Google-eye view of a nuclear test site

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Yucca Flat was the site of 739 nuclear tests between 1951 and 1992. Once an anonymous stretch of desert, it's now pockmarked with subsidence craters left behind by underground nuclear detonations. Among them is the Sedan Crater, a massive, 1200-feet-wide, 320-feet-deep pit, created as part of "plowshare" experiments—tests meant to demonstrate whether nuclear bombs could be used for peaceful purposes, like excavating new lakes or deep bays.

(Via Sean Carroll)


  1. Yucca Mountain is next door. It was deemed an unacceptable place to store radioactive materials because of the potential for radioactive material getting into the water supply in a rare seismic event.

  2. Besides the “plowshare” stuff, it provided a good premise for different movies including “The Beast from Yucca Flats,” with Tor “Super Swedish Angel” Johnson.

  3. This is an enlightening bit of devastated wasteland to check out on google earth.

    This is photo Area 2,4,7,8,9 & 10. Area 51 is an airport and buildings to the north-east of this, just follow the road. Older above ground tests are sprinkled north-west but the craters are not as dramatic. This area is the underground tests, they didn’t all stay underground and like the sedan crater some were colossal fnuck-ups.

    Your link doesn’t mention that but Sedan was a much bigger release than anticipated. It went atmospheric and irradiated 7% of the american population and caused thousands of cases of Leukemia back when that was not curable. Let me put it in real terms: thousands of children died just because of that one.

    The Plowshare and the Atoms for Peace movements were not peace movements they were hawks like Eisenhower and Edward Teller co-opting the language of peace to clam the public and co-opt/discredit actual peace talk by the likes of Einstein and Oppenheimer.

    1. Sir, do you mean to suggest that one of our political elite would hi-jack language to serve their own interests?
      That doesn’t sound very Patriotic – don’t you know that Freedom is at stake? We can’t let the Terrorists will win!

  4. Watch these pockmarks appear in a timeline – grab a coffee and sit down to the horror. 2,053 detonations since 1945. Why, why.


  5. There is a similar site, though done with more conventional means, somewhere in Arizona that was used to train the Apollo astronauts. It was literally modeled after a portion of the lunar surface, with the goal being for the astronauts to approach it in a helicopter much as they would in the LM. It was also used for additional training…

  6. Are any nuclear test sites visible from regular flight paths? I’ve seen similar giant domes when flying, my first thought was that they were test sites.

  7. Interesting bit of illusion here. The shadow is on the “bottom” of those pits, so when I looked at the picture before reading the article, I thought they were a bunch of little hills.

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