“PLANET” Act would deny Trump administration funds to break the generation-old moratorium on nuclear testing


Washington (June 4, 2020) –Senator Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-time Congressional leader on nuclear arms control and nonproliferation issues, announced introduction of the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act, which 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 Washington Post recently reported that senior Trump administration officials advocated for a demonstration nuclear test in an effort to bring Russia and China to the negotiating table for arms control talks. Each year over the last two decades, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy annually have certified to the President that the U.S. stockpile is safe, secure, and effective in the absence of nuclear testing.


“A return to U.S. 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 Markey. “Congress must send the President the same message the directors of our national laboratories have sent the President: we know more about the U.S. 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.”


Joining Senator Markey as co-sponsors of the PLANET Act are Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


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.  


Specifically, the PLANET Act would:

  • 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
  • Allow for stockpile stewardship activities that are consistent with U.S. law – such as certifying the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. 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 U.S. 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. Congress cannot afford to be silent and must step in by enacting Sen. Ed Markey’s important initiative to put in place a legal prohibition on the use of funds to resume nuclear weapons testing. For the sake of our generation and generations to come, it is time to act to avoid a pandemic of dangerous nuclear weapons testing and proliferation,” said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.


“The Trump Administration's reported consideration of a demonstration nuclear test was as reckless as it was stupid. The United States does not need to conduct explosive nuclear tests and we don't want anyone else to either. Senator Markey and the co-sponsors should be commended for making it clear to the world that the United States has no intention of paying for a single additional explosive nuclear test,” said John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World.


“The US Senate must stand united against any resumption of nuclear testing. New US tests would only invite new tests from Russia, China and others, and thus undermine US security. At a time when the US is struggling to provide COVID-19 tests, the mere consideration of unneeded nuclear tests shows a complete lack of rational thought by the Trump Administration. I welcome Sen. Markey’s leadership on this crucial issue,” said Tom Collina, Policy Director, Ploughshares Fund.


“Nuclear weapons testing is deadly and destructive -- just ask the people in communities who lost friends and relatives to their health and environmental impacts or who are themselves still suffering their effects decades later,” said Erica Fein, Advocacy Director, Win Without War. “I applaud Senator Markey and the bill’s cosponsors, who rightly understand that any resumption of explosive nuclear testing would not only be a dangerous return to our nation’s shameful history but also an invitation to the world’s other nuclear powers to do the same. We must block Trump from any new nuclear weapons tests and move to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty once and for all.”


“Instead of solving the crises of police killing minorities and Covid-19, the Trump administration may start another if they decide to resume nuclear testing for the first time in 28 years,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs, Peace Action. “This critical legislation introduced by long-time leader against nuclear annihilation, Senator Ed Markey, will stop the U.S. from wasting taxpayer dollars on unneeded nuclear tests which may cause another Cold War and endanger Americans.”


“Nuclear weapons testing has inflicted untold damage on American communities. Congress should not leave the administration free to restart nuclear weapons tests today,” said Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation.


In response to fears of a return to nuclear testing, Senator Markey sent a letter to President Donald Trump on May 23rd arguing there was no justification to restart such tests.  Then-Congressman Markey co-authored a 1986 amendment that passed in the House of Representatives to establish a moratorium on all nuclear tests in excess of one kiloton, provided the Soviet Union observed similar limits. This provision laid a vital foundation for the subsequent moratorium on all U.S. nuclear tests and for the negotiation of the CTBT.