Nuclear Weapons

HEAL has engaged in several campaigns to protect Utahns from nuclear threats, including efforts to support downwinders — and to pass a permanent ban on nuclear weapons testing, aka the CTBT.


Between 1951 and 1992, 925 nuclear weapons tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site, including 100 above-ground tests. Utahns, and millions of other Americans, were never told the fallout was dangerous to their health, or instructed to seek shelter as the radioactive clouds rained fallout over their homes, gardens and pastures.

For decades the federal government denied any responsibility for the deaths and illnesses that ravaged Utah’s communities. It wasn’t until 1990 that Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Pushed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and the late Congressman Wayne Owens (D-UT), RECA promises to give $50,000 to each person who developed specific types of radiation related cancer attributed to fallout and who lived in one of a handful of counties in Utah, Nevada, or Arizona. Ironically — and sadly — many counties in Utah received more fallout than those included in the RECA program, but because they were not listed in the Act, those Utahns are not eligible for compensation.

RECA claim forms for downwinders can be found here.

To listen to HEAL’s interviews with Utah downwinders click here.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

HEAL Utah has long worked to ensure that the U.S. never again tests nuclear weapons by supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  The CTBT is a global treaty that would ban all explosive nuclear weapons tests in the United States and throughout the world. The treaty has been ratified by 163 nations but will not go into effect until a small handful of hold out nations ratify the treaty: the United States, Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Egypt, China, and Israel.

Though the United States signed the treaty in 1996, it has yet to be ratified by the U.S Senate. Ratifying the treaty requires a favorable vote by a supermajority of the U.S. Senate (67 votes). HEAL has an ongoing campaign to educate and organize public support for ratification of the CTBT, which would forever put an end to the menace of nuclear weapons testing.

For more information or to get involved please contact HEAL’s Rob DeBirk.


Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Arms Control Association: Project for the CTBT

KCPW Interview with Under Secretary of Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller: Part 1, Part 2.

Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller lecture at Westminster College sponsored by HEAL Utah and the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Editorial in CTBTO’s Spectrum by former Utah Senator Jake Garn

Editorial in CTBTO’s Spectrum by former Utah State Representative Ryan Wilcox

Recent Posts about Nuclear Weapons…

Author Sarah Fox to Speak at 7th Annual REMEMBERING DOWNWINDERS DAY Events

Author Sarah Fox to speak at 7th Annual Remembering Downwinders Day events

in commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the inception of nuclear testing in Nevada

Seattle author, historian, and professor of environmental studies Sarah Fox will speak at the Downwinders Remembrance Day event at 6:30 pm on January 20 as a guest of UCAN (Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), and UNAU (United Nations Association of Utah).

The Remembering Downwinders Day event will be hosted by Congregation Kol Ami at 2425 East Heritage Way, approximately 2760 South. Fox, author of Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West (University of Nebraska Press, 2014,, will address the history and health and environmental impacts of nuclear testing in Nevada. Songwriter Kate MacLeod will also be featured in this program, along with candle lighting and sharing of stories.

January of 2018 marks the 67th anniversary of the first nuclear test conducted in Nevada; over 900 additional nuclear explosions followed by 1992. For the first 11 years, the tests took place in the open air; Atomic Energy Commission policy dictated that tests go forward only when the wind blew east, away from Las Vegas and California and out across Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, and states beyond. Massive amounts of toxic radiological pollution entered into the environment, contaminating the air, food, and water that local citizens relied on, and creating a legacy of health problems that ripples forward to the present day. The tests weren’t the only source of radioactive pollution in the West; the uranium industry that sprang up to fuel the bombs contaminated thousands of sites, communities, waterways, and families. Many of these uranium-affected regions also bore the brunt of contamination from nuclear tests in Nevada. Remembering the downwinders requires that we do more than mark the past: we must reckon with the persistent and dangerous ways this history of contamination impacts us today and looms over our childrens’ futures.

The Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is a collection of concerned citizens who join a growing and diverse group of leaders and fellow citizens from across the political spectrum who believe that now is the time for the United States to lead the world in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. United Nations Association of Utah seeks to heighten public awareness and increase knowledge of global issues and build support for constructive national policies on global concerns.

Fox will speak at the following public events (all are free and open to the public):

Saturday, Jan. 20, 6:30 pm, “Remembering Downwinders” at Congregation Kol Ami, 2425 E. Heritage Way, approximately 2720 South (just south of I-80).   Kate MacLeod will also be featured in this program, along with candle lighting and sharing of stories.

Sunday, January 21, 1:30 pm, “Bearing Witness: Retelling the Past in Pursuit of Social Justice” talk, potluck lunch at 1, St. Marks, Deans Hall, 231 East 100 South.  

