Nevada Test Site

Nevada Test Site

Infobox Military Test Site
name= Nevada Test Site

caption= November 1951 nuclear test at Nevada Test Site. Test is shot "Dog" from Operation Buster, with a yield of 21 kilotons. It was the first U.S. nuclear field exercise conducted on land; troops shown are a mere 6 miles from the blast.

base_caption=United States Locator Map
float_caption=Nevada Test Site
x= 40
y= 95

map_caption=Map showing location of the site
type= Nuclear testing range
coordinates= coord|37|07|N|116|03|W|
nearest_town= Las Vegas
country= the United States
area= ~convert|1350|sqmi|km2|abbr=on|
operator= United States Department of Energy
status= Active
dates= 1951–present
nuclear_tests= 928
The Nevada Test Site is a United States Department of Energy reservation located in Nye County, Nevada, about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of the City of Las Vegas, near coord|37|07|N|116|03|W|. Formerly known as the Nevada Proving Ground, the site, established on January 11, 1951 for the testing of nuclear weapons, is composed of approximately 1,350 square miles (3,500 km²) of desert and mountainous terrain. Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site began with a one-kiloton (4 terajoule) bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat on January 27, 1951. Many of the iconic images of the nuclear era come from NTS.

Quick facts

The Nevada Test Site has:
* 28 Areas
* 1,100 buildings
* 400 miles (643 km) paved roads
* 300 miles (482 km) unpaved roads
* 10 heliports
* 2 airstrips



Between 1951 and 1992, there were a total of 928 announced nuclear tests at Nevada Test Site. Of those, 828 were underground. ["United States Nuclear Tests"; July 1945 through September 1992, DOE/NV--209-REV 15 December 2000, p. xv. [] ] (Sixty-two of the underground tests included multiple, simultaneous nuclear detonations, adding 93 detonations and bringing the total number of NTS nuclear detonations to 1,021, of which 921 were underground.) [One multiple test took place in Colorado; the other 62 were at NTS. [] ] The site is covered with subsidence craters from the testing. The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices; 126 tests were conducted elsewhere (many at the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands).

During the 1950s, the mushroom cloud from these tests could be seen for almost 100 miles in either direction, including the city of Las Vegas, where the tests became tourist attractions. Americans headed for Las Vegas to witness the distant mushroom clouds that could be seen from the downtown hotels.

On July 17, 1962 the test shot "Little Feller I" of Operation Sunbeam became the last atmospheric test detonation at the Nevada Test Site. Underground testing of weapons continued until September 23, 1992, and although the United States did not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the articles of the treaty are nevertheless honored and further tests have not occurred. Tests not involving the full creation of a critical mass (subcritical testing) continue.

One notable test shot was the "Sedan" shot of Operation Storax on July 6 1962, a 104 kiloton shot for the Operation Plowshare which sought to prove that nuclear weapons could be used for peaceful means in creating bays or canals—it created a crater 1,280 feet (390 m) wide and 320 feet (100 m) deep that can still be seen today. While most of the larger tests were conducted elsewhere, NTS was home to tests in the 500 kiloton to 1 megaton (2 to 4 petajoule) range, which caused noticeable seismic effects in Las Vegas.

From 1986 through 1994, two years after the United States put full-scale nuclear weapons testing on hold indefinitely, at least 536 demonstrations were held at the test site involving 37,488 participants and 15,740 arrests, according to government records.

After the demonstrations, held by the American Peace Test, Nevada Desert Experience and Corbin Harney through the Shundahai Network continued to protest the government's continued nuclear weapons work and effort to put a repository for highly radioactive waste adjacent to the test site at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.


The site was scheduled to be used to conduct the testing of a 1,100-ton conventional explosive in an operation known as Divine Strake in June 2006. The bomb is a possible alternative to nuclear bunker busters, which Congress has been reluctant to fund, despite support from President Bush. [ [ Pentagon to Test a Huge Conventional Bomb ] ] However, after objection from Nevada and Utah members of Congress, the operation was postponed until 2007. On 22 February 2007 the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) officially canceled the experiment.

As of 2004, the test site offers public tours on approximately a monthly basis, although the taking of souvenir material is prohibited. Additionally, image taking and communication devices are prohibited. [U.S. DOE/NNSA - Nevada Site Office, Nevada Test Site Tours ]

While there are no longer any explosive tests of nuclear weapons at the site, there is still subcritical testing, used to determine the viability of the United States' aging nuclear arsenal. Additionally, the site is the location of the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Complex, which sorts and stores low-level radioactive waste that is not transuranic and has a half life of no greater than 20 years. Bechtel ran this complex until 2006. Several other companies won the latest bid for the contract. They then combined (formed) a new company called National Security Technologies. Interestingly, this new company has AECOM as part of the team. AECOM used to be Holmes and Narver. Holmes and Narver held the Nevada Test Site contract for many, many years before Bechtel had it.

