In the 1950s we had a dream. Nuclear energy would take excavation to a new level, turning the lives of everyone to liesure and luxury.
While stockpiles of nuclear weapons were constructed, project plowshare was excitedly followed by millions of americans. It would be a matter of a few hours to create new harbors. In days we would create a new Panama Canal without locks. There would be no other reason but recreation to climb a mountain to get to the other side - just blow a hole through it.
Nuclear power was the future... then came the environmental movement. They KNEW that experimentation with nuclear explosives had no other purpose than the destruction of humankind. They KNEW that those who had dreamed of going into the future with a new tool for the ease of individual suffering were in reality the agents of evil.
It has turned out that for very different reasons it has become obvious that nuclear explosives are not a free lunch. The optimism of the 1950s has given way to the knowledge gained by trying and failing. The environmental movement continues to focus on issues long settled. atmospheric testing like this can no longer be justified, but the underground testing of new formulations of explosives might yet find a way to excavate that new Panama Canal - if not opposed by inexplicable fear.
Several of the events which brought both hope and fear during the 1950s are included in this page. The latest was Sedan Crater, which demonstrated the current capability to dig a deep draft harbor in one easy scoop:
Project Sedan Detonated July 6, 1962 Explosive Type Thermonuclear: 70% fusion 30% fission Yield 100 kiloTons Medium alluvium Depth of Burial 635 feet Emplacement Hole Diameter 36 inches Crater Statistics Maximum Depth 320 feet Maximum Diameter 1280 feet Volume Lifted 6.6 million cubic yards Weight of Material Lifted 1.2 million ton Maximum Lip Height 100 feet Minimum Lip Height 20 feet Atmospheric Tests - These are representative of significant milestones: Code Name Date Yield Location Type Trinity 7/16/45 20 kT White Sands Tower In addition to Trinity there were two War drops, two at Bikini as operation Crossroads in 1946, three at Eniwetok x,y,z as operation Sandstone Spring 1948, and operation Greenhouse in 1951, before Ivy in 1952. There were five bursts 1951 Ranger and ... Buster Jangle and eight at 1952 Tumbler Snapper at NV Test Site. There was a balloon and two high altitude redstone shots as operation Hardtack from Johnson Island in 1953, and 8 more tries with five successful launches as operation Dominic in 1962; the pad on Johnson Island got pretty contaminated when one of these burned on the pad; the other two were destroyed after launch due to loss of telemetry. There were also polaris and asroc tests at sea in 1962. Mike 10/31/52 10.4 MT Eniwetok atoll Surface One of two in operation Ivy... the other was at about 1000 feet; dropped from a bomber. Romeo 3/26/54 11 MT Bikini atoll Barge There were seven in operation Castle... 3 land and 4 barge: starting at Bikini 3/1/54 (fallout required evacuations of several atolls) to Eniwetok 5/14/54 (demonstrated small device, 1.7 MT under 10,000 lbs.) Priscilla 6/24/57 37 kT area 5 Balloon Diablo 7/15/57 17 kT area 2B Tower Owens 7/25/57 9.7 kT area 9 Balloon
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