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Feb 28 / Dave Schumaker

Yucca Flat – Scars in the Landscape

Yucca Flat. Source: Google Earth

What is this strange, cratered landscape? Is it the surface of the Moon or Mars? But why are there roads crisscrossing the image?

That’s because this image shows Yucca Flat, part of the Nevada Test Site, a United States government facility located in southern Nevada to test nuclear weapons. Yucca Flat is located only about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas (Google Maps link).

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.

Yucca Flat also contains the largest man-made crater that had ever been created in the United States. This crater was created during the Storax Sedan nuclear test in 1962, testing the feasibility of using nuclear weapons for mining, excavations, or other purposes for civilian use in a project called Operation Plowshare.

Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

The device was buried over 600 feet (200 m) down. The resulting explosion created a crater that was 1,280 feet (390 m) in diameter and 300 feet (100 m) in depth. You can even see the crater in Google Maps. Unfortunately, this test exposed more people to radioactive fallout in the United States than any other nuclear test.

Here is a high speed video of the test.

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