LAS VEGAS — A continuing strike at the nation's nuclear testing grounds has slowed work at the desert site but may have more of an impact on the 1988 test schedule, an Energy Department official said Monday.
"I can't say the strike is having no impact," said Nick Aquilina, manager of the Energy Department's Nevada Operations Office. "We're directing all our efforts to tests on the near-term scale.
"We're going slower on the shots because we're using people who haven't done that type of work in a while," Aquilina said.
The head of the nuclear-testing program said it takes a year to prepare for most tests. He told a news conference that some shots planned for next year may have to be delayed because of problems caused by more than two months of labor strife.
Aquilina said many supervisors have been pressed into duty, working at jobs they had not done for years, to compensate for the walkout by about 3,000 union workers.
Bus Drivers Walk Out
Labor problems began Aug. 15 when bus drivers who transport workers to the site 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas went on strike. Then, Culinary Union workers who provide food services to the site's 5,500 workers set up picket lines on Sept. 15 when they failed to obtain a new contract with the site's largest contractor, Reynolds Electrical & Engineering Co. About 3,000 workers from 10 unions have been honoring the picket lines.
The government has conducted two tests since the strike began, despite vows by the Culinary Union to shut down the testing range. However, a tunnel test scheduled for late September had to be postponed, Aquilina confirmed.
The striking union workers include mine workers, steelworkers and Teamsters who are involved in preparation of the shafts and tunnels where the nuclear devices are detonated.
Aquilina said the Energy Department is in daily contact with Reynolds but has made no effort to force the contractor into a settlement.
"It's been our policy that we not get involved," Aquilina said.
Aquilina said he doesn't believe the strike will last long enough to cause a major impact on testing. But he admitted, "I never thought the strike would last this long."