June 04, 2020

Van Hollen, Markey, Colleagues Announce Legislation to Prohibit Restart of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Testing

“PLANET” Act would deny Trump administration funds to break the generation-old moratorium on nuclear testing

Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) announced introduction of the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act, which would prevent the Trump administration from restarting explosive nuclear weapons testing by restricting funds for fiscal year 2021 and all previous years from being used for such a purpose. The Washington Post recently reported that senior Trump administration officials advocated for a demonstration nuclear test in an effort to bring Russia and China to the negotiating table for arms control talks. Each year over the last two decades, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy annually have certified to the President that the U.S. stockpile is safe, secure, and effective in the absence of nuclear testing.

Joining Senators Van Hollen and Markey as co-sponsors of the PLANET Act are Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). 

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE. 

The United States last conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1992, and it signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996. Parties to the CTBT commit to not conduct a nuclear weapons test of any yield, which is verified by an array of International Monitoring Stations (IMS) positioned all around the planet.  While the United States has not yet ratified the CTBT, it did lead the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2310 (2016), which calls upon all countries, including the United States, to not defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT by conducting a nuclear test.  

Specifically, the PLANET Act would:

  • 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)