The Coastal Post - September, 1995

More On The Nuclear Crisis

BY KAREN NAKAMURA

At 0:59:57.8 UCT (Universal Correlated Time) August 17, 1995, the Chinese set off a medium-range 20-80 kiloton nuclear underground test at their Lop Nor blast site in Northwest China. The ground zero quake registered 5.6 according to the Australian Seismological Center.

At 22:39:58 UCT, August 17, a 5.4 quake hit South Central California near Ridgecrest, shaking nearby Barstow and Las Vegas and the US nuclear Nevada Test Site.

At 23:14:19 UCT, 35 minutes later, a 5.5 shook Northern Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At 23:18:58 UCT, four and one-half minutes later, a 3.1 quake occurred in Northern Missouri near Dysberg, Tennessee.

At 01:57:19 UCT August 18, 24 hours and one minute after the initial blast in the Mariana Islands 20 miles from Guam, a 5:3 quake occurred at the very active Indonesian triangle area where three plates merge.

At 02:16:24 UCT, 19 minutes later, a 5.8 quake occurred in the South Sandwich islands, a volcanic chain in the Falkland Islands.

At 02:20:36 UCT, four minutes later there was a 5.7 aftershock in the same region.

Let's go back three months to the previous Chinese tests in May.

At 04:05:58 UTC, May 15, the Chinese test registered 6.1 at ground zero.

At 20:12:45 TUC, May 16 a 7.7 quake occurred off New Caledonia in the Indonesian Triangle.

And in the same Indonesian triangle area as the Mariana quake in August.

Yes, there are quakes every day somewhere in the world, but as Dr. Gary Whiteford, leading proponent of a nuclear testing/earthquake theory, states:

"While a chance correlation might appear to be at work, the geological patterns in the data, with a clustering of earthquakes in specific regions matched to specific test data and sites do not support the easy and comforting explanation of "pure coincidence."

But here's something even more frightening. Just when we really need them to sort this out scientifically, the USGS is being downsized.

The world's preeminent earthquake facility, the United States Geological Survey, is being hit with layoffs and cutbacks by Newt Gingrich's thugs.

Nearly one-fourth of the seismologists have been given their notices. That's 23 scientists out of 100 in the seismology division which studies earthquakes and information learned form them, the very people we need.

At the same time the Department of Defense has requested that nuclear testing be taken from the citizen-run Department of Energy and be placed under the auspices of Defense.

With President Clinton's declaration that there will be no U.S. testing of any sort, this transfer may not occur. But the nuclear/military desire is strong.

If there is a connection between underground nuclear testing and earthquakes, and evidence is mounting that there is, the only way the world can scientifically find out the "if and how" is with the aid of the USGS.

For several years there has been an on-going debate about the possibility of a connection. The USGS has taken the position that, while they highly doubt a connection, as scientists, they maintain an open mind.

Originally, though they accepted that a blast in French Polynesia could shake the earth enough to activate seismic machines in Colorado, it's surface ripples certainly were not carrying enough force to move huge sections of earth.

Proponents of the connection said that while damage from surface force waves may be minimal, the real connection is the force that pushes out below, far below the surface of the earth. The French, for instance, set off blasts 1,500-2,500 feet down into the crust.

Recent revelations of Soviet scientists using small nuclear blasts to map the earth's crust beneath them, has shown the validity of the proponent's theory.

That, and the increasingly successful use of small blast waves (dynamite, etc.) by USGS seismologists to successfully chart faults in the Bay Area, indicates an interest in the ability of blast waves to move the earth.

Needless to say, proponents contacted "open-minded scientists" within the USGS, hoping they would at least check the theory out with their computers.

Any scientific acknowledgement has, of necessity, been slow in coming. Something this explosive isn't just adopted because of the thrill factor. Some scientists however, are becoming more open to the possibility. The majority poo-poo the very idea.

To understand the magnitude of the force sent outward from a blast, we should examine size in comparison with a familiar object. For instance, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts were 13 and 20 kilotons of force.

There seems to be three different sizes to most tests: those of 2-5 kilotons to 20 kilotons, small to medium; 20-80 kilotons, medium to large; and the rarely-used huge, 100-150 kilotons. China has exploded that size in the past three years even though most countries ban 150 kilotons.

Force sizes are hard to confirm, as the exact blast size is usually confidential. A typical public announcement will say, as they did with the latest Chinese test, "between 20 and 80 kilotons." Or "between 20-150 kilotons" was exploded. That could be anything.

And subsequent earthquakes don't always shake neatly in accordance with original blast size, although you'll note the above test/quake sizes held.

Only the USGS has the ability to check all of this out. Now, their funds have been cut and their ability to analyze data has been severely compromised.

With seven tests coming over the next year from the French and who knows how many from the Chinese, the need for an impartial scientific investigation is paramount.