As we logged on to CNN.com this morning, one headline among the network’s list of top stories quickly caught our attention: “Pentagon’s 700 ton blast test put on hold.”
Not knowing anything about a “700 ton blast,” we read on to learn more about this rather large explosion.
“Pentagon plans for an explosive test next month in Nevada have been delayed for at least three weeks because of a lawsuit over the experiment, which critics say may be part of an effort to develop new nuclear weapons,” CNN’s Larry Shaughnessy reported in his piece, posted this morning at 7:42 a.m.
An agency called the National Nuclear Security Administration, Shaughnessy added, announced yesterday “that the blast planned for June 2 — intended to help the military learn how to better target underground facilities — had been postponed because of the ‘scheduling of legal proceedings’ in a federal court suit.”
The Associated Press provided a translation: a lawsuit filed April 20 by a Reno lawyer, it reported, “accuses the government of skipping public comment and failing to complete required environmental studies before picking a date and place for the explosion.”
“The planned Divine Strake experiment will not be conducted earlier than June 23,” the AP quoted a spokeswoman for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency saying. In the meantime, a federal court will review plans for the blast, as Nevada officials consider a new environmental assessment of the explosion’s possible effects, the AP reported:
The blast, some 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is expected to generate a 10,000-foot mushroom cloud and a shock wave that officials say will probably be felt in Indian Springs, about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency claims the explosion will help design a weapon to penetrate hardened and deeply buried targets. Critics have called it a surrogate for a low-yield nuclear “bunker-buster” bomb.
Going back to CNN, Shaughnessy explained that despite Pentagon “assurances,” critics of the plan such as Utah Congressman Jim Matheson “say they are concerned the experiment may be part of an effort to develop and potentially test new nuclear weapons. … The Pentagon has conceded that information learned in the test could be applied to existing nuclear weapons.”
So the Pentagon is planning to explode “more than 700 tons of fuel oil and fertilizer — 280 times the amount used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing” — in an effort to develop new techniques to better attack underground targets in, say, North Korea or Iran. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)
Turns out it’s a good thing we had CNN and the AP to tell us about this, as they are alone (as far as we can tell) among their national print and television peers in carrying this story this week.
But until other big outlets do, we suggest you turn to several Utah and Nevada newspapers — including the St. George Spectrum, which published a solid, in-depth story on the matter today — for more information.
They, after all, have a keen interest in the huge explosion that soon might rock their backyard.