B-52 A-Bomb Crash Test


Plutonium Valley is a six square mile valley in Area 11 on the Nevada Test Site, where in the early 1950’s, the AEC exploded 10,000 tons of TNT packed around a B-52 bomber and its nuclear device to simulate what could happen in a crash. The A-Bomb itself did not explode, but particles of plutonium were dispersed over a wide area which to this day remains accessible only to those wearing Rad suits and respirators as the environment will be contaminated for 400 generations. We could not enter, and after being greeted by the sign on the gate, my desire to get closer diminished. My Geiger counter finally had something abnormal to count.
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Slightly Hot Command Post


Occasionally the Nevada Test Site sells off surplus properties, which are most usually ‘command posts.’ I was told they are not radioactive, although my Geiger counter reacted by being placed near the skin of this ‘command post’. I went inside a few and while the Geiger counter beeped, I don’t think it was any more radioactive than say standing in front of the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.
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Plutonium on the Half Shell


This small suite of rooms in the MacDonald Ranch farmhouse sits deserted on the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). These rooms are where the ‘gadget’ was assembled after its arrival by car from Los Alamos. The tower holding the bomb was a short distance away, so the core was assembled and wired together in this desert farmhouse. Those assembling the gadget imagined the atomic bomb might set fire to the atmosphere.

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Test Structures – aka, The Motels


It sounds like it ought to be a rock band, but these were built to be destroyed in 1955. They have mostly weathered the storm, although at various times the Army used them for target practice despite being on the Historic Register of protected places. The tank was a test vehicle which became irradiated after a DU round pierced the hull and bounced around inside.
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Fat Man Hiroshima Bomb


A World War II bomb casing for Fat Man dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, is shown at the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. These casings were filled with concrete and dropped from B-29’s in tests at the White Sands Missile Range and other locations to see how they fell. Dropping two Atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan to surrender and brought the War in Asia to a close.
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Trestle, Area 5


This trestle was one of a series built for showing the effects of an atomic weapons pressure wave. There were a half dozen trestles, but today only one stands in the desolate silence of Frenchman Flat. More than 50 years has elapsed since Priscilla, as it was part of the Plumb-bob series detonated in 1957.
Hundreds of atomic weapons tests took place in the desert less than a hundred miles from Las Vegas. More to the point, the wind was not always blowing away from Vegas.

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Melted Concrete, Area 5


This window frame is part of the structure known as the ‘Motels’. They stretch across Frenchman Flat as a series of concrete structures erected to show how varying materials withstood shock waves and high temperatures. This piece of concrete is melted and shows pitting probably caused by a combination of stress and heat.
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Mercury Hiway


This is the view the public sees when passing the Nevada Test Site entrance off US 95 between Las Vegas and Reno. On the left are large pens built to hold protesters. Whenever the going gets tough, the administration in DC changes the Test Site’s name.
It began as the Nevada Proving Grounds, and then after a few A-bombs lit up the sky, it became the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and remained so for decades. Las Wegians could get up early, sit on their balconies, take a hit of reefer, and get a spectacular light show from less than 100 miles distant and if they weren’t lucky, the resulting shock wave could break their windows and/or cause them to be irradiated by fallout. It was recently decided it should be known as the Nevada Nuclear Security Site, although its role is the same as it used to be: testing atomic weapons, albeit now underground. In the interim, it was discovered that the NTS owned Area 51, not the CIA. Oops!
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