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Ocean of Radiation Under Nevada

Updated on December 18, 2009

Nevada's Hidden Ocean of Radiation

Sadly, this is not science fiction, although, one could see how a screenplay might be derived from the story. It is a story of a government ruthlessly testing atomic bombs for over 41 years in the Nevada desert with almost total disregard for its own citizens when dealing with the fallout of nuclear weapons. We are not talking of deformations from high levels of radiation or extensive radio activity from those living nearest to the contaminated areas. We are talking about an underground ocean under Nevada in their aquifers where ground water is gold.

Some 75 miles NW of Las Vegas there is an old test site that for 41 years was used to test atomic bombs underground. In that time, 921 detonations of nuclear warheads were exploded, each depositing its toxic load into the local underground aquifiers. By the time the US halted such tests in 1992, more than 300 million curies ( a curie = 1 gram of radium, 500 rads is lethal) of radiation had been simply left behind tainting life giving water deadly. It is the most contaminated lethal site in the US.

Back in the 60s, 70s, Nevada didn't need the water as badly because its populations were small, however, the story is now the opposite. The 1375 mile test site containing vast areas of desert lies in Nye County. Underneath the county lies 1.6 trillion gallons of water so contaminated it is deadly. That is the same amount of water the whole state took from the Colorado River in 16 years! It is enough to create a lake that is 300 miles long, one mile wide and 25 feet deep. Its economic value is a whopping $48 billion, had the US government cleaned up the mess they created. They didn't, though. Like an odd Twilight Zone or Outer Limits TV show, this underground ocean is moving to the southwest from the high ground up to 18 feet per year. The nearest town is Beatty some 22 miles distant. The EPA has said that cleaning it up is impossible and all they plan to do is monitor it. Nye County needs water and because it has little of it, a dozen companies have been turned away. Worse, as the good aquifers are used up and emptied, this acts as a siphon for water, nuclear waste water, to move in that direction.

Citizens of Las Vegas back in 1951, when the town was only 50,000, witnessed numerous odd mushroom clouds popping up spawning heavy fallout in areas closer to the blast. Those sites are still hot enough that one must still weapon hazardous suits for protection. When the testing went underground, it went deep, some 5000 ft. below, One third of the tests were done in aquifiers and others above the critical water table. Some of the water is bad ass stuff and reaches millions of picocuries per liter (the standard is 15 picocuries per liter). The 48 testing wells to keep tabs of contamination indicate the levels will be deadly for thousands of years.

Because the Energy Department considers this area a no threat zone to anyone, the department ranks it last on its list to cleanup nuclear waste and only allocates $65 million out of a budget of $6 billion used for cleaning up contaminate sites. The department reasons that it will be 6000 years before the underground ocean moves to Beatty.

I guess we'll all be dead by then anyway, so what the heck! As Rod Serling would say, " you've just entered the Twilight Zone".


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    • Presigo profile image

      Presigo 8 years ago from Spokane, Wa

      good article. I lived in Nevada in the early 70's and remem,ber all the stories. Where I live now is about 100 miles from the Hanford site in Washington. So I find these articles very informitive, thanks for the work