Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Nevada Test Site
The Nevada Test Site is a United States Department of Energy reservation located in Nye County, Nevada, about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of the City of Las Vegas. Formerly known as the Nevada Proving Ground the site, established on January 11, 1951 for the testing of nuclear weapons, is composed of approximately 1,350 square miles (3,500 km²) of desert and mountainous terrain. Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site began with a one-kiloton of TNT (4 terajoule) bomb dropped on Frenchman Flats on January 27, 1951. Many of the iconic images of the nuclear era come from NTS.
- 1,100 buildings
- 400 miles (600 km) paved roads
- 300 miles (500 km) unpaved roads
- 10 heliports
- 2 airstrips
Between 1951 and 1992, there were a total of 925 announced nuclear tests at Nevada Test Site. 825 of them were underground (seismic data has indicated there may have been many unannounced underground tests as well). The site is covered with subsidence craters from the testing.  The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American atomic bombs, only 129 tests were conducted elsewhere (many at the Marshall Islands).
On July 17, 1962 the test shot "Little Feller I" of Operation Sunbeam became the last atmospheric test detonation at the Nevada Test Site. Underground testing of weapons continued until September 23, 1992, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now prevents further tests. Tests not involving fission continue.
One notable test shot was the "Sedan" shot of Operation Storax, a 104 kt shot for the Operation Plowshare which sought to prove that nuclear weapons could be used for peaceful means in creating bays or canals — it created a crater 1,280 feet (390 m) wide and 320 feet (100 m) deep that can still be seen today. While most of the larger tests were conducted elsewhere, NTS was home to tests in the 500 to 1000 kiloton of TNT (2 to 4 petajoule) range, which caused noticeable seismic effects in Las Vegas.
In a report by the National Cancer Institute, released in 1997, it was determined that ninety atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site deposited high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels) across a large portion of the contiguous United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957—doses large enough, they determined, to produce 10,000 to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer. In 1993, residents living near the Nevada Test Site were included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act , 1,375 claims were honored (1,121 were denied). As of 2004, the test site offers public tours on approximately a monthly basis, although the taking of souvenir material is prohibited.
The town of Mercury, Nevada is located on the grounds of the NTS, and at one time housed contingents from LANL, LLNL, and Sandia. Area 51 and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility are located nearby.
A very special facility is BREN Tower, a 465 metre high guyed tower for radiation experiments with an unshielded reactor.
Test series carried out at Nevada Test Site
- Operation Ranger - 1951
- Operation Upshot-Knothole - 1953
- Operation Teapot - 1955
- Operation Nougat - 1961-62
- Operation Sunbeam - 1962
- Operation Dominic II - 1962-3
- Operation Storax - 1963
- Operation Niblick - 1963-4
- Operation Whetstone - 1964-5
- Operation Emery - 1965
- Operation Flintlock - 1965-6
- Operation Latchkey - 1966-7
- Operation Crosstie - 1967-8
- Operation Bowline - 1968-9
- Operation Mandrel - 1969-70
- Operation Quicksilver - 1978-9
- Operation Tinderbox - 1979-80
- Operation Guardian - 1980-1
- Atomic Energy Commission
- BREN Tower
- Frenchman Flat
- Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF)
- U1a Experimental Facility
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