Located at the ground zero for the Operation Teapot nuclear test is the Transportation Incident Exercise Site, which replicates multiple terrorist radiological incidents with train, plane, automobile, truck, and helicopter props.

Landmarks and geography

The town of Mercury, Nevada is located on the grounds of the NTS, and at one time housed contingents from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. Area 51 and the proposed high-level nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain are located nearby. The BREN Tower, a convert|1527|ft|m|sing=on high guyed tower originally for radiation experiments with an unshielded reactor simulating the amounts of radiation received by survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is located in the NTS at Jackass Flats.

Cancer and test site

In a report by the National Cancer Institute, released in 1997, it was determined that ninety atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) deposited high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels) across a large portion of the contiguous United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957—doses large enough, they determined, to produce 10,000 to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 allowed for people living downwind of NTS for at least two years in particular Nevada, Arizona or Utah counties, between January 21, 1951 – October 31, 1958 or June 30, 1962 – July 31, 1962, and suffering from certain cancers or other serious illnesses deemed to have been caused by fallout exposure to receive compensation of $50,000. By January 2006, over 10,500 claims had been approved, and around 3,000 denied, for a total amount of over $525 million in compensation dispensed to "downwinders". [] Uranium miners, mill workers and ore transporters are also eligible for $100,000 compassionate payment under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program, while $75,000 is the fixed payment amount for workers who were participants in the above-ground nuclear weapons tests.

Nuclear test series carried out at Nevada Test Site

*Operation Ranger — 1951
*Operation Buster-Jangle — 1951
*Operation Tumbler-Snapper — 1952
*Operation Upshot-Knothole — 1953
*Operation Teapot — 1955
*Project 56 — 1955
*Operation Plumbbob — 1957
*Project 57, 58, 58A — 1957–1958
*Operation Hardtack II — 1958
*Operation Nougat — 1961–1962
*Operation Plowshare — 1961–1973 (sporadic, at least one test a year)
*Operation Sunbeam — 1962
*Operation Dominic II — 1962–1963
*Operation Storax — 1963
*Operation Niblick — 1963–1964
*Operation Whetstone — 1964–1965
*Operation Flintlock — 1965–1966
*Operation Latchkey — 1966–1967
*Operation Crosstie — 1967–1968
*Operation Bowline — 1968–1969
*Operation Mandrel — 1969–1970
*Operation Emery — 1970
*Operation Grommet — 1971–1972
*Operation Toggle — 1972–1973
*Operation Arbor — 1973–1974
*Operation Bedrock — 1974–1975
*Operation Anvil — 1975–1976
*Operation Fulcrum — 1976–1977
*Operation Cresset — 1977–1978
*Operation Quicksilver — 1978–1979
*Operation Tinderbox — 1979–1980
*Operation Guardian — 1980–1981
*Operation Praetorian — 1981–1982
*Operation Phalanx — 1982–1983
*Operation Fusileer — 1983–1984
*Operation Grenadier — 1984–1985
*Operation Charioteer — 1985–1986
* Operation Musketeer — 1986–1987
*Operation Touchstone — 1987–1988
*Operation Cornerstone — 1988–1989
*Operation Aqueduct — 1989–1990
*Operation Sculpin — 1990–1991
*Operation Julin — 1991–1992


Iodine-131 resulting from all exposure routes from all atmospheric nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site
Yucca Flat area of the Nevada Test Site is scarred with subsidence craters from underground nuclear testing

ee also

*U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
*BREN Tower
*Upshot-Knothole Grable (Frenchman Flat)
*Atomic Testing Museum
*Corbin Harney
*Nevada Desert Experience
*Project Pluto
*Project Orion
*Yucca Flat
*Lookout Mountain Air Force Station


External links

* [ DOE Nevada Test Site]
* [ The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project]
* [ Origins of the Nevada Test Site]
* [ Radiation Exposure Compensation Act]
* [ Account of NTS fallout in 1955] (PDF)
* [ "Study Estimating Thyroid Doses of I-131 Received by Americans From Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Test"] , National Cancer Institute (1997)
* [ Atomic Testing Museum]
* [ Images of the Nevada Test Site] on the atomic bomb website
*Location maps:
** [ map]
** [ Detailed map showing the individual areas]
* [,+Nevada Annotated bibliography for the Nevada Test Site from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues]

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