On July 5, 1957, the “Hood” test of Operation Plumbbob took place over Area 9 of Yucca Flat, a closed desert drainage basin within the Nevada Test Site (NTS) sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas. Referred to as “the most irradiated, nuclear-blasted spot on the face of the earth”, Yucca Flat was the testing ground – both in the air and under the surface of the flat, sandy soil – for 739 nuclear tests from October of 1951 to September of 1992, when a moratorium temporarily halted all nuclear testing.
The Hood test involved the atmospheric detonation of a 74-kiloton bomb which had been carried by balloon to an elevation of 460 meters. Two thousand American troops were on hand for training in nuclear battlefield operations. Eleven million Curies of radioactive Iodine-131 were released by the bomb as a determinant used to track specific nuclear contamination events. The bomb detonated in the Hood test was nearly five times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
NTS has been studied extensively to evaluate the nuclear contamination of its soil and groundwater. In his book, Aftermath: The Remnants of War, author Webster Donovan states that NTS has been characterized as a “national sacrifice zone”, due to the great expense and virtual impossibility of cleaning up the site.
Image Credit: US Department of Energy/flickr