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Nuclear Test Conducted After Protesters Arrested

November 14, 1990

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Scientists tested a nuclear weapon today after security guards removed four protesters from the remote desert site.

Department of Energy officials spotted the protesters near ground zero minutes before they planned to detonate the weapon. The test was delayed while the protesters were taken from the site, 105 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The test controllers are ″obviously glad that it went, and went without any prolonged delayes because of the infiltrators,″ said Energy Department spokesman Jim Boyer said after the 11:17 a.m. EST test.

City Hall workers in downtown Las Vegas said the 10-story building shook slightly. Boyer, at a control point 30 miles from ground zero, said he felt a slight rolling motion.

The protesters were arrested and taken to a base camp at Mercury, Nev. They were to be turned over to Nye County authorities.

Earlier today, the environmental group Greenpeace said four people had reached ground zero this morning in an attempt to halt the test of the British nuclear weapon. The Energy Department initially disputed the claim.

The test, scheduled for 9 a.m., was delayed several times in the final 30 minutes of the countdown because of technical difficulties, Boyer said.

The four protesters were spotted by video cameras trained on the site as the countdown was about to resume with six minutes remaining.

The four - three British woman and an American man - reached the area shortly after dawn, said Junior Bridge, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace. She said one had made contact with a security guard there.

Energy Department spokesman Chris West had disputed the report, saying there was no one at ground zero except the scientists who arm the device.

The nuclear device is buried 1,900 feet deep in a shaft filled with concrete. Ground zero is the ground level spot above where the underground explosion takes place.

″They could damn near be on top of it and it would just shake them up a lot,″ Boyer said of possible intruders.

West has said that someone standing on ground zero could receive a jolt from the upward blast strong enough to break a leg.

The device was expected to produce an explosive force of 20 kilotons to 150 kilotons of TNT. The atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had the force of 13 kilotons.

Bridge identified the British protesters as Juley Howard, 23, Jane Gregory, 27 and Lorna Richardson, 25, all of London. She said Michael Perry, 27, of the Rocky Mountain Peace Center, was also with the group. All British nuclear tests are conducted in Nevada. Britain has conducted 17 nuclear tests in Nevada since 1958.

Bridge, who identified herself as nuclear weapons program coordinator for Greenpeace from Washington, D.C., said the women were taken Sunday by Jeep to a point 20 miles from ground zero.

The test site covers 1,350 square miles of rugged desert terrain, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Anti-nuclear activists have hiked onto the site several times in recent years. In most cases, the intruders have been arrested by security forces who patrol by helicopter, airplane and all-terrain vehicles.

The department once launched extensive searches when activists began penetrating in the mid-1980s. They dropped the policy in 1986 as too costly.

Department officials say an infiltrator reached ground zero only once: Two years ago a man appeared near a detonation site just minutes before a blast. The test was delayed an hour until the man was picked up by helicopter.

Today’s test was the eighth this year at the Nevada site and the 707th since testing began there in 1951. The last test was Oct. 12.

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