Research at the National Archives, nuclear detonations and craters.


These images represent just a fraction of the photographs housed at the Archives. Documentation of nuclear testing activity is stored in multiple collections. I poured through the Records of the Department of Energy, the Records of the Defense Nuclear Agency, and the Records of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. I will be returning to also consult the Records of the Atomic Energy Commission and to scan a few hundred images for use in my project. I’d like to thank researcher, Kevin Morrow, who generously made a few scans for me one day. Most researchers have brought a flatbed scanner or a tripod and SLR to the Archives. I made note of folders and images, and took quick shots with my phone. I will capture them properly when I return. (Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Notice the valley floor, no craters exist at the time of this early shot.

This is the March 17, 1953 Annie Test, the one in which the first round of mannequins played the role of human subjects.

Sedan Crater, Plowshare Program—excavation experiment, July 6, 1962.

“The Plowshare program, begun in 1958, sought to develop peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. The excavation tests, designed to demonstrate that nuclear devices could quickly and cheaply move massive amounts of earth in the digging of canals and harbors, were conducted at the test site. Most spectacular was the 1962 Sedan test. Buried 635 feet below ground…the 104-kiloton blast lifted a huge dome of earth 290 feet in the air, moved 6.5 million cubic yards of earth and rock, and left a crater 1,200 feet across and 320 feet deep.

Sedan also sent a cloud of radioactivity off in the direction of Salt Lake City, creating a brief scare when radioactive iodine-131 turned up in the local milk supply. Inability to totally contain the radioactivity coupled with disappointing results eventually signaled the death knell of the program in the mid-1970’s.”
(Fehner, Terrence R. and Gosling, F.G. Origins of the Nevada Test Site. United States Department of Energy. December 2000. pp.84.)

Notice the man standing at the bottom of the crater. This gives a sense of scale (bottom left corner of photo).

Sedan Crater