What Has Happened to the World's Nuclear Test Sites?

What Has Happened to the World's Nuclear Test Sites?

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Nuclear weaponry is among the deadliest weapons of mass destruction. We already have examples of what they can do and how they impact the global balance equilibrium as a whole.


However, it is no secret that countries continue to develop these weapons as a form of contingency. Nuclear test sites are utilized as the testing grounds for nuclear weapons.

There are several of these sites scattered around the world where countries test the effectiveness of their nuclear weapons. However, most of us are unaware of such spots.

And they get very little attention at all! So let’s have a look at the various nuclear test sites and the stories that they have to tell.

The United States ranks first when we compare the countries that have done the most amount of nuclear testing with a total of 1032 nuclear tests, which is followed by Russia having a grand total of 715 tests.

However, not every test was done by dropping a nuclear warhead into the land. Unlike popular belief, nuclear warheads don’t have to hit the ground to detonate.

Numerous nuclear tests, 528 detonations to be exact, were conducted in the atmosphere. However, this method was not found to be any less devastating than a ground test as the radioactive particles were found to be distributed through the air.

Since air and ground detonations have been proven to cause the radioactive materials to spread to other areas, underground detonations and underwater detonation were used to test out new nuclear weapons.

Let’s have a look at some of the nuclear test sites around the world that clearly depict the aftermath of continuous nuclear testing.

The Amchitka Island

The Amchitka Island is situated in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and was the nuclear testing spot for America’s Hydrogen bombs. Amchitka Island has seen only 3 nuclear tests, but they have left a grim story in their aftermath.

The first nuclear test done on Amchitka was the Long Shot, an 80 Kiloton bomb. The next was the Milrow nuclear test, a bomb that was 10 times more powerful than Long Shot.

After these two tests, the nuclear site was flagged by environmentalists for leakage of radioactive waste, which was denounced by the AEC and Pentagon.

However, the third nuclear test was something that even the AEC or the Pentagon could not have predicted – The Cannikin Nuclear Test.

The Cannikin Nuclear Test, that was detonated on November 6th, 1971 was 385 times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

The detonation caused an earthquake that registered 7 on the Richter scale. The blast caused a 60-foot crater to form on the island. This also resulted in the deaths of thousands of otters, birds and other mammals.

Blood samples from Aleuts, villagers of a nearby village Adak, had shown that they have high levels of tritium and Cesium-137, forms of carcinogenic toxins, in their bloodstream. And the effect doesn’t end there.

More than 1500 workers who participated in building the test site were also affected by the radiations.

The Amchitka facility was shut down in 1971.

The Pacific Ocean

The Marshall Islands were a prime location of US nuclear testing where a series of land and, atmosphere and underwater detonations were conducted. One among the bombs that were tested in the Pacific Proving Grounds was the Bravo Bomb, the most powerful thermonuclear nuclear warhead that America has ever created.

The Bravo Bomb detonated with 1,000 times more power than the one that was used for the Hiroshima attack. With the detonation of the Bravo Bomb in 1954, the nearby islands where affected with the fallout, causing radiation spread that led to the evacuation of 167 residents in nearby islands.

A test conducted in 1978, twenty-four years after the detonation, found out that the plant and marine life in the nearby islands still retained an alarming amount of radiation. Between the years 1977 and 1979, 4000 American troops were sent to the islands to decontaminate the 43 nuclear test sites in the Pacific Proving Grounds.

However, many of the soldiers later were diagnosed with serious illnesses like various forms of cancer and other health conditions like brittle bones. There are even reports of their children being born with birth defects.

The site has seen a total of 105 tests and does not have any people living around in the nearby islands.


The Soviet Union had its test site set up in a place called Semipalatinsk, also known as Polygon, which is located northeast to Kazakhstan. This place has seen a total of 456 nuclear tests.

However, when the Soviet Union first started testing bombs, little care was given to the local population that was residing in nearby areas. This resulted in nearly 1.5 million people in Kazakhstan being affected by nuclear radiation.

Many from the population were diagnosed with cancer and other serious illnesses. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was recognized as a separate country.

At that time, many of the nuclear wastes that were supposed to be decontaminated were left unattended. Later, people scavenged these metal parts for money which again spread the radiation throughout the area.

A 17-year secret operation was conducted by the US and the Kazakh scientists to remove those nuclear wastes. The test site was shut down in 1991.

North Korea

The North Korean nuclear test side called the Punggye-ri was shut down on 20 April 2018 due to the landmass becoming unstable because of repeated nuclear testing. The last test caused an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 tremors.

Four more earthquakes followed in the next week, causing a near vertical on-site collapse of the landmass. Since the test site is only 100 kilometers away from the China border, the Chinese government has kept their guard up when it came to the unpredictable military nature of North Korea.

There is no doubt the nuclear bombs can wipe out whole cities, even countries if an attack occurs. Even their development and testing have only caused pain and misery.

Nowadays, we do not hear any news on nuclear testing because of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty signed by countries all over the world, except North Korea. We can hope and work towards a future where these weapons would not have to see daylight, where we can ensure a future of peace and prosperity.

Watch the video: Atomic Journeys - The Nevada Test Site (June 2022).


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