Thanks to the efforts of Matthew at work, several of us went on a little trip today to visit the Nevada Atomic Test Site. It’s a Rhode Island sized stretch of the Nevada desert that was home to some 900 atomic explosions between 1951 and 1992.
The area is still pretty active today, with ongoing subcritical tests and a radioactive disposal program. Check out the cool flyer I got! I just love that flyer. I also learned, at the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Complex that the proper handling of low grade radioactive waste is to bury it under eight feet of loose soil. Really. And that temporary strorage (read: 14 years) of high grade radioactive waste is best done in a canvas tent. Really. And you thought disposing of this stuff was difficult!
There were some pretty impressive craters, some clobbered bunkers, twisted bridge girders, and a house that looked a bit under the weather, but for the most part, anything that was close enough to ground zero got blown away completely and anything that wasn’t didn’t look all that bad. You wouldn’t _think_ 900 atomic bombs had been detonated here. Of course 800 of those were underground. From overhead parts of it do look kinda messed up, but driving through most of it doesn’t look that different from the rest of the natural Nevada wasteland. Except for being radioactive and all.
And I guess it’s not even that radioactive. Except for a few hot spots (like Area 5) they say you’ll get about as much additional radiation on the tour as you would on a commercial airliner. That’s the official story anyways. And who am I to argue? The jackrabbit we spotted only had one head, and the joshua trees looked about as unhappy as they do everywhere they grow.
Still, I rather hope they don’t go through with Operation Divine Strike.
In the end, it was a pretty cool trip. Nothing seen was that impressive in itself, but there’s a sense of enormous historic and scientific significance which I appreciated. It was just neat to be where not so long ago man played with toys of the gods.
Oh: the Atomic Testing Museum at the end was well done. Ethiopian for dinner. Wikipedia articles on nuclear physics for dessert.