M 7 Bloomington Peace Action Coalition M 6


Hoosiers Against 'Divine Strake'



All news articles, editorials, and letters about 'Divine Strake'
published in Bloomington, Indiana's daily newspaper:
The Herald Times

© 1997 - 2006 Hoosiertimes Inc.

In order of most recent to earliest newspaper pieces.


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Mitchell mayor joins in protest of bomb test
Chastain says safety is a concern if huge explosives test takes place in rural quarry

by Krystal Slaten and Carly Nation
Bedford Times-Mail
August 29, 2006

MITCHELL - People from all over the area streamed into Mitchell Monday to protest the possibility of a huge military explosives test in a quarry in rural Lawrence County.

David Sanders, Democratic candidate for Indiana's 4th Congressional District, had scheduled a news conference on the matter for 9:30 a.m. But because of inclement weather, Sanders' plane could not land at either the Bedford or Bloomington airports, according to Mitchell Mayor Morris "Butch" Chastain, who addressed the crowd.

Sanders, who is running against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, rescheduled that news conference for 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 407 S. Sixth St.

Chastain, speaking out against the testing idea, said he's heard from many area residents since the quarry was listed in a Nevada newspaper as a potential site for the test.

"People are worried about their homes, their sewer systems and the cave system," he said.

"They've said the blast will create a 10,000-foot cloud. We don't know what that does. We don't know what that does to homes, but we know it does damage."

Chastain was passing around a petition Monday to all who were in attendance. He said he would ask the city council to pass a resolution opposing the test. The petition and resolution will be forwarded by the mayor's office to Gov. Mitch Daniels' office and to Rogers Group Inc., which owns the quarry in question.

"There's enough people here to say, 'no,'" Chastain announced to the crowd, which included local and regional news crews.

The so-called "Divine Strake" test has been scheduled for sometime next year, pending legislation on the floor of the U.S. Senate. The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Sept. 5.

The $23 million test had been scheduled to take place this summer in the Nevada desert. It would involve detonating 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. But the Defense Threat Reduction Agency said on Aug. 1 it was delaying the controversial project at least until 2007 and considering other locations.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted an official as saying the agency might look to "places that we tested before," including sites in New Mexico and near Bedford.

Agency spokeswoman Cheri Abdelnour has not said whether the quarry is under consideration for the test.

But smaller test explosions using up to 1.5 tons of explosives occurred at Mitchell Quarry in July 2004 and March 2005 as part of a project the military dubbed the Tunnel Target Defeat Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration.

Timothy Baer of the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition told 25 people at the Monroe County Public Library on Friday that he believes the military plans to use the quarry for Divine Strake. The test could help develop weapons to penetrate hardened, deeply buried targets.

"This is the largest conventional explosion ever," Baer said.

The explosion could harm the region's underlying cave system, Baer said.

News conference set for Wednesday

David Sanders, Democratic candidate for Indiana's 4th Congressional District, has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Mitchell's City Hall, 407 S. Sixth St., on the subject of possible explosives testing in a Lawrence County quarry.

Sanders is running against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer.

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Rogers Group says no immense bomb testing at Mitchell

by Jason Mullis
Bedford Times-Mail
August 29, 2006

MITCHELL -- Following a press conference outside city hall Monday, the vice president of Rogers Group said no immense military bomb testing will take place at the company's Mitchell facility. Mitchell's mayor said he's relieved.

"We do not intend to have any blast beyond what we typically have for our mining operations," said Greg Gould, vice president at Rogers Group, which owns the quarry west of Mitchell. "Rogers Group has not been in contact with the DTRA (Defense Threat Reduction Agency) about Divine Strake, and we do not expect to be."

Two previous times Rogers Group has cooperated with the U.S. Government in the testing of much smaller ordnance than what Divine Strake would entail.

"About a year ago they called us and asked if Rogers Group would be interested in allowing them to do some basic testing at our Mitchell facility," Gould said. "We said, 'Maybe, tell us exactly what you have in mind.'"

