27 Jun 2017

A Brief History of the Nevada Test Site

Radioactive waste

On January 11, 1951, The US Department of Energy established a testing facility for nuclear devices. It is located around 65 miles north-west of Las Vegas.

Now known as the Nevada National Security site,the Nevada Test Site began testing activities on January 27, 1951, with a 1,000 ton TNT bomb.

From 1951 to 1992

The test site in Nevada was the main testing area for American nuclear weapons from 1951 to 1992. A total of 928 announced nuclear tests happened there. 828 of the tests were underground. Bigger tests were conducted outside the NTS. Most of them were done in the Marshall Islands, at the Pacific Proving Grounds.

In the 1950s mushroom clouds that formed during atmospheric tests were seen from as far as 100 miles away. Viewing mushroom clouds became a tourist attraction in Las Vegas. The final atmospheric test detonation done at the NTS was Operation Sunbeam’s “Little Feller I” on 17 July 1962.

Underground weapons testing ended on 23 September 1992 to honor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

1992 to Present

There was a 1,100 ton conventional explosive scheduled for testing at the site in June 2006. It was called Operation: Divine Strake. The bomb was a possible option to nuclear bunker busters. Congressmen from Nevada and Utah objected to the testing. The experiment was postponed to 2007. The test was officially cancelled by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency on 22 February 2007. The most recent detonation happened on December 7, 2012. It was a sub-critical test on the properties of plutonium. The test happened underground.

Protests and Demonstrations

From 1986 to 1994, or 2 years after the US stopped its full-scale testing of nuclear weapons, 536 demonstrations happened at the site. The protests involved 37,488 participants. Based on government records, there were 15,740 arrests made.

The Cold War is long over, and with it, the need for nuclear weapon testing facilities.

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