Portland Press Herald
September 29, 1997
LEADERSHIP NEEDED FOR TEST-BAN TREATY;
It cannot be good for the planet to be setting off hydrogen bombs in the
Earth's crust. Nor can it be good for humankind to have nations toying with
The world has a chance before the close of this century to do something
extraordinary about this practice. It can ban nuclear testing under a treaty
signed a year ago.
An important step in that process is ratification of the treaty by the U.S.
Senate. President Clinton is preparing to submit the accord to the Senate, which
should move quickly to approve it.
The treaty would outlaw setting off nuclear weapons. Its obvious benefit
would be to reduce the potential for an accident that could kill millions. In
addition, it would lessen the risk that radiation from nuclear tests will find
its way to the surface.
The test-ban treaty would also serve as an important curb on nuclear
proliferation. It would be harder for nations to develop and deploy nuclear
weapons with a test ban in place.
Opponents of the ban worry that the difficulties posed by it when developing
nuclear arsenals would harm the strategic position of the United States.
Some day we hope that argument can be rendered moot by the elimination of all
nuclear weapons, but in the meantime it remains a concern.
That concern is a minor one, however, because the alternative to testing
nuclear weapons is to use technology that would give a decisive edge to the
United States. In a world without nuclear tests, supercomputers would be used to
predict how the weapons would behave once they were set off.
The Clinton administration has put together a $ 4.5 billion plan for creating
the computer models and laboratories needed to replace nuclear testing.
Given this nation's technological edge and its resources, a ban on nuclear
testing is not likely to harm the strategic position of the United States and
may, in fact, enhance it.
Though signed by 146 nations, the test-ban treaty is still a fragile thing.
There is evidence that Russia has yet to live up to its pledge to abide by the
treaty prior to its formal ratification. Some nations, most notably India and
Pakistan, have openly expressed reservations about ratifying it.
Leadership from the United States on this issue, then, is critical. The
Senate should provide that leadership and ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
THE SENATE SHOULD APPROVE A HALT TO NUCLEAR TESTING