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Nevada Nuclear Testing

Updated on August 30, 2017

Nevada Nuclear Test Site Nuclear Testing and Area 51

Nevada Nuclear Testing, how much do you know about it? When you think of Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century it is usually because of the Korea nuclear testing that has been going on for months. It was because of North Korea that I visited the National Nuclear Atomic Testing Museum in Nevada, a place I didn't even know existed. Testing the Atom bomb and Area 51 are what the Nevada Test Site is known for. I've included pictures and other info for you.

The world today is very different than it was during the Cold War, and specifically during the 50's when the United States learned the secrets of the atom and tested nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert. Now we know the consequences of using atomic weapons. Now we have a Global collective effort for global stability, but it wasn't like that in the 50's.

Images Copyright: Kathy McGraw

The Manhattan Project

In the 30's the Nazi's were supposedly trying to figure out how to use uranium for warfare, and several scientists were concerned, including Einstein. It was Einstein's influence on President Roosevelt, by way of a letter, stating we could make atom bombs, that lead to the Manhattan Project being implemented.

How Big is the Nevada Test Site (NTS)

The NTS is 1375 square miles, surrounded by thousands more acres that will never be developed, and guarantee the security of the site. There's a total of 5,470 square miles that are in the Government control out in the desert, just 65 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Which state is smaller than the Nevada Test Site

See results
Nevada Nuclear Testing
Nevada Nuclear Testing

Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Testing

Frenchman Flat

The Cold War was something that today's kids only read about in books. They might hear people talking about, but they have no memory of their own, or how nuclear weapons and the Hiroshima bomb changed the world. But thankfully, many people do remember, and that's why the Nevada Testing site information is important; it reminds us, and teaches the younger generation.

From 1951 to 1962 a total of 14 atmospheric (above ground) nuclear tests were conducted at Frenchman Flat, about 65 miles north of Las Vegas. At that time Las Vegas was a small town and the Casinos closed at 1am. People would go up on top of the Casino and watch the test, as it's said to have lit up the whole sky.

The very first test was on January 27, 1951, and these above ground tests continued until 1962. In 1963 a treaty was signed stating there could be no more atmospheric testing done, and all tests had to be underground.

During the time from 1951 until 1992 a total of 928 nuclear weapons tests were done in Frenchman Flat. I interviewed a gentleman that worked at the site, and he stated they knew there were risks, but at that time the National Security of our nation was at risk. He stated that yes," there was risk, but it was minimized and mitigated".

10 Seconds to a Nuclear War

Nuclear Weapons Countdown 10 Seconds to Nuclear War
Nuclear Weapons Countdown 10 Seconds to Nuclear War

Nuclear Weapons

Military history shows that no good has ever come from Nuclear Weapons. At least that's my view. What is your view on using Nuclear Weapons?

Do you believe it's OK to use Nuclear Weapons?

National Atomic Testing Museum - Las Vegas Nevada

Nevada Atomic Testing Museum
Nevada Atomic Testing Museum

The National Atomic Testing Museum is a national museum dedicated to the Nevada nuclear testing. It is full of artifacts about the history of nuclear testing. There are a couple theaters where you hear the countdown, and the experience, although admittedly not the same as the real thing, almost feels like you were there.

National Atomic Testing Museum Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Nuclear Testing Downwinders Recieve Compensation
Nuclear Testing Downwinders Recieve Compensation

The Downwinders

Radioative Fallout From NTS

When I learned about the Downwinders (the people that lived down wind of the test site and contracted cancer and leukemia) I was immediately reminded of the movie Erin Brockovich.

The similarities of the case Erin Brockovich helped win against PGE because of the effects of contamination in a small California town, and the Downwinders, is amazing. PGE finally had to pay millions in compensation to victims, and the Government, after decades of denial and lawsuits, finally passed legislation of compensation to the victims of the Nuclear testing program.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was passed on October 5, 1990, and was broadened in 2000. It was specifically worded to only include those that contracted cancer from the Nevada Test Site's radioactive fallout; the downwinders. The modification, or broadening, added miners that worked in the uranium mines and were exposed to radiation from the tests. Those that transported the Uranium were also included. You can see a map of the RECA areas covered here.

After decades of Governmental denial of various lawsuits, out of the clear blue sky they passed the RECA, issued an apology and gave monetary damages without having to jump through the normal hoops. All the downwinders had to do was prove they had one of the listed cancers (diseases) on the list, and lived at the time in one of the designated areas.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombed In 1945

The United States used the new bombs they had built on Japan to end WWII. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945 and 3 days later they bombed Nagasaki. The bombs had not been tested, and no one knew the true devastation that would occur. This was only 21 days after the first atomic bomb was tested.

Historical Information

These links will give you more information about the Manhattan Project, Albert Einsteins letter to President Roosevelt, and a picture gallery of the devastation in Hiroshima after being bombed. I put these here for those that want to read more, and there is a lot of History that can be found.

