Dee Rowland was one of several hundred delegates from 22 nations who in May gathered in a tiny village 30 miles from a Soviet nuclear test site in central Asia to create an international anti-nuclear movement.
Over that May weekend, the new organization met in Alma-Ata, the capital of the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. From there, the group - which included nuclear weapons lab workers, doctors, lawyers, clergy, scientists and activists - traveled to the Kazakhstani village of Karaul.With 16 other Utahns, Rowland participated in a huge anti-nuclear rally and witnessed the birth of the International Citizens Congress for a Nuclear Test Ban. Delegates to the congress drafted an action statement focused on the belief that all nuclear testing must be banned and that governments must redirect human and economic resources away from environmental destruction, economic catastrophe and nuclear war.
Now, says Rowland, they have to put their action statement to work.
"Someone said, `Putting the testing underground put us to sleep,' " Rowland told members of the Salt Lake chapter of the League of Women Voters Wednesday night.
Kazakhstanis woke up last year when two underground nuclear blasts vented radioactive material in the air. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement, named for Soviet and U.S. nuclear test sites, formed in Kazakhstan and now has several hundred thousand members. The movement is said to be responsible for the Soviet government's decision to cancel 11 of 18 underground nuclear tests scheduled last year.
The Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement invited the Utahns to the May congress. Under a Nevada-Semipalatinsk banner, which depicts an American Indian passing a peace pipe to an ethnic Kazakhstani under a red sun, downwinders from the two superpower countries shared their stories for the first time.
The Utah downwinders are residents from the southern part of the state, which was hit by fallout during the above-ground atomic testing in Nevada during the 1950s and early 1960s.
The Kazakhstani downwinders, Rowland said, were exposed to fallout from above-ground testing at Semipalatinsk. The villagers said that the government would sometimes give them as little as 30 minutes warning before a nuclear blast. Once, Rowland said, 30 villagers were told to stay home during a test and were given vodka as an "antidote" to radiation.
Rowland chronicled the weekend in color slide photographs and has shown them at two Salt Lake Valley speaking engagements. But she said anti-nuclear activists are now fixing their attention on the United Nations Test Ban Treaty Conference, to be held in New York in January to consider an amendment to the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty that would eliminate all nuclear testing.
The Soviet Union has had an undeclared moratorium on nuclear testing since October 1989. Since the May congress in Kazakhstan, the United States has conducted two nuclear tests, France four and China two.
The U.S. government has indicated it will not participate in the U.N. conference, Rowland said. Further, the government is deliberately avoiding informing members of Congress or the public that the conference has been scheduled, she said.