John Pilger’s penetrating documentary which looks at world-wide propaganda surrounding the nuclear arms race. When the two American atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, they were code-named ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’, and President Truman announced after the event: “The experiment has been an overwhelming success.” “These”, says Pilger, “were words used to describe the awful and horrific carnage of nuclear war. By using reassuring, even soothing language, this new kind of propaganda created acceptable images of war and the illusion that we could live securely with nuclear weapons”.
Official ‘truths’ are examined in connection with the bombing of Hiroshima, the build up of arms by Russia and America, the siting of nuclear bases by the US in Britain and Europe, Ministry of Defence statements about the Cruise missile base at Greenham Common, and other US bases, the amount of government money spent on weapons, ‘Civil defence’ arrangements and a NATO ‘limited’ nuclear and chemical war exercise in West Germany, which Pilger describes as ‘a dry run for the unthinkable’. Many experts give their views, including Paul Warnke who thinks arms reduction is feasible — ‘All we need is the political will to go ahead with it’.
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Operation Buster-Jangle was a series of seven (six atmospheric, one underground) nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United States in late 1951 at the Nevada Test Site. Buster-Jangle was the first joint test program between the DOD and Los Alamos National Laboratories. 6,500 troops were involved in the Desert Rock I, II, and III exercises in conjunction with the tests. The last two tests evaluated the cratering effects of low-yield nuclear devices. This series preceded Operation Tumbler-Snapper and followed Operation Greenhouse.
Between 1951 and 1992, there were a total of 928 announced nuclear tests at Nevada Test Site. Of those, 828 were underground. (Sixty-two of the underground tests included multiple, simultaneous nuclear detonations, adding 93 detonations and bringing the total number of NTS nuclear detonations to 1,021, of which 921 were underground.) The site is covered with subsidence craters from the testing. The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices; 126 tests were conducted elsewhere (many at the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands).
During the 1950s, the mushroom cloud from these tests could be seen for almost 100 mi (160 km) in either direction, including the city of Las Vegas, where the tests became tourist attractions. Americans headed for Las Vegas to witness the distant mushroom clouds that could be seen from the downtown hotels.
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 although the United States did not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the articles of the treaty are nevertheless honored and further tests have not occurred. Subcritical testing, tests not involving the full creation of a critical mass, continue.
One notable test shot was the "Sedan" shot of Operation Storax on July 6, 1962, a 104 kiloton 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 kiloton to 1 megaton (2 to 4 petajoule) range, which caused noticeable seismic effects in Las Vegas.
The site was scheduled to be used to conduct the testing of a 1,100-ton conventional explosive in an operation known as Divine Strake in June 2006. The bomb is a possible alternative to nuclear bunker busters. However, after objection from Nevada and Utah members of Congress, the operation was postponed until 2007. On February 22, 2007 the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) officially canceled the experiment.
Uranium miners, mill workers and ore transporters are also eligible for $100,000 compassionate payment under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program, while $75,000 is the fixed payment amount for workers who were participants in the above-ground nuclear weapons tests.
NTS also performed "piggyback" testing of effects of nuclear detonation during the above-ground tests. Vehicles, shelters, utility stations and other structures were placed at various distances from the "Ground Zero" detonation point of each weapon.
Homes and commercial buildings were built to standards typical of American and European cities. Other structures included military fortifications (of types used by both NATO and the Warsaw Pact), civil defense and "backyard" shelters. In a typical test, several buildings might be built using the same plan, with different types of paint, landscaping and cleanliness of yards, wall angles or distances in relation to Ground Zero. Mannequins were placed in and around vehicles and buildings.
High-speed cameras were placed in protected locations, thus to capture effects of radiation and shock waves. Typical imagery from these cameras shows paint boiling off of the buildings, which then are pushed away from Ground Zero by the shock wave before being drawn toward the detonation by the suction caused by the climbing mushroom cloud.
This testing allowed the development of guidelines, distributed to the public, to increase the likelihood of survival in case of air- or spaceborne nuclear attack.
Atomic Bomb Testing After World War II
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