Fizeau Test, Nevada Test Site, July 1957

Nuclear weapon tests as a source of mutagenesis
"Fizeau" test (11 Kt), Nevada Test Site, 14 Sept 1957

    Fission weapons (popularly called "atom bombs") produce an explosive release of energy by bringing together a "critical mass" of radioactive uranium or plutonium sufficient to produce a "chain reaction." The "Little Boy" bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945 was based on a gun-assembly of a critical mass of uranium. The Nagasaki "Fat Man" bomb was a plutonium implosion weapon based on the "Trinity" device tested at Alamogordo, New Mexico, in July 1945. Energy yields are measured in thousands of tons of TNT (kiltotons or Kt).

    The US government conducted a large series of above-ground nuclear explosions in the Nevada desert during the 1950s. Prevailing winds often spread radioactive "fallout" towards inhabited areas, notably in southwestern Utah. Sharp increases in the rate of spontaneous abortion and birth defects have been reported in such areas. See "The Atomic Cafe" (1982)

All text material © 2009 by Steven M. Carr