Nevada Test Site

Nevada Test Site
Near Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States
Exercise Desert Rock I (Buster-Jangle Dog) 002.jpg
November 1951 nuclear test at Nevada Test Site. Test is shot "Dog" from Operation Buster, with a yield of 21 kilotons of TNT (88 TJ). It was the first U.S. nuclear field exercise conducted with live troops maneuvering on land. Troops shown are 6 mi (9.7 km) from the blast.
Nevada Test Site is located in the US
Nevada Test Site
Map showing location of the site
Coordinates 37°07′N 116°03′W / 37°07′N 116°03′W / 37.117; -116.050
Type Nuclear Weapons Research Complex
Area ~1,350 sq mi (3,500 km2)
Site information
Operator National Security Technologies, LLC for the United States Department of Energy
Status Active
Site history
In use 1951–present
Test information
Nuclear tests 928

The Nevada National Security Site [1] (N2S2), [2](though the abbreviation NNSS is still used), previously the Nevada Test Site (NTS), is a United States Department of Energy reservation located in southeastern Nye County, Nevada, about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of the city of Las Vegas. Formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds, the site was established on 11 January 1951 for the testing of nuclear devices, covering approximately 1,360 square miles (3,500 km2) of desert and mountainous terrain. Nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site began with a 1-kiloton-of-TNT (4.2 TJ) bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat on 27 January 1951. Many of the iconic images of the nuclear era come from the NTS. NNSS is operated by National Security Technologies, LLC, a joint venture of Northrop Grumman, AECOM, CH2M Hill, and Babcock & Wilcox.

During the 1950s, the mushroom clouds from the 100 atmospheric tests could be seen for almost 100 mi (160 km). The city of Las Vegas experienced noticeable seismic effects, and the distant mushroom clouds, which could be seen from the downtown hotels, became tourist attractions. St. George, Utah, received the brunt of the fallout of above-ground nuclear testing in the Yucca Flats/Nevada Test Site. Winds routinely carried the fallout of these tests directly through St. George and southern Utah. Marked increases in cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, brain tumors, and gastrointestinal tract cancers, were reported from the mid-1950s through 1980. [3] [4] The vast majority—828 of the 928 total nuclear tests—were underground.

From 1986 through 1994, two years after the United States put a hold on full-scale nuclear weapons testing, 536 anti-nuclear protests were held at the Nevada Test Site involving 37,488 participants and 15,740 arrests, according to government records. [5] Those arrested included the astronomer Carl Sagan and the actors Kris Kristofferson, Martin Sheen, and Robert Blake.

The Nevada Test Site contains 28 areas, 1,100 buildings, 400 miles (640 km) of paved roads, 300 miles of unpaved roads, ten heliports, and two airstrips.


The Nevada Test Site was established as a 680-square-mile (1,800 km2) area by President Harry S. Truman on December 18, 1950, within the Nellis Air Force Gunnery and Bombing Range.


This handbill was distributed 16 days before the first nuclear device was detonated at the Nevada Test Site.

The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices from 1951 to 1992; 928 announced nuclear tests occurred there. Of those, 828 were underground. [6] (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.) [7] The site is covered with subsidence craters from the testing.

The NTS was the United States' primary location for tests in the 500-to-1,000 kt (2,100-to-4,200 TJ) range. 126 tests were conducted elsewhere, including most larger tests. Many of these occurred at the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands.

Mushroom cloud seen from downtown Las Vegas.

During the 1950s, the mushroom clouds from atmospheric tests could be seen for almost 100 mi (160 km). The city of Las Vegas experienced noticeable seismic effects, and the distant mushroom clouds, which could be seen from the downtown hotels, became tourist attractions. The last atmospheric test detonation at the Nevada Test Site was " Little Feller I" of Operation Sunbeam, on 17 July 1962.

Although the United States did not ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, it honors the articles of the treaty, and underground testing of weapons ended as of 23 September 1992. Subcritical tests not involving a critical mass continue.

Sedan crater

One notable test shot was the " Sedan" shot of Operation Storax on 6 July 1962, a 104-kiloton-of-TNT (440 TJ) shot for Operation Plowshare, which sought to prove that nuclear weapons could be used for peaceful means in creating bays or canals. It created a crater 1,280 feet (390 m) wide and 320 feet (100 m) deep that can still be seen today.


The site was scheduled to be used to conduct the testing of a 1,100-ton conventional explosive in an operation known as Divine Strake in June 2006. The bomb is a possible alternative to nuclear bunker busters. After objections from Nevada and Utah's members of Congress, the operation was postponed until 2007. On 22 February 2007, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) officially canceled the experiment. On December 7, 2012 the most-recent explosion was conducted, an underground sub-critical test of the properties of plutonium. [8]

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