Cactus Dome looks like the top part of the USS Enterprise, but the true purpose is a bummer

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Robyn Miller uncovered this intriguing photo and asked his readers to imagine what it might be: "the secret lair of Jame Bond's nemesis? Better yet... evidence of a crashed spaceship!"

But actually, it's a $239 million dome that covers the radiocative waste from nuclear explosion tests in the Bikini and Rongelap atolls. "The dome covers the 30-foot deep, 350-foot wide crater created by the May 5, 1958, Cactus test." Cactus Dome

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  1. Given the high radioactivity of the site how did they make the dome? I really wouldn’t want to be one of the workers involved with that…

  2. At home we don’t get any fancy containment domes. We just leave a hundred radioactive creators to have their cancerous essence blown by the wind across the desert and across america.

    Search for “nevada test site” on google earth. The landscape you will see is an eye opener.

    Anyone know of the soviet equivalent?

  3. The circular shape of the dome is uncannily reflected by what appears to be a hole or depression of some kind in the waters just off shore.

  4. It could be a multi-purpose facility, and be both a radioactive crater AND the location of a James Bond villain’s secret hideout.

  5. Was it really necessary to spend $239M on a giant concrete dome to cover some dirt on what was then an uninhabited island? Really? What would the harm have been in leaving it there?

    If you’re concerned about the original inhabitants – and they couldn’t have numbered more than a handful – you could have generously compensated every one of them and still come out cheaper.

    I really doubt that this was the best or cheapest solution… what it looks like to me is a pointless megaproject that no doubt made a consortium of contractors a megaton of cash.

  6. The circular shape of the dome is uncannily reflected by what appears to be a hole or depression of some kind in the waters just off shore.

    That’s the crater from another blast.

  7. posted by syncrotic Was it really necessary to spend $239M on a giant concrete dome to cover some dirt on what was then an uninhabited island? Really? What would the harm have been in leaving it there?

    You don’t want radioactive dirt getting blown around by wind and washed into the ocean.

  8. #14 Do you have a study to show the effects of this? My thinking is that it would be fairly well diffused by the time it gets airborne and then mixed into the ocean. Of course I don’t have a study to support this, either. It is just conjecture.

    And Mark, why is this a bummer? Do you not want the U.S. government to take responsibility for the site? Does it just remind you of nuclear weapons and everything nuclear is bad, or something?

    #1 I assume they used cheap local labor and did not tell them of the risks. Just kidding.

  9. Where are the Taklamakan-style, pan-cultural warnings to future civilizations? This place is not a place of honor.

  10. Browse around the area in google maps, you can tell the area is still inhabited.

    Pretty neat to see their efforts at repairing the region.. all the islands within a certain radius have these perfect grids of trees. Not a lot of creativity went into that one.

    Curiously, only the island with the crater does not show signs of reforestation. I guess the planters didn’t feel like hanging out with the radioactive waste.

    You can see the actual crater from the nuclear test slightly to the northeast too, underwater.

  11. posted by JudgeDredd Do you have a study to show the effects of this? My thinking is that it would be fairly well diffused by the time it gets airborne and then mixed into the ocean. Of course I don’t have a study to support this, either. It is just conjecture.

    I’m fairly certain at least one reason the radioactive dirt was buried under a thick concrete dome is the same reason the reactor at Chernobyl was sealed in concrete and spent nuclear fuel rods are buried at Yucca Mountain.

    More information here.

  12. It was necessary because the Cactus site was – much more so than other test sites – dirty in the radioactive sense. Due to miscalculations on the Baker shot, about 11 pounds of plutonium was not fissioned; The fact that it happened underwater contained much of the radioactive fallout in the immediate area, rather than allowing the atmosphere to disperse it.

    So, yeah: That’s the cleanup bunker for the very high quantities of fallout that remained in the area.

  13. Some artist should build twin Nacelles sticking up out of the ground in the appropriate spots and paint on NCC 1701 on the dome, too…sort of like the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, only for Star Trek geeks.

