1992 Scorecard Vote
Nuclear explosions were banned in all environments except underground by the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Most environmentalists have long believed that any military technology benefits from continued testing underground are outweighed by the risks of radioactive contamination and nuclear weapons proliferation.
Now that the Cold War has ended and the Soviet Union has disintegrated, the primary justification for continuing nuclear weapons testing has abruptly shifted from staying ahead in the arms competition to "enhancing nuclear weapons safety." However, current weapons are already designed to be safe against an accidental nuclear explosion, and in the 45-year history of the nuclear arms race, despite numerous accidents involving nuclear weapons, no such explosions has ever occurred.
Environmentalists believe that there are far more cost-effective methods to reduce the public's exposure to cancer-causing agents than spending billions of dollars building so-called "safer" nuclear weapons. The scatter of plutonium in an accident involving a nuclear warhead is one of the least likely public exposure risks. Further reducing the public's environmental and occupational exposure to lead, benzene, and cadmium, for example, would be a far more effective use of a billion dollars than further refinements in nuclear weapons safety.
The vote is on the Mark Hatfield (R-OR) - Jim Exon (D-NE) - George Mitchell (D-ME) amendment to the Senate version of the FY 93 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The amendment provides for a nine-month test moratorium, followed by a three and one-quarter-year period during which up to 15 nuclear test explosions, limited to nuclear safety and reliability of existing weapons, would be permitted, and an end to all underground nuclear tests after September 30, 1996, unless the Commonwealth of Independent States conducts a nuclear test after this period. The amendment was adopted 68-26 on August 3, 1992. YES is the pro-environment vote.