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When We Tested Nuclear Bombs

Since the time of Trinity -- the first nuclear explosion in 1945 -- nearly 2,000 nuclear tests have been performed, with the majority taking place during the 1960s and 1970s. When the technology was new, tests were frequent and often spectacular, and led to the development of newer, more deadly weapons. But starting in the 1990s, there have been efforts to limit the future testing of nuclear weapons, including a U.S. moratorium and a U.N. comprehensive test ban treaty. As a result, testing has slowed -- though not halted -- and there are questions about the future. Who will take over for those experienced engineers who are now near retirement, and should we act as stewards with our enormous stockpiles of nuclear weapons? Gathered here are images from the first 30 years of nuclear testing.

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  1. I once worked at the Nevada Test Site, DOE's primary testing location for weapons and energy research near the end of the hay days and before they renamed it a Desert Research Park and several other names since.

    I worked in the graphics and photography area and had stewardship over the entire image archive for all activities on the NTS since it started, both classified, restricted and other variations of security.

    Most of those images and negatives were of a scientific nature, documentation, or public relations related. Many included famous people like presidents and political leaders when visiting DOE facilities, famous scientists, and images with mind blowing demonstration of power both destructive as well as for peaceful uses. And for the most part all but forgotten as very few people were aware of the archive or what was in it. It had never been digitized and there were several attempts to destroy the archive during the downsizing of the 90s.

    This made me wish there was a way to scan all that history including many amazing above ground nuclear test images like these in this story.

    It would have been illegal for someone to take the images and impart due to managements not understanding the historical importance of the archive it was not maintained the way it should have been other than to keep it under lock and key.

    I never found out what happened to that vast repository of images, I'd like to think that when they got around to shutting down the building I worked in and where the images were kept that someone wised up and stored them, eventually scanned them and that someday they will be made available to the public.

    The images were amazing and a testament to the ingenuity and ability of man kind to build amazing and complex machines, technology, alternate forms of energy, weapons, transportation and other things most of which were never developed into products that could serve us. Many of which were far ahead technically than we realize. And much of it with remarkable beauty recored by talented photographers.

    I have fantasied that I would love the job to digitize, catalog and organize those and other archives like them for public and government uses and see those assets become useful again as well as educational, I think if people knew more about what happened and how it developed and how it was managed many more people would have a positive attitude about nuclear energy instead of fearing it after too many misrepresenting movies that make people fear what they really don't understand.

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