Mary Palevsky

Underground Nuclear Testing at the Nevada Test Site

One hundred above-ground nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) between January 27, 1951, and July 17, 1962. On August 5, 1963, the Soviet Union and the United States signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), which prohibited nuclear tests in the atmosphere, under water, and in space. From that time, until the end of testing in 1992, nuclear tests at the NTS were conducted underground. However, these post-LBTB tests were not the first underground nuclear events at the NTS.

Protest, Dissent, and Witness at the Nevada Test Site

Since the late 1950s, the Nevada Test Site has been the subject of criticism, protest, and civil disobedience. Organized protest actions have ranged in size from fewer than ten people to groups of thousands during the large demonstrations of the 1980s. Individuals have observed private desert witness as they pray for world peace. In spite of the nuclear testing moratorium that has been in place since 1992, protest continues at the site.

Establishing a Cold War Continental Testing Site in Nevada

On January 27, 1951, Nevada became the United States’ cold war continental nuclear proving ground when a one-kiloton nuclear device was detonated over Frenchman Flat. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chose the Nevada Test Site after carefully considering complex factors involving science, national policy, geopolitics, safety, and public relations.

Atmospheric Nuclear Testing at the Nevada Test Site

One hundred atmospheric nuclear tests were detonated at the Nevada Test Site (originally the Nevada Proving Grounds) between 1951 and 1963. The first Nevada series, code-named Ranger, was conducted during January and February 1951, immediately after President Harry S. Truman had approved the establishment of a continental test site in Nevada. The United States’ first post-World War II nuclear tests had been conducted in the Pacific.

Nuclear Testing Before Nevada (1942-1950)

The Nevada Test Site was the United States’ Cold War continental nuclear proving ground. Nuclear weapons testing began during World War II and came of age during the Cold War. The nuclear tests conducted in Nevada between 1951 and 1992 had their origins in major scientific discoveries of the twentieth century.

Nuclear Weapons Testing and Use during World War II

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