  14. @Dv Revolutionary, #7: The soviet equivalent would be Noyava Zemlya, where the biggest ever man-made explosion happened. I like posting those links to survivalist types every now and then, and leave them to reflect what Montana would like like after a dozen or so evenly-spaced 50 megaton detonations. (After all, apart from the obvious high population-density areas, no doubt both the major nuclear powers have a few warheads per MIRV targeted at apparently deserted areas, as that’s where the sekrit silos and bunkers are most likely to be.)

    Oh yeah, and the 50 Mt Tsar Bomba was merely a prototype for a 100 Mt bomb which they wisely decided was too risky to test; wisely, given that TB broke windows in Sweden and the fireball punched clean through the stratosphere and out of the atmosphere altogether. (Hey, why’m I suddenly channelling the scent of patchouli and crap homegrown grass? )

  15. #17 posted by mattdidthat

    Thanks. I reread my post and thought it sounded like I was trolling. I wasn’t and really wanted further information.

  16. If, on an alien planet or in a fantasy world, you find a huge building which puzzlingly has no door or even inspection hatch, do NOT try to enter….

  17. The circular shape of the dome is uncannily reflected by what appears to be a hole or depression of some kind in the waters just off shore.

    Dammit!!! I swear we followed the drawings accurately! Sigh… -The Dome Installers

  18. Here’s the coordinates for the Cactus Dome:

    11°33’9.14″N 162°20’50.26″E

    Took a bit of research. It’s on Runit Island. Looks like it used to be a really nice place.

  19. So that’s where they filmed the crash scene from that crappy “Star Trek: Generations” movie.

  20. Purpose a bummer? Am I the only one who thought it was incredibly cool? It’s a dome built to seal in a devastating and radioactive smoking nuclear crater. I could see a whole superman comic book about this. Villain seeks to break open the dome to poison the world, Superman ends up pitted in battle with him at the bottom of the crater….

    It sucks that they turned half the island to ash, but at least they had the courtesy to put a dome on it.

  21. The Cactus test was part of the larger Operation Hardtack-1, that took place between April and July of 1958. According to Nuclear Weapon Archive, the 30-foot-deep crater from the Cactus shot was used as a burial pit for about 110,000 cubic yards of radioactive soil scraped from other test sites in the area. Thus, the concrete dome, I suppose.

  22. i remember at some point an artist had painted an oil barrel pink and placed it at the highest point, making it the world’s largest breast. This was ages ago…

  23. I would have guessed it, but only because there was a magazine article (can’t remember which one, maybe ID), that proposed building a national monument to nuclear waste in DC, and it looked very similar to this… Probably inspired by it. Will see if I can find it…

  24. The hole next to it is probably from the construction of the concrete dome. Why bring in sand for concrete when you can just dig what you need and mix it on site.

    1. But why would you take the sand from underwater and dig it from a hole identical in shape to the final product? I wonder if they cast it underwater, since concrete cures very well when kept wet, and craned it into place.

  25. @14 ” #1 I assume they used cheap local labor and did not tell them of the risks. Just kidding.”

    throughout the entire history of the nuclear age. And still going on.

  26. A friend of mine’s dad was in the army at the time of the first nuclear test. They were marched through ground zero with no protective clothing on just after the explosion to see if they would have any ill effects; essentially the world’s first nuclear guinea pigs. I’m sure this is why my friend is such a (happy) mutant.

  27. i am wondering what were the long term health effects to the men who assisted in the clean up.They were not adequately attired for the clean up. I have a friend who was there and his standard attire was a pair of shorts,dust mask and work boots with socks. They was no tyvek or anything to keep the contamination from entering their skin either through their pores or their airways. My friend is now suffering from skin rashes and his teeth are rotting out. He also has some nerve problems (ie:shaking uncontrably,healing processes for bone breakage seriously low…etc)

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