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US Democrats back legislation to ban nuclear weapons tests

US nuclear test
US Army file photo

Lead members of the US Democratic Party have backed legislation that would prevent the Trump administration from restarting explosive nuclear weapons testing by restricting funds for fiscal year 2021 and all previous years from being used for such a purpose.

The introduction of the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act follows a Washington Post report which cited senior Trump administration officials advocating for a demonstration nuclear test in an effort to bring Russia and China to the negotiating table for arms control talks.

“A return to US nuclear testing would dishonor the lessons from the Cold War and expose a whole new generation of Americans to the horrors of radiation sickness,” said Senator Edward J. Markey.

“Congress must send the president the same message the directors of our national laboratories have sent the president: we know more about the US nuclear stockpile in the absence of testing than we knew in the half-century of testing. That is why, before it is too late, Congress must use its power of the purse to deny president Trump from sparking a global return to testing the most powerful weapon ever created by man. North Korea is an international pariah for its defiance of international norms – largely through its illicit nuclear weapons tests. We must not join them.”

The PLANET Act is co-sponsored by minority leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Kristen Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, and Bernie Sanders, among others.

The United States last conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1992, and it signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996. Parties to the CTBT commit to not conduct a nuclear weapons test of any yield, which is verified by an array of International Monitoring Stations (IMS) positioned all around the planet. While the United States has not yet ratified the CTBT, it did lead the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2310 (2016), which calls upon all countries, including the United States, to not defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT by conducting a nuclear test.


The legislation is designed to prohibit the use of funds appropriated in Fiscal Year 2021 or from any previous year to prepare for or to conduct an explosive nuclear test that produces any yield.

Further, the bill would allow for stockpile stewardship activities that are consistent with US law – such as certifying the safety, security and reliability of the US nuclear stockpile – so long as those activities are consistent with the “zero-yield” scope of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

“A demonstration nuclear weapons test blast would be a massive mistake that would set back US and global security for decades to come. It would break the de facto global nuclear test moratorium, likely trigger nuclear testing by other states, and set off a new nuclear arms race in which everyone would come out a loser,” said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.