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Compromise defense bill excludes competing nuclear testing language

Compromise defense bill excludes competing nuclear testing language
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Competing proposals on the prospect of the United States resuming nuclear testing have been jettisoned from the compromise defense policy bill.

The version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the Senate passed in July included language sponsored by Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonRepublicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks MORE (R-Ark.) to make at least $10 million available to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary."

The NDAA passed by the House that month, on the other hand, included an amendment sponsored by several Democrats that would have prohibited funding from being used “to conduct or make preparations for any explosive nuclear weapons test that produces any yield.”

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“The conference agreement does not include either provision,” reads the compromise, known as a conference report, which was released Thursday afternoon.

A congressional aide also told The Hill that language “to prevent President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE from conducting an explosive nuclear test is no longer critical because President-elect [Joe] Biden has no intention of conducting such a test.”

The dueling proposals on nuclear testing came after reports earlier this year that the Trump administration raised the prospect of resuming nuclear testing as a negotiating tactic in its quest for a trilateral nuclear agreement with Russia and China to replace the expiring bilateral New START treaty with Russia.

The United States has not conducted an explosive nuclear test since 1992, checking the efficacy and reliability of its weapons instead with subcritical tests that produce no nuclear yield, computer simulations and other scientific methods.

The only country known to have conducted a nuclear test this century is North Korea.

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The Trump administration, without evidence, has also accused Russia and China of conducting very low-yield tests.

Those who opposed the House’s ban and supported making funding available argued a ban would amount to unilateral disarmament and that setting funding aside is prudent planning should a test become necessary.

Opponents of resuming nuclear testing, including Democrats and arms control advocates, argue a U.S. test would trigger nuclear testing by other countries and open the door to an arms race. An explosive would also be detrimental to human health and the environment without providing any benefits to studying the U.S. nuclear arsenal, they argue.

“By refusing to give the test a green light, lawmakers are wisely avoiding the risk of an explosive nuclear test setting off a new round in the nuclear arms race,” Laura Grego, senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists global security program, said in a statement Thursday applauding the exclusion of the Cotton amendment.