Pentagon estimates the blast could send a cloud of dust more than 10,000 feet into the air. Critics fear the dust could could spread radioactive particles from old nuclear tests.
But the Pentagon insists that the dust will be free of radioactive particles and the blast won't even been seen off the test site, although planners have said strong winds in the area would force them to postpone the explosion.
The specter of nuclear-laden dust is a sensitive subject for those living downwind of the test range in Nevada and Utah, where generations of people have dealt with health problems blamed on fallout from above-ground nuclear tests in the 1950s.
The word "strake" used in the experiment's name is a nautical term, referring to planking extending along the length of a ship.
|© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.