A delegation of Utahns opposed to nuclear testing is on its way to the Soviet Union, where the group plans to join a huge anti-nuclear protest.
The 17 Utahns, part of the International Citizens Congress for a Nuclear Test Ban, are traveling at the invitation of an anti-nuclear group of Soviet citizens in Kazakhstan, USSR, called Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement. They are to hold their first meeting in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, on Thursday.Semipalatinsk is the Soviet nuclear weapons testing center, located in Kazakhstan, one of the country's republics in Central Asia.
Nuclear testing is a health and environmental issue in Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union has exploded nuclear weapons for 40 years, say project organizers. Last year, an anti-nuclear group was formed there after two underground bomb blasts vented radioactive material into the atmosphere.
"Rally organizers expect at least 50,000 people, and perhaps as many as 75,000, to fill Alma-Ata's New Square on May 26 to call for the closing of nuclear test sites worldwide," said Peter Zheutlin of Cambridge, Mass., director of public affairs for International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, one of the sponsoring organizations. The physicians group's efforts earned it the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
Altogether, 300 participants from the United States, Japan, West Germany and a dozen other countries will join about an equal number of Soviet citizens for the congress. Represented in the group are nuclear weapons lab workers, physicians, lawyers, clergymen, scientists and activists from dozens of anti-nuclear groups worldwide.
A goal of the congress is to bring Utah citizens together with Soviet downwinders from the tiny village of Karaul, 30 miles from the site where the Soviet Union tests nuclear weapons. The Utahns include residents from the southern part of the state, which was hit by fallout during the open-air atomic testing of the 1950s and early '60s.
The group will travel to Karaul on May 27 for this meeting, and the congress will close there.
The Karaul session is believed to be "the first meeting of Soviet and American victims of nuclear weapons testing," Zheutlin said.
Steve Erickson, Salt Lake City, a member of the anti-testing group Nuclear Issues and a member of the delegation, said, "Utahns have a particular concern about nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site.
"From the 1950s to the present, nuclear tests are conducted when the weather and winds are moving toward the state of Utah, not toward more populated areas such as Los Angeles or Las Vegas."
The Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement now counts several hundred thousand members. The Soviet Foreign Ministry says it was responsible for cancellation of 11 of 18 scheduled underground nuclear tests in the Soviet Union in 1989, Zheutlin said.
Pressure from the movement also is responsible for the Soviet Union deciding to phase out the test site at Semipalatinsk, moving it to a remote island near the Arctic Circle.