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    Atomic Test Archive





    USA
    Program History | Testing Database | Video Archive | Photgraphic Archive

    America was the first country to test a nuclear weapon, and the first and only to use one in war. The US conducted most of its nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and on several Pacific islands, Bikini, Eniwetok, Johnston, and Christmas islands/atolls. A few tests were conducted at the Nellis Air Force Range and at Amchikta Island in Alaska. Tests were conducted in groups known as "operations" or "test series" which involved large numbers of personnel and often had a clear set of objectives that needed achieving. Since July 1962, all nuclear tests conducted in the United States have been underground, and most of them have been at the NTS. Like most nations, the motivation for atmospheric testing was driven by political "sabre-rattling" as much as the need for actual weapons developement.

    USSR
    Program History | Testing Database | Video Archive | Photgraphic Archive

    The Soviet Union became the second nation in the world to detonate a nuclear device on 29/8/1949, and was responsible for the largest ever test with the 50Mt Tsar Bomb in 1961. The USSR conducted it's nuclear tests at two main locations: the Semipalantisk Test Site in Kazakhstan, and the Northern Test Site at Novaya Zemlya. Like the US, the USSR detonated a large number of underground tests or PNE's (peaceful nuclear explosions) under the premise that these explosions could be used in the commercial sector for puposes like mining. This proved to have little value other than creating large highly radioactive holes in the ground. The test ID "RDS" refers to the weapon type and "Joe" was the name given them by the US and loosely equates to the sequential shot number.

    UK
    Program History | Testing Database | Video Archive | Photgraphic Archive

    Britain conducted it's first test codename Hurricane, on the Monte Bello Islands just off the west coast of Australia aboard the HMS Plym in 1952. After the witnessing the US Castle tests in 1954, it became clear to the British government that if the UK was to retain it's superpower status it would need to develop its own H-bomb. This led to the Grapple test series in 1957 at Malden Island in the Pacific. The initial results were disapointing, the designs were successful but had relatively low yeilds. Further testing was required and under almost insurmountable budget and time constraints, improved designs provided the required results. This proved to the world and more importantly to the US that Britain was capable of producing an H-bomb. The US then ammended it's legislation, and the exchange of information between the US and Britain resumed. Subsequently British designs were abandoned in favour of US weapons due to both financial and political reasons.

    France
    Program History | Testing Database | Video Archive | Photgraphic Archive

    Although France had been a leading nation in nuclear research before World War II, it lagged badly behind in the years immediately afterward and was largely cut off from the rapid advances made by Britain and America. The first French nuclear test code-named Gerboise Bleue, was detonated February 1960 at Reggane in Algeria. This device used plutonium and had a notably high yield of 60-70 kt, larger than other nuclear power had detonated as its first test. Testing in Algeria continued until 1966 when France's testing program moved to the Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls in the South Pacific. Frances efforts to develop thermonuclear weapons came to fruition in 1968 with the Canopus test over Fangataufa, resulting in heavy contamination. Although most nations ceased atmospheric testing in the early sixties, France continued atmospheric testing well in to the mid seventies, and underground testing as recently as 1996 despite heavy protestation.

    PRC
    Program History | Testing Database | Video Archive |

    Over the years China invested relatively few resources on developing and deploying nuclear weapons compared to either the US or Russia, and conducted less than 5% of the number of combined tests by these two countries. As with many atomic nations, the exact size and composition of its nuclear forces and testing program are very difficult to determine due to strict secrecy. It is believed that with the conclusion of Chinese testing in 1996, they had completed development of a range of warheads similar to the state of the art weapons developed by the other major nuclear powers. China's one test site is the Lôp Nûr salt basin in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. This test site is the worlds largest occupying 100,000 sq km. Lop Nor contains four testing zones, three for underground testing and one for atmospheric. Only two of the zones are currently used, which occupy an area of about 200 sq km.

    India
    In the 1950s, India acquired nuclear technologies aimed to encourage civil use of nuclear energy as part of the “Atoms for Peace” non-proliferation program. Little interest was shown in developing nuclear weapons until India successfully detonated a nuclear device on May 18, 1974. The test was described by the Indian government as a “peaceful nuclear explosion”. In the 1980s India began research on thermonuclear weapon capability and later conducted Operation Shatki, a series of 5 nuclear detonations. A few weeks after Operation Shatki was conducted, Pakistan tested 5 nuclear devices of its own. India and Pakistan, sworn enemies, were now both nuclear powers.

    Pakistan
    Headed by A.Q. Khan, Pakistan became the first Islamic nation to acquire nuclear weapons when it successfully detonated 5 nuclear devices under the Ras Koh mountains in 1998, one of which was claimed to be thermonuclear. The Pakistani nuclear weapons program began in 1972, shortly after the lost of East Pakistan to India in the 1971 war. The nuclear tests of 1998 came only two weeks after India conducted 5 nuclear tests of its own. In 2001, the missile forces of both Pakistan and India were put on alert as tensions grew in the region. However, in recent years diplomatic relations have been improving as both sides move toward avoiding a nuclear conflict.

    North Korea
    On October 9, 2006, at 4:21:18 (UTC), North Korea detonated a small nuclear device under Mount Mantap in the North Hamgyeong Province. The test came 6 days after North Korea declared its intention of conducting a nuclear test. International condemnation of the nuclear test by governments all over the world has been nearly unanimous. China, North Korea's closest ally and primary benefactor, also expressed condemnation for the nuclear test. After nearly 13 years of speculation surrounding North Korea's nuclear capabilities, the October 9th nuclear test confirmed North Korea as the world's eighth declared nuclear power.




    Weapon Effects
    As important as the weapon itself, a significant portion of each operation was dedicated to gathering data on the effects of the detonation on materials, vehicles, structures and animals. This testing was used to both improve weapon design, and by understanding certain unique phenomena, increase their effectiveness. A great deal of study was done to increase understanding of the ability to survive a nuclear attack. But with the advent of high yield thermonuclear weapons in the early 1950's, it became apparent at least to the informed that there was little chance of the general public surviving a large scale exchange.

    Information Films
    The U.S. monopoly on nuclear weapons was broken in 1949 when the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, and the government realised that public fears about the posibility of nuclear war required addressing. A number documentary films were commissioned designed to sell the concept to the public of a survivable nuclear war. During the 1950's, both the U.S. and Soviet military realised that an all-out strategic war was inconcievable; the concept of limited, tactical nuclear engagments with relatively low- yield weapons became an important concept both politically and in justifying further weapons development. These early films coincided with number nuclear tests and accompanying films by both the U.S. and the Russians, involving large numbers of soldiers in an attempt to allay troop fears about nuclear weapons.









    Published on: 2005-06-23 (730017 reads)

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