Mushroom Cloud Blast In Nevada Delayed Indefinitely
By KEN RITTER
LAS VEGAS (AP) - The federal government on Friday indefinitely postponed a massive explosion that planners said would generate a mushroom cloud over the Nevada desert and critics feared would spread radioactivity across the West.
Officials said delaying the non-nuclear explosion dubbed "Divine Strake" would allow time to answer legal and scientific questions about whether it would kick up radioactive fallout left from nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site about 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
"The previously announced date of no later than June 23 is no longer accurate," said Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration in North Las Vegas. "The experiment will be scheduled at a date later to be announced pending the legal action."
Anti-nuclear activists, an Indian tribe and Utah and Nevada congressional lawmakers have pressed the government to address safety concerns raised since James Tegnelia, director of the federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said the blast "is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons." He later retracted the statement, saying it was inaccurate.
A federal judge in Las Vegas let government lawyers on Friday withdraw a finding that there would be "no significant impact" from the blast without acknowledging any shortcomings alleged in a lawsuit filed by the Winnemucca Indian Colony and several Nevada and Utah "downwinders."
U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd George said he wanted questions about the test resolved.
"You tell the bureaucrats that the time has come for this thing to move in a timely fashion," the judge told Justice Department lawyers as he canceled a June 8 hearing but called for written filings from both sides within four weeks.
"I will not endure delay after delay," the judge said.
The explosion was first scheduled June 2 and delayed to June 23 to allow time for a court review of the lawsuit filed by Reno-based lawyer Bob Hager. The suit claims the federal government failed to complete required environmental studies before planning to detonate the 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil bomb.
Designers said the blast would be of the same material but some 280 times larger than the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
"This is the second time they have announced the intention to explode this bomb at the Test Site and the second time that we've stopped them," Hager said. "Until they do the science right, they'll never be allowed by the court to do this test, and that's the way it should be."
A spokesman for the federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency declined comment. The agency has said the explosion would help gather data about penetrating hardened and deeply buried targets.
Critics have called the planned blast a surrogate for a low-yield nuclear "bunker-buster" bomb.
This week Hager filed an affidavit from John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy in New York, calling the test "wholly inconsistent" with U.S. nuclear weapons nonproliferation treaty obligations.
Hager also submitted opinions from experts, including Richard Miller of Houston, author of the "U.S. Atlas of Atomic Fallout," and Dr. Thomas Fasy, a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility in New York City, that the blast posed a risk of increased cancer to people living downwind of the Test Site.
The planned blast rekindled fears of illness among "downwind" residents in Nevada, Utah and Arizona who recalled government assurances that nuclear tests in the 1950s and early 1960s posed no risk. Since 1990, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has provided for payments to downwinders who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases.
Opponents have collected signatures in Utah to block the explosion, and a Memorial Day weekend protest is planned at the Nevada Test Site.
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate minority leader, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, issued statements welcoming the delay.
"We have always been concerned about background radiation at the site," Hatch said. "We have been repeatedly told ... that this was not a concern. But since we've asked them to back up their conclusions with scientific evidence, it looks like our concerns are justified."
A spokeswoman for Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said the postponement showed explosion planners were "proceeding responsibly and with appropriate caution."
Associated Press Staff Writers Erica Werner and Jennifer Talhelm contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
Halt The Destruction Of Glaciers Providing Pure Water
Submitted by Ursula Powers Sindlinger
No to Pascua Lama Open-cast mine in the Andean Cordillera on the Chilean-Argentine frontier. We ask the Chilean Government not to authorize the Pascua Lama project to protect the whole of 3 glaciers, the purity of the water of the San Felix Valley and El Transito, the quality of the agricultural land of the region of Atacama, the quality of life of the Diaguita people and of the whole population of the region.
Judge for yourself if you want to take action. In the Valle de San Felix, the purest water in Chile runs from 2 rivers, fed by 2 glaciers. Water is a most precious resource, and wars will be fought for it. Indigenous farmers use the water, there is no unemployment, and they provide the second largest source of income for the area.
Under the glaciers has been found a huge deposit of gold, silver and other minerals. To get at these, it would be necessary to break, to destroy the glaciers - something never conceived of in the history of the world - and to make 2 huge holes, each as big as a whole mountain, one for extraction and one for the mine's rubbish tip.
The project is called PASCUA LAMA. The company is called Barrick Gold. The operation is planned by a multi-national company, one of whose members is George Bush Senior. The Chilean Government has approved the project to start this year, 2006.
The only reason it hasn't started yet is because the farmers have got a temporary stay of execution. If they destroy the glaciers, they will not just destroy the source of specially pure water, but they will permanently contaminate the 2 rivers so they will never again be fit for human or animal consumption because of the use of cyanide and sulphuric acid in the extraction process.
Every last gramme of gold will go abroad to the multinational company and not one will be left with the people whose land it is. They will only be left with the poisoned water and the resulting illnesses.
The farmers have been fighting a long time for their land, but have been forbidden to make a TV appeal by a ban from the Ministry of the Interior. Their only hope now of putting brakes on this project is to get help from international justice. The world must know what is happening in Chile.
The only place to start changing the world is from here. We ask you to circulate this message amongst your friends.
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