The Geological Impact of Nuclear Testing at the Nevada Test Site
The Nevada Test Site is an area designated by the United States Government for Nuclear Weapons testing. It is located in rural southern Nevada and is about the size of the State of Rhode Island. This location was founded in 1952 as one of 5 on land sites designated for this task. Above ground nuclear or atmospheric testing was conducted at the Nevada Test Site until 1958. There was a break in testing until the United States decided to begin underground testing in 1962. There were a total of 828 nuclear tests performed underground during these years. In 1963 a limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the United States that limited above ground tests world wide. These underground tests were performed until 1992, and nuclear testing in the United States seized all together in 1994 when the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed. The majority of the testing was conducted to further the efforts of the Cold War, as well as, to further general understanding of the effects and results of nuclear testing. This paper will discuss the history, geological aspects, and impacts of the Nevada Test Site on this and surrounding areas of Nevada.
The history of atomic testing begins during the Second World War. The majority of testing during this period was done at the Los Alamos test site in New Mexico. All of the locations where testing was done have several key things that make them good locations for nuclear testing. They are all away from areas of large population density. For example the Nevada Test Site is 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas but has little or no population in the immediate area. They are also in areas where there is little or very deep ground water aquifers, and little amount of runoff. These are key aspects as the ground water contamination involved with radioactive material has proven to cause cancer, and sever birth defects. They are both arid environments which makes it easier to reduce the amount of water runoff. The Nevada Test Site is built on top of a chain of several volcanic and seismically active locations. Even with these potentially dangerous conditions the Atomic Energy Commission gave it the go ahead in 1952.
During the years of above ground or atmospheric testing 119 tests were conducted. The majority of these tests were conducted using helium balloons, and tethered systems. There were also a few crater tests conducted during this time, these were conducted by submerging a small nuclear weapon just below the ground surface. When testing resumed in 1962 the majority of tests were conducted deep underground, although a few crater tests were still conducted, atmosphere testing was banned in 1963. Since then all of the testing was performed underground though this purposed different risks of nuclear contamination it was still found to be over all safer then the above ground testing. Many tests were conducted to tests response times for hazmat teams, and...