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Emmett Downwinder Against 'Divine Strake'

Boise, ID
By Thanh Tan

EMMETT - U.S. Defense officials tell KBCI CBS 2 News today they still plan to detonate 700 tons of explosives south of Idaho next month at the Nevada Test Site.

The department says this is not a nuclear test, but Idahoans who live in Emmett say they're concerned the explosion could disturb some radioactive dust leftover from the Cold War-- and fly in the northern direction toward Gem County. Officials confirm several nuclear tests were conducted at least one mile away from the site where the June 2 explosion-- dubbed Divine Strake-- is scheduled to be tested.

The headline in Emmett's local newspaper, Messenger Index, expressed a widespread concern among the community: "A new generation of Downwinders?"

"Emmett is almost directly north of the Nevada Test Site," Tona Henderson, an Emmett resident who has tracked cancer in more than forty members of her family, told KBCI CBS 2 News Monday as she pointed at a graphic in the paper.

Henderson and other who identify themselves as 'downwinders' argue Cold War-era weapons tests caused a higher incidence of cancer in their valley.

Now they have a new fear-- the planned detonation of 700 tons of explosives next month. Henderson says she believes the resulting dust cloud could kick up contaminated dirt in nearby test sites.

"I don't want anything tested at the Nevada Test Site that's going to put any of that soil into the air for anybody to breath," she said.

Nevada Test Site spokesman Darwin Morgan tells KBCI CBS 2 News that won't happen.

"There is no radioactive contamination in the soil that will be kicked up and brought into the air. Secondly, the dust cloud itself is expected to dissipate," he said.

But the government has a track record of being wrong.

Last year, the federal government concluded Gem County was indeed exposed to high levels of radioactive fallout throughout the Cold War. But they also concluded there was no evidence to prove the fallout led to a higher incidence of cancer.

"No, I don't believe them. And it's not the fact that I'm against the government. I'm just as patriotic as everybody else around here, but no-- I don't believe this at all," she said.

Morgan responds, "We would not be doing this experiment if there was going to be a likelihood that radioactive contaminants would be brought up into the dust cloud."

But Henderson says she's traced cancer among nearly forty of her relatives who've lived in the valley, including her mother.

If the government is wrong again-- she's afraid she could be next.

"For me-- don't have a clue. I could be one of the ones who by the time they're 60 years old, will have four forms of cancer," Henderson said, citing several family members and friends who have suffered multiple types of cancer. "My children right now have a chance. I have five children. I don't want that to happen to them."

CBS 2 News called Idaho's congressional delegation Monday.

Rep. Mike Simpson did not respond.

Rep. Butch Otter's spokesman says he has no comment.

Sen. Larry Craig's office says he supports the test because it is a means of fighting the war on terror and the possibility terrorists may hide weapons of mass destruction in underground bunkers.

Sen. Mike Crapo's spokesman tells CBS 2 News Crapo favors a potential delay of the test because there are still too many unanswered questions.


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