D.C. City Council members approved a resolution yesterday in favor of a "mutual and verifiable nuclear weapons test ban" between the United States and the Soviet Union, but refused to criticize Moscow for withholding information on the recent nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl.
The resolution stated that many D.C. residents "believe that a ban on nuclear testing can be verified with high confidence" and it expressed the council's support for a mutual and verifiable ban of nuclear weapons testing as a "first step towards freezing and reversing the arms race."
Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), the lone Republican on the council, sought to amend the resolution by adding a call for "a full and complete disclosure of any and all nuclear accidents."
The amendment expressed the view that the Soviet Union had "acted irresponsibly" by not releasing more information on the accident, which resulted in an unknown number of casualties, massive evacuations from nearby areas and a spread of radiation throughout Europe and parts of the United States.
Schwartz's amendment went on to express doubts about whether a government that would withhold information on a nuclear reactor accident would honor a nuclear testing ban.
Schwartz said she had problems with the council trying to inject itself into international policy, but that if it was going to, it would "be derelict" not to refer to Chernobyl at the same time.
Council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), who introduced the nuclear testing resolution, objected to the amendment on the ground that there is a distinction between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Although she opposes both, Mason said, she did not want to lump the two together. Mason added that she had planned to introduce a resolution on Chernobyl at another time.
Council member John Ray (D-At Large) said he also saw a distinction, and council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8) asked Schwartz to withdraw the amendment.
On a roll call vote, the amendment failed 7 to 3, with council member Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) voting present and council members H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) and John Wilson (D-Ward 2) absent. Those in favor were council members Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) and Schwartz.
The nuclear testing resolution then was approved by voice vote in the council's committee of the whole, with Schwartz announcing her opposition. It was placed on the agenda for a final vote by the council next week.