After the same due diligence used in evaluating the art of blasting rock faces, it was determined the tests would be safe.

"Those shots were not huge," said Gary Pavlis, a professor of geological sciences at Indiana University. "They were smaller, actually, than what a quarry typically explodes, anyway."

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Check your coverage
August 28, 2006

Letter to the editor:

I urge you to check your insurance coverage before the proposed super bomb is exploded near Mitchell, as reported in the H-T recently. I found out that my house is covered should it be hit by debris from the mushroom cloud of the bomb. But I have no coverage if the blast moves the earth thus moving the house's foundation.

This proposed explosion is an experiment. No one knows for sure what damage the blast will do here. Since the bomb is designed to be able to crush deeply buried concrete installations, I am certainly concerned about what the shock waves of the blast would do to the foundation of my house.

Is this test really necessary? It seems to me that bombing is not the way to peace. Let's try diplomacy.

Claire Gregory, Bloomington

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Local group opposes quarry blast
700 tons of explosives could be tested in Mitchell Quarry

By Emily Thickstun
331-4363 | ethickstun@heraldt.com
August 26, 2006

Local environmental activists met Friday to brainstorm ideas about how to keep 700 tons of explosives from being detonated in Mitchell Quarry.

From exploding anywhere, really, said Timothy Baer of the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition.

“It's a nuclear simulation,” Baer said. “This is the largest conventional explosion ever. And it's just a test.”

About 25 people met in the Monroe County Public Library to discuss environmental and health concerns about the project, which has been given the code name Divine Strake. The test has been likened to a simulation of a nuclear bunker-buster bomb.

According to Baer, the test is scheduled for sometime next year, pending legislation currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate. The earliest a vote could occur on the bill is Sept. 5.

Thus, the urgency of Friday's meeting. Everyone was urged to call Indiana Sens. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar. But before calling, Baer said, it is important to have suggestions for the legislators.

David Keppel said residents can urge them to introduce an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that legally blocks the test. He said there is no money allocated in the defense budget for Divine Strake, but it would be relatively inexpensive to carry out.

Keppel also said he thinks the blast is a precursor to a nuclear bomb being dropped on Iran.

“When this bomb is dropped … it jolly well is going to be nuclear,” he said.

The group reached a consensus to join the national effort to stop the testing and to call itself Hoosiers Against Divine Strake. Those in attendance offered suggestions for action, including circulating petitions, contacting the medical and business communities, and trying to find out if there was any radioactive material left over from previous, smaller tests near Mitchell.

There was discussion of a forum at Indiana University in the fall, as well as reaching out to local legislators.

Baer said the explosion would drastically change the native landscape.

“It's likely going to do irreparable damage to karst topography,” he said.

Smaller-scale blasts at Mitchell Quarry took place in July 2004 and March 2005 and were part of the military's Tunnel Target Defeat Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration project.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency said Aug. 1 that it was delaying the controversial Divine Strake project until at least 2007 and was considering other locations. The Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted an official as saying the agency might look to “places that we tested before,” including sites in New Mexico and near Bedford.

Meeting

A news conference is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday in Mitchell City Hall, 407 S. Sixth St., to discuss the test. It is being held by Mitchell Mayor Butch Chastain as well as David Sanders, who is running for U.S. representative in the 4th District against Rep. Steve Buyer.

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Too dangerous
August 26, 2006

Letter to the editor:

It is interesting to see that in their desire to develop a nuclear bunker-buster bomb, the Defense Department wants to set off a test explosion equivalent to nearly 600 tons of TNT, which would release a cloud of dust and debris 10,000 feet into the air. Their first plan was to do so in Nevada. They met with strong opposition from Nevada and Utah citizens who declined the honor of being subjected to potential toxic fallout from the blast.

Now, according to a report in the Aug. 15 Herald-Times, the military seems to want to shift to a new site, a quarry in Mitchell.

