Reading Room

The PLANET Act to Prevent U.S. Nuclear Testing

Posted on Monday, June 22, 2020

Posted by Angad Gangapuram, Summer Legal Intern

Seventy-five years ago, the United States became the only country to utilize a nuclear weapon during wartime. Since then, the United States government carried out more than one thousand nuclear tests. Another thousand-plus tests have been performed by other nuclear weapons states.

We as humans have long understood the environmental and social impacts of nuclear proliferation. Despite a global effort to curb nuclear weapon development, the Washington Post recently reported that the current administration has advocated for a return of nuclear weapons testing. The administration callously believes that a threat of an impending nuclear arms race would scare other governments to the negotiating table, when in reality the resumption of nuclear weapons testing could very well have the opposite effect.

In an effort to quell the restarting of explosive nuclear weapons testing, Senator Ed Markey has introduced the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act; found here [].

According a press release from Senator Markey, the purpose of the PLANET Act is to:

  • 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)

The last nuclear yield test in the United States was in September 1992. According to the Department of Energy’s historical records approximately 90% of U.S. nuclear tests were related to new designs, not maintenance of the stockpile. Since the testing moratorium was established twenty-eight years ago, the United States has ensured the safety of its stockpile by other means; conducting an array of tests that the government considers in accordance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996. While the United States’ Senate declined to ratify the CTBT in 2018, we have signed the UN Security Council Resolution 2310 in 2016 that implores all countries, including the United States, to abide by the CTBT.

The PLANET Act is currently being co-sponsored by fifteen other Senators, including Dianne Feinstein of California. It is important that we as a Nation learn from the mistakes of past administrations and strive to create a safer future for all generations. As President Reagan once said, “Our moral imperative is to work with all our powers for that day when the children of the world grow up without the fear of nuclear war.”

Let us remember these lessons even more in 2020, in the wake of the 75th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An event that resulted in destruction unlike any we have seen prior, and hopefully unlike any that we will see in the future. It is time for Congress to pursue measures like the PLANET Act to prevent such devastating behavior. Prohibiting funding for resumption of nuclear yield testing is a critical step toward a safer future.