Monday, January 22 11 am, “Stories from Downwind: Investigating the Nuclear West” talk at 11:00 am at Utah Valley University, Classroom Building room 317.

Monday, January 22 3-5 pm, Tea with the Author, Jane’s House. A chance to ask in-depth questions and share stories at length. 444 E 200 S.

Tuesday, January 23, 12:30 pm, “From Personal Narrative to Policy: Downwind Stories Shifting the Status Quo” Pizza and Politics with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, 332 S. 1400 East, Building 72, room 102 (The Old Law College Moot Courtroom).

Tuesday, January 23, 7 pm, “Raising our Voices Downwind: Citizen Narratives as a Force for Nuclear Policy Change.” United Nations Association of Utah, talk at Millcreek Community Center and Library, 2266 E. Evergreen Ave.

# # #

If you would like more information about any of these events please contact Deb Sawyer of UCAN at or Sarah Fox at 206 930 3921, email at


HEAL Hiring, Voting, Remembering & Solaring!

A bunch going on over here in HEALville -- a job we're hiring, a reminder about voting, and a few important upcoming events, including our Community Night this coming Thursday . Here's a quick rundown.

  • We're Hiring! Winter and spring are HEAL's busiest times. Not only does the annual session of the State Legislature start, but it's also when we face our loathsome wintertime inversions. So, to help us get a bunch done, especially when it comes to public education and outreach, we've decided to hire a part-time, seasonal Clean Air Grassroots Organizer! It's roughly a December-March gig that we think will be super interesting. Click here for more information about the job.
  • Registered to vote? Did you know 35 percent of Americans are not? That's crazy, right? So get on it! This is a year with critical races, starting, obviously with a, well, interesting Presidential race. And then flowing down through the U.S. Senate, Congress, State House, State Senate and much more. As to those who fear their vote doesn't count, let me tell you about a school board election in my Salt Lake neighborhood earlier this year: The top two candidates were separated by 5 votes. 5! Every one of those votes counted. HEAL cannot tell you who we think you should vote for -- our federal tax status precludes endorsements -- but we can urge you to register to vote. And, then, of course to vote! Here's a handy link which makes it easy to register. Do it!
  • Downwinders: As part of HEAL's nuclear work, we've long supported efforts to assist and highlight the experiences of Uthans injured by the legacy of America's nuclear weapons testing program in Nevada. Next week, as part of unveiling their new Downwinders of Utah Archive, the Marriot Library at the University of Utah is hosting a panel discussion and a film showing. The panel, which includes former Rep. Jim Matheson and HEAL Advisory Council member Mary Dickson, will be Monday at 10 am, while the showing of the documentary "Downwinders" will be the same day at 6 pm. For information about either, click here.
  • Rooftop Solar Community Night: Please join HEAL staff and a special guest for one of our regular Community Night gatherings, this coming Thursday October 6 at the Main Library in Salt Lake City. As we wrote last week, this is a critical moment for solar power in Utah. An array of powerful interests  — utilities and some State Legislators — are pushing policies that could squash solar just as it’s gaining momentum. Community Nights are a great chance to dive deeper into this issue and meet the HEAL staff and your fellow supporters. If you think you can make it, pleaseRSVP here so we know how many folks to expect. Also, if you want to invite friends or family, please use our Facebook event page. The event, again, is Thurs. 10/6 at 7 p.m. in theFourth Floor meeting room of the  Salt Lake City Public Library.

OK, that's it for now!

Have a great, lovely, fall weekend.


Matt Pacenza
HEAL Utah Executive Director and Voting Promoter

P.S. Save the Date!

We're not quite ready to start selling tickets yet for our TENTH Annual HEAL Fall Party, but we do know the date! So save it! Thurs. Nov. 17 at the State Room in downtown Salt Lake. Details to follow.


Episode #42: Chip Ward, HEAL Utah Co-Founder

Matt chats with Chip, the central figure in HEAL's founding, about how our environmental organization was born. Chip describes those early days in the West Desert and then how the group evolved to work on nuclear waste issues and then eventually clean air and clean energy. The two then talk about Chip's work in Torrey, where he's retired, including how water supplies limit growth there and the community's effort to resist a proposed gravel mine in Teasdale. They end by discussing Chip's friend and HEAL Utah Breakfast speaker Rebecca Solnit (tickets for the 5/24/16 event available here.)


If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast — and get each week’s new episode delivered magically to your phone or other device — here’s the link to the iTunes feed for the HEAL Utah Podcast. If you use an Android app or another non iTunes method, paste this link — — into whatever app you use. Lastly, you can also subscribe to the podcast via Soundcloud.

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