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Act now! imminent nuclear weapons test

Update: 10 March - the decision of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the US government's repeated violations of Western Shoshone rights (referred to in the alert below) is now available here.

Update: 24 February - 'Krakatau', the nuclear weapons test referred to below, was detonated at 12 noon, 23 February, local time (9am, 24 February, NZ time).

23 February 2006

The US and British governments are planning to conduct a subcritical nuclear weapons test some time tomorrow (NZ time). As with their other nuclear weapons tests going back over the past 61 years, this nuclear device will be detonated at the Nevada Test Site - on ancestral land stolen from the Western Shoshone people.

This action alert has four sections:

  • background information on the subcritical nuclear weapons test, the Nevada Test site, and the United Nations Committee currently investigating the violation of Western Shoshone human rights by the US government [1];
  • a brief comment on the outstanding hypocrisy of the US government with respect to nuclear weapons;
  • a call for action by the NZ government; and
  • contact details for US and British diplomatic representatives and NZ government politicians.
  • If you are receiving this alert overseas, please feel free to amend the contact details section for your local US and British diplomatic representatives and your national government and forward it on.

  • Background information
  • The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that the nuclear weapons test code named 'Krakatau' will be conducted at the Nevada Test Site on 23 February. It is a follow on to the 'Vito' subcritical test, the last joint US / British test which took place on 14 February 2002.

    As explained by the NNSA, subcritical nuclear weapons tests: "examine the behavior of plutonium as it is strongly shocked by forces produced by chemical high explosives. Subcritical experiments produce essential scientific data and technical information used to help maintain the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile. The experiments are subcritical; that is, no critical mass is formed and no self-sustaining nuclear chain." [2]

    In other words, subcritical tests involve exploding an undisclosed amount of weapons grade plutonium - adding further radioactive contamination to the area of the Nevada Test Site which is on Western Shoshone land in Nevada, USA. Their land is subject to the Treaty of Ruby Valley - but rather than honouring the Treaty, the US and British governments have used the land for nuclear weapons tests since 1945, and have turned it into a radioactive wasteland. From 1951 to 1992, 928 full scale nuclear weapons tests were conducted on Western Shoshone land - 100 either above ground or in the atmosphere, and 828 underground. This has resulted in gross radioactive contamination of the land and ground water.

    Since the US government stopped full scale nuclear weapons tests, successive US administrations have kept the Nevada Test Site open in case they should want to resume full scale testing at any time; and they have conducted 21 subcritical nuclear weapons tests there since 1997, the most recent US subcritical test was detonated in May 2004.

    The US government is currently being investigated by the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for ongoing violations of Western Shoshone human rights. Since 1999, the Western Shoshone people have been asking CERD to act under its early warning and urgent action procedures to protect them from further harm. Among the Treaty breaches and human rights violations communicated to CERD are US military nuclear, chemical and biological weapons tests conducted on Western Shoshone land without their consent [3]; reinvigorated US federal efforts to open a nationwide nuclear waste repository on Western Shoshone land; passage of controversial legislation allowing for distribution of compensation for the alleged extinguishment of Western Shoshone title over land; legislative efforts to privatise Western Shoshone lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers; and seizures of Western Shoshone livestock and imposition of heavy trespass fines against Western Shoshone people. [4]

    CERD communicated their concern about "the allegation that the Western Shoshone indigenous people are being denied their traditional rights to land and that past and new actions adopted by the State party in relation to the status, use and occupation of these lands may cumulatively lead to irreparable harm to this community" [5] to the US government in August 2005, along with a list of questions to be answered by 31 December 2005. The US government did not supply the requested information within the required time frame.

  • Outstanding nuclear weapons hypocrisy
  • In addition to the unbelievable arrogance the US government has shown by their genocidal actions towards the Western Shoshone, this nuclear weapons test highlights yet again their outstanding hypocrisy when it comes to nuclear weapons.

    Just three years ago, allegations that Saddam Hussein's regime had developed weapons of mass destruction were used by the US government and their warmongering allies as the pretext to justify their invasion and occupation of Iraq. And now they are making plans to launch a military assault on Iran using the same pretext - while continuing to develop their own nuclear weapons arsenal.

    George Bush's regime has more weapons of mass destruction than anyone else, has used nuclear weapons and chemical weapons in the past, continues to explode nuclear devices on stolen Western Shoshone land, and has demonstrated no commitment to allowing UN weapons inspectors to examine their weapons of mass destruction production facilities and stockpiles, nor to getting rid of them. The US government continues to design, test and produce new nuclear weapons; and is fuelling the very nuclear weapons proliferation it claims to be opposed to - as is the British government, albeit on a lesser scale.

    Please telephone, fax or write to the US and British diplomatic representatives (contact details below) and let them know what you think about this nuclear weapons test.

  • A call for action by the NZ government
  • Over the past few years the government has hauled in the diplomatic representatives of India and Pakistan to chide them about their nuclear weapons tests and development, and earlier this month issued a public statement supporting the IAEA decision to report Iran to the UN Security Council [6]. Their enthusiasm for this dubious move led Phil Goff to issue the statement the day before the IAEA even met. Yet they have maintained a curious silence about the US and British governments' ongoing nuclear weapons development and testing programmes.

    It is time for that to change, please contact the politicians listed below and demand that they apply the same standards to the US and British governments as they do to others, and that they publicly condemn this nuclear weapons test.

  • Contact details
  • - US Ambassador: William (Bill) McCormick, US Embassy, PO Box 1190, Wellington; tel (04) 462 6000 press 0 and ask to be put through to Ambassador McCormick's Personal Assistant; fax 472 3478 - ask him to forward your letter or message as a matter of urgency to his government.

    - British High Commissioner: Richard Fell, PO Box 1812, Wellington; tel 924 2888 ask to be put through to the High Commissioner Fell's Personal Assistant; fax 924 2831 - ask him to forward your letter or message as a matter of urgency to his government.

    - Contact details for government politicians: phone calls and faxes (to be prefixed by 04 by if you are out of Wellington) and email: Helen Clark, Prime Minister tel 471 9998, email or fax 473 3579; Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs, tel 471 9490, email fax 471 2042; Phil Goff, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and Minister of Defence, tel 471 9793, email or fax 495 8444. Letters should be addressed to the relevant politician and posted to Freepost Parliament, PO Box 18 888, Wellington.

    It is really helpful for our ongoing work on this if you can send a copy of your letter/s, and of any replies you receive, to Peace Movement Aotearoa, PO Box 9314, Wellington, fax (04) 382 8173, email.

  • Footnotes:
  • [1] More information about the Western Shoshone people, the Nevada Test Site, the Yucca Mountain High Level Radioactive Waste Repository (which will inflict even more radioactive contamination on the Western Shoshone lands and people), is available at and

    [2] Krakatau Subcritical Experiment Scheduled, National Nuclear Security Administration, 21 February 2006

    [3] Western Shoshone urge probe of human rights violations, Indian Country Today, 27 January 2006

    [4] Second Request for Urgent Action under Early Warning Procedure to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations by the Western Shoshone People of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, Winnemucca Indian Colony and Yomba Shoshone Tribe - In Relation to the United States of America, July 2005

    [5] Letter from Mario Yutzis, Chairman of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to Kevin E. Moley, Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, 19 August 2005

    [6] NZ supports decision on Iran's nuclear programme, Phil Goff, 1 February 2006

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