Project Plowshare, et al

Project Plowshare

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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Scans courtesy of Robert W. Nicol of Burbank, Ca

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