John Wayne Myth or Reality

One of the stories is that John Wayne contracted cancer from filming downwind of the Nevada Test Site. The atmospheric testing was done at the time he was filming in St. George, Utah, 137 miles downwind of the Nevada Test Site.

Restoring Nevada's Environment from Radioactive Fallout

Nevada Nuclear Testing Restoration
Nevada Nuclear Testing Restoration

I learned from the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster what happens to the environment from nuclear waste; the radioactive fallout. When I saw these pictures of the efforts to clean up the environment I became very skeptical, although it certainly can't hurt!

Area 51 Former Nevada Nuclear Test Site

Area 51 Former Nevada Test Site
Area 51 Former Nevada Test Site

Who hasn't heard of Area 51, that secret area in the Nevada desert that many people report seeing UFO's? Aliens and UFO's, who knows for sure? In 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico a UFO supposedly crashed and was found by a farmer. The military stated it was a downed surveillance (or weather) balloon, but we know they don't always tell the truth. To this day the Roswell UFO incident is the most publicized and controversial of all the UFO and alien abduction stories.

During my interview, I asked about Area 51, where it is specifically, and what it's for. Even in the interview I got the message that most of what goes on there is classified, meaning he couldn't answer my questions. He did however state that originally it was where the spy planes were kept.

I found a video that shows deep craters, lots of them, in Area 51. You be the judge!

Area 51 Aliens and UFO's

Area 51 Aliens and UFO's
Area 51 Aliens and UFO's

Videos From the Nevada Nuclear Test Site and Area 51

Alien and UFO Information

There are so many people that believe in Alien and UFO sightings, we just don't know. But it is fascinating. I found these sites to have some really good info, and some of it is surprising. The one thing I didn't find was a definitive answer about the Government and the Roswell UFO. I am not sure we will ever know about Area 51 and the stories of extraterrestrial sightings. Check out these links.....and see if they give you a better idea than they did me.

Area 51 Alien
Area 51 Alien


1) Nuclear Testing and the Downwinders article by Janet Burton Seegmiller .

The History of Iron County Downwinders

2) Department of Justice- Radiation Exposure Compensation Act ("RECA")

3) National Archives- declassified documents on the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombing

4) Hollywood Myths-John Wayne Cancer from the Nevada Test Site Radiation

What are your opinions on the Nevada Nuclear Testing? Do you think John Wayne died from cancer contracted from the downwinds, or how about Area 51? Do you believe in UFO's and aliens?

Oh, and the correct answer to how big is the Nevada Test site is, it's bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

Tell Us What You Think - Comments are very much appreciated

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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      4 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I'm old enough to remember the days of nuclear testing in Nevada. I'm not sure that aspect would interest me that much. But, if I could learn some Area 51 secrets... Of course, if I did, I might not make it back home.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy McGraw 

      5 years ago from California

      @KimGiancaterino: Fascinating Kim....I read all about John Wayne and the cast of that film, but didn't know about Agnes Moorehead.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      5 years ago

      My brother works for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and travels to NTS regularly as part of his job. I worked for LLNL's laser department as a tech writer with a secret level DOE security clearance, but had little interaction with NTS. The John Wayne movie "The Conqueror" was shot in 1956. Eleven explosions had taken place at NTS the prior year. Nearly half of the 220 cast and crew members developed cancers during their lifetimes. Agnes Moorehead also appeared in the film and died from cancer in 1974. She was one of the first to make the connection, and blamed her death on the fallout radiation.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 

      5 years ago from Houston

      Cool. I think my parents took my daughter out in that area on a road trip when she was small. Interesting topic.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy McGraw 

      5 years ago from California

      @chas65: Charles...I too remember those drills. We didn't have a bomb shelter, but I do know others that did have one.

    • chas65 profile image


      5 years ago

      Being a baby boomer, I remember having to do "bomb" drills in school. I didn't know all of the info presented here.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy McGraw 

      5 years ago from California

      @LisaDH: Hi the Museum is about 5 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, on Flamingo Blvd. They also have a set of monitors outside that registers everything, from wind velocity to how much radiation there is. Like I said, it's fascinating :)

    • LisaDH profile image


      5 years ago

      I had no idea the nuclear tests were performed so close to Las Vegas - 65 miles isn't that far!! Is the museum right on the test site?? They may have added soil to the area, but you can't change the half-life of uranium. I'd think the area would still be radioactive, even if it's now at "safe" levels. It'd be quite interesting to take a Geiger counter there!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy McGraw 

      5 years ago from California

      @AlleyCatLane: If you can visit it's fascinating! I didn't get to the Area 51 exhibit but they have that there also.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great article, Kathy. We may be out that way in August. Sounds like a fascinating place to visit.


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