Washington, D.C. – Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said tonight he is satisfied that a controversial explosion at the Nevada Test Site will not threaten the health or safety of Nevadans.
Reid met this evening with Dr. James Tegnelia, head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Tegnelia stirred controversy last week when he told reporters the explosion, called Divine Strake, would send a “mushroom cloud” over Las Vegas. Reid asked for a classified briefing on the project after reading the remarks.
Reid said tonight that he was convinced that Divine Strake would be safe.
“The language in the media has unfortunately blown this issue out of proportion,” said Reid. “We discussed the details of this operation tonight, and I now feel comfortable that DTRA is taking all necessary precautions to make sure the test is done safely. Divine Strake will use only conventional explosives, and no nuclear materials at all. It is a scientific test, and is not linked to any effort to resume nuclear testing or restart the arms race. Most important, it will not send a mushroom cloud sprawling over Las Vegas – that was just incorrect information.”
Tegnelia said after the meeting that “mushroom cloud” was a poor choice of phrase, and are “two words I will probably never use again in my life.” He assured Nevadans that Divine Strake will not involve atomic testing or any radioactivity.
Not all details from tonight’s meeting can be released, but the DTRA is announcing more information about the test. The agency plans to hold the Divine Strake test in June. They will detonate 700-tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO) at the Nevada Test Site. ANFO is a commercial explosive used in mining and blasting operations. The test is designed to study ground motion and shock waves.
The DTRA is now assuring Nevadans that the test will pose no danger. The explosion will create a large dust cloud, but it is not expected to be visible off the Nevada Test Site, let alone over downtown Las Vegas. The DTRA says residents of Indian Springs may feel slight ground movement from the test or hear a noise similar to distant thunder. Communities further from the Test Site should not notice anything at all.
Dr. Tegnelia also dispelled other rumors, including reports that Divine Strake is a “nuclear rehearsal” or a pre-cursor to testing nuclear “bunker buster” bombs at the Test Site, and that scientists will use radioactive isotopes to track the debris from the test. DTRA says none of the rumors are true.
“I do not support the resumption of nuclear testing, but this test uses only commercial explosives,” said Reid. “It seems to be well-planned, and all the necessary environmental tests and safety precautions are being done. At this point, there is no reason for the test not to go forward.”