Senators make the case that there is no national security or technical rationale to conduct the first nuclear weapons test in more than a generation


Washington (September 10, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today led 21 of his Senate colleagues, including Democratic Leader Schumer, in requesting that conferees for the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) maintain in the final conference bill the House of Representatives provision prohibiting a nuclear explosive test.  


“A U.S. nuclear weapons testing restart would give license to other nuclear armed countries to conduct their own tests — including Russia and China, whose nuclear arsenals are especially in our national interest to restrain,” write the Senators. They go on to argue that “a super majority of Americans, 71 percent, agree that we should not break the near three decade U.S. moratorium on nuclear-weapons testing.  This year, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the advent and the only uses of the atomic bomb. It is more appropriate than ever that we continue to honor the moratorium on nuclear testing.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


Section 3121 of the House NDAA is identical to the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act, which Senator Markey first introduced in June. The provision prevents the Trump administration from conducting the first explosive nuclear test in nearly three decades by restricting funds for FY 2021 and all previous years from being used for such a purpose. Section 3121 does not impact activities that do not violate the zero-yield threshold of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). In their letter, the Senators also request that the NDAA conferees strike Section 3166 from the Senate NDAA, which authorizes not less than $10 million to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary.”


Also signing the letter are Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).  


The Washington Post first reported in May that senior Trump administration officials advocated for a “demonstration” nuclear test in an effort to bring Russia and China to the arms control negotiating table. Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, Special Envoy for Arms Control, has refused to rule out such a test in the future saying the Administration “won’t shut the door on it because why would we.”