Nevada is three times the area of Indiana, but has only one-third the number of people as Indiana. Aside from the moral implications of bringing yet another nuclear weapon into the world, I'm curious to know why if this test is too dangerous for the sparsely inhabited Nevada desert, we should think it's safe for Southern Indiana's towns and farmlands.

- Rudolf A. Raff, Bloomington

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Beyond human control?
August 26, 2006

Letter to the editor:

Earth and humanity are under siege by the giant Pentapus. Though the camouflaged carapace of this monster is visible on the shores of the Potomac, what makes the Pentapus so devastatingly lethal is its "stealth" tentacles.

One humongous tentacle is wrapped many times around the U.S. taxpayer, those suction cups sucking him dry. Another is coiled around the nation's innocent youth, squeezing the life and blood out of them. (What could you possibly know about history, life and how the world operates when you're 18 years old?)

Another great arm has Congress and military contractors squeezed together in an addictive, desperate relationship. A fourth tentacle has the schools, churches and corporate media held tight in a fearful, inky black darkness so they can't see the clear light of truth about our nation's mythologized and violent history. A last tentacle is buried in the Mideast, sucking up oil both for the U.S. economy and the Pentapus itself.

Not from another planet, this radioactive Cold War Leviathan was conjured up by powerful oligarchs, plutocrats and corporate interests over the past 65 years. As James Carroll in his recent "House of War" entreats: Is it now beyond human control?

- Greg Haas, Bloomington

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Divine Strake ~ Commentary

by Mike Leonard
H-T columnist | leonard@heraldt.com
August 22, 2006

No one with any sense is laughing about the purported plan for the military to detonate 700 tons of explosives in Lawrence County.

The plan is said to be a test of "bunker busting" capabilities of the military.

Why they don't test it on, oh, one of Saddam Hussein's old bunkers in Iraq is hard to say.

But the program, called Divine Strake, met with such strong opposition in barren Nevada that the government's Defense Threat Reduction Agency backed off from its plan to do testing there and suggested it might use one of the sites that previously had been used for testing, including one near Mitchell.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that defense officials said the explosion would create a nuclear-sized mushroom cloud that would rise 10,000 feet into the atmosphere.

Scientists and environmentalists are still trying to calculate just how much pollution that would send across southern Indiana.

Whatever the numbers say, it remains an unbelievable proposition - one that makes the proposed new-terrain I-69 plan appear harmless.

Gov. Mitch Daniels likes to present himself as one who still has pull with the Bush administration, for which he once worked. Could you give us a hand here, My Man? We don't need no stinkin' bunker-busting tests.

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Sanders says Buyer should oppose massive explosives test in quarry

by Steve Hinnefeld
331-4374 | shinnefeld@heraldt.com
August 18, 2006

David Sanders, the Democratic candidate for Congress in Indiana's 4th District, came out swinging Thursday against using a Lawrence County quarry for a massive explosives test by the U.S. military.

The Purdue University biology professor said his opponent, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., was irresponsible for not opposing the test.

"The people of Nevada stopped this explosion from happening on their soil, so the federal government started to look for a place that is politically less protected," Sanders said in a news release. "Apparently, that's Bedford in the 4th Congressional District of Indiana."

The test, called Divine Strake, was planned for this summer in Nevada, but was put on hold after neighbors objected. A spokeswoman for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is doing the test, said it could be moved, possibly to Rogers Group's Mitchell Quarry. Another official with the agency said this week that there's no list of potential sites for the test.

Laura Zuckerman, a spokeswoman for Buyer, said he was concerned about explosives tests in his district and seeking more information about the defense agency's plans.

"We still need to be educated about what they're thinking, and in a timely manner," she said.

Divine Strake, using 700 tons of explosives, is designed to test the effects of bunker-busting weapons on hardened, underground sites. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency did much smaller tests with 1.5 tons of explosives at the Mitchell Quarry in 2004 and 2005.

