What Is the History of the Nevada Test Site?


Quick Answer

The Nevada Test Site was established in 1951 to serve as the primary testing ground for America's nuclear weapons program. Between 1951 and 1992, when the United States began to observe the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the range was the site of 828 nuclear tests. After the final nuclear fission test, the Nevada Test Site remained active for conventional and sub-critical nuclear tests.

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Full Answer

In the early days of the nuclear testing program, when fallout was poorly understood, the Nevada Test Site became a major tourist attraction. People flocked to the region to watch detonations, not knowing that winds were blowing radioactive particles throughout the region. Marked increases in several types of cancer resulted from this close proximity, and the region remains one of the most contaminated sites on the planet.

Much of the existing stock library of film and photographs related to nuclear detonations resulted from tests at the Nevada Test Site. For many of the above-ground explosions, fake houses or even small towns were constructed to monitor the blast wave and thermal effects of a nuclear blast on structures, vehicles and people. Most of the explosions, however, were initiated underground, with radioactive craters and contaminated aquifers the only remaining legacies of the testing program as of 2015.

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