Never-before-seen videos show nuclear weapons being secretly detonated in the Nevada desert


nuclear weapons blast explosion test operation plumbbob priscilla

Nevada National Security Site/Wikipedia (public domain)

A 37-kiloton blast known as "Priscilla" explodes during an Operation Plumbbob nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site on June 24, 1957. The device was detonated from a balloon.

The US government has detonated hundreds upon hundreds of nuclear weapons in secret.

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.

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.