Plans are halted for burning B-52 at test range

From Tonopah Times-Bonanza and Goldfield News
Thursday, September 23, 1999

Assistant senate minority leader Harry Reid has indefinitely halted plans by the Department of Energy (DOE) to test burn B-52 parts and other toxic materials, including uranium at the Tonopah test range.
Senator Reid originally moved to block the planned test in August after questions about a lack of proper monitoring at the range and the danger of permanent contamination of the area.
"There was absolutely no need to risk the lives of those living downwind from the testing range by burning highly toxic uranium and beryllium," Reid said.
"This was an ill-conceived plan from the start and I am pleased that DOE officials are now looking at using computer models or simulants so that the test, if they are done, can be done safely," he said.
DOE had planned to burn the bomber parts along with depleted uranium and beryllium in a pit filled with water and jet fuel at the Tonopah test range.
The goal of the experiment was to test the safety of nuclear weapons during a fire onboard a B-52.
"I will not allow this test to go forward until I am convinced that it will be done at the proper location and with the proper safeguards in place.
"The risks from this test were too great for me to just sit back and allow it to take place especially at the Tonopah test range where we would have had to decontaminate every inch of soil that was affected before it could be put to any other use," Reid added.
In August of this year, Senator Reid sent a letter to secretary of energy Bill Richardson questioning the need to perform the B-52 burn experiment.
Instead Reid urged the DOE to look at using computer models or other simulations to test the safety and reliability of bomber parts during a fire.
Reid requested that any tests be done using either non-hazardous materials or in a containment facility which would prevent outside contamination.

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