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Bomb test worth worrying about

Our opinion
Herald Times
August 16, 2006

Tuesday's story raising the possibility that the military might explode a
super-bomb near Mitchell - a few miles down the road from Bloomington -
gives pause. At best (or worst), it's only speculation that the armed forces
are serious about this, at least in this area. But if it were to go off, it
would be equivalent to almost 600 tons of TNT, a huge jolt.

People in the story by Steve Hinnefeld predicted a 10,000-foot mushroom
cloud looming over the site of such a blast. The location here likely would
be a quarry where blasting has occurred in the past.

The operation would be part of tests to determine the effectiveness of
"bunker busting" bombs that conceivably could be targeted on a mountain
stronghold of al-Qaida - or dare one say it, an underground nuclear facility
in some rogue, as yet unnamed country.

Two smaller tests apparently already have been conducted in Indiana,
although no one who should know admits to knowing much. And of course, it's
the military during wartime, so they aren't saying a lot, either.

Some critics of the plan worry that the test really is designed to advance
research on a small nuclear device to target deeply dug-in weapons
facilities in hostile lands. Such a weapon would be similar in effect to
this conventional explosive, just better - or is that
worse?

It could get a lot worse. The yield from the world's first atomic blast in
war, the one that destroyed Hiroshima, was estimated at about 15 kilotons.

Our bomb, at less than a kiloton, doesn't come close. Still, critics in
Nevada and Utah, other proposed test locations for the bunker buster, have
raised concerns about airborne pollution. And we have all sorts of questions
about the effects on our own karst
topography.

This area is familiar with weaponry. Crane's mountains of munitions and
sophisticated weaponry are as close to Bloomington as Mitchell is, after
all. But this new possibility seems darker, more frightening. We must all
ask questions - not just about this new
device - but about what has led us to this point.

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Quarry owner says explosives tests were safe

Rogers Group not aware of any plans for 700-ton test at site near Mitchell

By Steve Hinnefeld
331-4374 | shinnefeld@heraldt.com
August 16, 2006

Rogers Group confirmed Tuesday that military tests that involved blasting
took place at its Mitchell Quarry in 2004 and 2005, but said the explosions
weren't out of line with what happens at the crushed-stone facility.

"Blast levels were lower than typical blasting for our crushed stone
business," said a prepared statement provided by Margaret Angell, a public
relations specialist with the Nashville, Tenn., company.

She said the blasting was conducted within federal guidelines, and
monitoring devices were used to make sure the blast levels stayed within
acceptable limits.

Angell said Rogers Group hasn't been approached about a massive blasting
test, using 700 tons of explosives, that the Defense Threat Reduction Agency
wants to carry out next year.

The agency halted plans to conduct the test this year in the Nevada desert.
A Las Vegas newspaper reported it was looking at other sites, including
Mitchell Quarry.

A spokeswoman for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency would not say this
week whether the Indiana site was under consideration for the blast, called
Divine Strake, aimed at helping develop weapons to penetrate hardened,
deeply buried targets.

The smaller-scale blasts at Mitchell Quarry took place in July 2004 and
March 2005 and were part of the military's Tunnel Target Defeat Advanced
Concept Technology Demonstration project. Defense Threat Reduction Agency
spokeswoman Cheri Abdelnour said they used up to 1.5 tons of explosives.

Steve Weinzapfel, a blasting expert with the Indiana Division of
Reclamation, said it's common for surface coal mines to use several times
that much explosives, but not all at once.

"A typical coal mine blast could be anywhere from 30 to 40 tons, but they're
not going to shoot that at one time," he said. "They don't shoot more than
500 to 1,500 pounds, depending on the distance from homes and so forth."

According to the Rogers Group statement, the tests complied with rules of
the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, the primary agency that
regulates quarry blasting. It says Rogers Group "has a long, positive
history working with governmental agencies, including military installations
and the Energy Department.

