US may resume nuclear weapons tests
July 9, 2001 6:23 AM   Subscribe

US may resume nuclear weapons tests (while keeping the supply of small arms unhindered). Knowing next to nothing about nuclear weapons, can anyone tell me if there are there any sound scientific reasons for re-starting testing? Or is this just more left-wing media bias?
posted by jonathanbell (14 comments total)
There's too many 'there's' there. Sorry.
posted by jonathanbell at 6:24 AM on July 9, 2001

I'll see if I can find the reference but I have this amazing book at home, - a coffee-table type photo book all about America's nuclear testing history with the most outrageous personal histories of people who lived in Utah and Nevada near the testing sites. It's amazing what the government told people (i.e. baldfaced lies about the safety of living near or being near test sites.) People were intially encouraged to watch the explosions before they were moved underground (if you were able to _watch_ a nuclear explosion with your naked eye, that was pretty much a death sentence.)

There's one personal history I remember distinctly; a history of the rancher who was responsible for the cattle that they had kept on the test sites to see what the exposure to radiation would do to the herd (see Chernobyl for more of the same.)

If I remember correctly, the USA did over 125 tests on American soil during the heyday of atomic and nuclear testing after WW2. Why we would ever revisit that kind of horror on any other people or land is way beyond my comprehension.
posted by gen at 6:54 AM on July 9, 2001

Looks like it might be time to start that Vietnam War again too.
posted by lagado at 7:05 AM on July 9, 2001

Found it.

Carole Gallagher "American Ground Zero"

Bookzen has reviews, the prologue and the forward on their website.

It really is an amazing book, and you have to see the photos that make up the bulk of the book to really appreciate everything that transpired. How can we have not learned from that history that barely 50 years ago?
posted by gen at 7:08 AM on July 9, 2001

There's also a great film somewhere of Las Vegas during a night-time nuclear test - probably in the late 50s, early 60s. You can clearly see the flash from the strip! Mind you, this was the city that had Miss Atomic Blast...
posted by jonathanbell at 7:11 AM on July 9, 2001

While I don't have a problem with having a nuclear arsenal - under the theory "If you want peace then prepare for war" - I, too, am curious about what benefit we could gain from this. I thought the aim of nuclear research was to use computer simulations so that we could cut down on the number of actual detonations.

I actually know some former employees of Lawrence Livermore Berkeley Labs, and some of them had mentioned actually working on live nukes. I'll see if I can contact any of them for their opinions. If I succeed I'll post them here.
posted by hadashi at 7:14 AM on July 9, 2001

John Wane once shot a Western at an abandoned nuclear test site. There were no bio/radiation hazard signs posted. The government had assured him that the area was safe. Nearly 40 people from his crew later developed and died of cancer. Being the patriot he was, The Duke never sued the government. He claimed himself to be a martyr of the Cold War.

I am not aware of any new nuclear arsenal in the pipeline. Every time any thing comes up in the news, like the refitting some of the older Ohio class submarines into SSGNs, the proposed armament is something that is already in existence. No one ever mentions arming the subs with any new missiles.

But then again, USAF is spending nearly $4.6 Billion on classified research and the NMD has been in the planning for years.

I don't know if anything new can be learned about nuclear technology from these new tests. Maybe somone is building a higher yield and smaller size warhead.
posted by tamim at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2001

get your bikini.
posted by clavdivs at 8:29 AM on July 9, 2001

tamim : The movie was The Conqueror, click to read the sad story.
posted by mister scratch at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2001

(Some people, like Cecil Adams, are a little skeptical of the Conqueror stories. Also see alt.folklore.urban.)
posted by dhartung at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2001

I think its all about the aging of the stockpile. Every so often some nation wants to take a random sample of their arsenal and see how many misfire. I wonder what the specs say about the lifetime of the weapon.
posted by skallas at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2001

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posted by iceberg273 at 2:30 PM on July 9, 2001

Iceberg, that was just... wrong. And somehow that made it right.
posted by kindall at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2001

Maybe somone is building a higher yield and smaller size warhead.

That may be the primary reason:

"Pentagon officials are also examining the potential of a new range of low-yield "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons, which would require testing to develop, they say."
posted by cmacleod at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2001

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