Never-before-seen videos show nuclear weapons being secretly detonated in the Nevada desert
Researchers carried out above-ground blasts from 1945 up until 1963 - when the first nuclear test-ban treaty was signed.The goals of the tests were straightforward: detonate new bomb designs, measure their explosive power (called yield), and see what might happen to enemies unfortunate enough to be a target.Advertisement
About 10,000 videos of such tests were filmed, analyzed, and locked away in high-security vaults, where they were nearly forgotten. Most started to decay over the decades.
However, more than 50 years later, a team of scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is working day-in and day-out to rescue, scan, and analyze the high-speed films."This is it. We got to this project just in time," Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at LLNL, said in a video about the digitization effort. "We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing, to the point where they will become useless."
Over the past five years, Spriggs' team has scanned 6,500 films and declassified 750 of the never-before-seen videos. Several dozen have been uploaded to YouTube, with more on the way."These films are priceless to us," Spriggs told Business Insider.Here are some of the highlights from the videos, many of them recorded in the remote deserts of Nevada.Advertisement
Most of the never-before-seen films released by LLNL are of high-altitude explosions like this one from October 1962.
Far off from ground, nuclear blasts make fireballs that initially form a perfect orb. Yet the updraft soon mushrooms each explosion.Advertisement
However, some of the most interesting blasts were filmed at a desert location now called the Nevada National Security Site.
In most cases, a metal tower was erected, held down with wires, and a nuclear weapon was placed on top. The structures raised bombs hundreds of feet off the ground.Advertisement
Given the expense and importance of the tests, researchers filmed them from a variety of angles and distances.
Not all of the blasts went as planned. This one yielded about 80 times less energy than the bomb that exploded over Hiroshima.Advertisement
Analyzing each film takes about 4 hours, Spriggs told Business Insider. To estimate a yield, he has to measure the blast's fast-moving shock wave and — frame-by-frame — compare it to the expansion of the bright inner fireball.
After 1963, Russia and the US agreed to move nuclear weapons testing underground to prevent radioactive fallout, since it can increase rates of cancer.Advertisement
You can watch all of LLNL's newly declassified movies in LLNL's YouTube playlist.
- India's COVID-19 recovery rate nears 70%
- Putin announced that Russia approved a COVID-19 vaccine — and gave it to his daughter — despite serious concerns over its safety
- After 10 years of trying, NASA finally bounced its first-ever laser beam off the lunar orbiter
- Krishna Janmashtami 2020 wishes, messages and quotes
- Reliance-Saudi Aramco $15 billion deal is going through due diligence before final decision