Utahns have earned their distrust of nuclear weapons developers the hard way--through illness and death caused by exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing. I have fought against the need for new nuclear weapons my entire time in Congress.
I am pleased that new information supports my stand. A distinguished panel of scientists, physicists and nuclear weapons experts--known as the JASON panel--was tasked by Congress to examine the technical "risks, uncertainties and challenges" involved in extending the life of our stockpile of nuclear warheads. A declassified summary of the latest unreleased JASON study (completed in September) concludes that the lifetime of the nation's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades--using current techniques without affecting confidence in the weapons' reliability..
As long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. position is that it will maintain its safe and secure and effective arsenal to deter adversaries and to extend that defense to our allies.
During the previous administration, however, some advocated the development and design of a new, pre-emptive nuclear weapon--the so-called "bunker-buster". After Congress killed that proposal, plans were floated for a Reliable Replacement Warhead, which were ultimately rejected as well.
I strongly opposed both. During the debate, scientists and military experts conceded that any new weapon would have to be tested, forcing resumption of underground nuclear blasts at the Nevada Test Site.
That prospect strikes fear in the hearts of thousands of Utahns. Although the days of aboveground testing are gone, it is not enough that a device be buried. Over 900 underground tests took place at the test site. More than 100 of those resulted in the release of radioactive material.
Beyond the unacceptable risks to health and safety, proposals to create new nuclear weapons are a waste of precious defense dollars. Our focus should be to meet the legitimate security needs of our country, in a way that is fiscally responsible.
Finally, at a time when we seek to stop North Korea and Iran from designing, testing and deploying nuclear weapons, I believe it sends the wrong signal to contemplate new nuclear weapons here. I will continue to oppose proposals that once again take us down the path of nuclear weapons testing.
2nd District of Utah
© December 7, 2009 Congressman Jim Matheson