Rogers Group was founded in Bloomington in 1908 and moved its headquarters
to Tennessee several years ago. It is the seventh- largest crushed stone
producer in the U.S. with 1,900 employees in five states.

Sue Webster, spokeswoman for the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, said
Crane wasn't involved in the 2004 and 2005 quarry blasts.

Jane Jankowski, spokeswoman for Gov. Mitch Daniels, said state officials
were apparently unaware of the project. "I've not been able to come up with
any information about this other than what I've read in the papers," she
said.

Asked what the state would do if approached about the Divine Strake project,
she said, "We'd have a lot of questions."

© 1997 - 2006 Hoosiertimes Inc.

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Military explosives tested at area quarry
Site near Mitchell may be considered for huge blast 'equivalent to 593 tons of TNT'

by Steve Hinnefeld
shinnefeld@heraldt.com
August 15, 2006

A massive nonnuclear explosion aimed at testing the capability of "bunker
busting" weapons for the military could take place in Lawrence County,
according to a newspaper report.

But a spokeswoman for the government's Defense Threat Reduction Agency,
which is planning the test, wouldn't confirm that a limestone quarry near
Mitchell is one of the sites that are under consideration.

Cheri Abdelnour said the agency is "assessing several possible sites" for
the explosion, but it's premature to say where they are.

The $23 million test, called Divine Strake, had been scheduled to take place
this summer in the Nevada desert. It would involve detonating 700 tons of
ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, a common explosive.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency said Aug. 1 it was delaying the
controversial project at least until 2007 and considering other locations.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted an official as saying the agency might
look to "places that we tested before," including sites in New Mexico and
near Bedford.

Abdelnour said Monday the agency conducted intermediate-scale tests in July
2004 and March 2005 at a Rogers Group quarry near Mitchell. The tests, using
up to 1.5 tons of explosives, were part of the agency's Tunnel Target Defeat
Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration.

"The calibration and ground shock tests were successfully conducted in
compliance with all applicable environmental regulations. Standard safety
precautions associated with mining operations were taken," she said by
e-mail.

The planned Divine Strake test met with strong opposition in Nevada and
Utah, where downwind residents said it could spread contamination from
underground nuclear tests. Critics also said it could produce tons of
particulate, cyanide compounds and other
airborne pollutants.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that quoted defense officials said it
would "send a mushroom-shaped dust cloud 10,000 feet into the atmosphere and
release an explosive yield equivalent to detonating 593 tons of TNT."

Another issue is whether the military is using the test to develop a
low-yield nuclear device to target underground sites. Some members of
Congress thought they had blocked funding for such a weapon.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency said the Divine Strake test is aimed at
gauging the effectiveness of conventional weapons to destroy hardened and
deeply buried targets, or HDBTs, which can store weapons of mass
destruction.

But critics say the size of the blast suggests it's intended to help develop
a new nuclear device. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, wrote to the agency: "I am
understandably worried that this demonstration is publicly being billed as a
conventional demonstration when its
actual intent is to further the pursuit of a new nuclear weapon."

Spokeswomen for Fourth District U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, whose district
includes Lawrence County, and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh said Monday they hadn't
heard about the proposal.

The Crane Naval Weapons Support Center has done work for the Defense Threat
Reduction Agency, but spokeswoman Sue Webster was unable to find anyone at
the center Monday who was familiar with the project.

As for the 2004 and 2005 tests at a quarry near Mitchell, they apparently
went off without notice by local officials and residents.

Valerie Luchauer, the Lawrence County emergency management director, said
she wasn't told about the tests. Attempts to reach Rogers Group headquarters
in Nashville, Tenn., Monday evening were not successful.

In brief

A military agency spokeswoman won't confirm a report that a Mitchell quarry
is a possible site for a weapons experiment that involves detonating 700
tons of explosives. But she did say the Defense Threat Reduction Agency
conducted much smaller explosives tests at
the quarry in 2004 and 2005.


© 1997 - 2006 Hoosiertimes Inc.



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