Saturday, August 17, 2013


In the late 60s, Wold & Jenkins, a Wyoming coal exploration company, in conjunction with the US Atomic Energy Commission, proposed nuking the Tertiary Fort Union coal formation in Wyoming.

In 1967, the AEC's Plowshare program - investigating peaceful uses for nuclear explosions - turned ten years old.   Plowshare investigated a wide variety of concepts, but the main inspiration for the program - and source of political backing - was nuclear excavation, the use of hydrogen bombs, as Edward Teller put it, in "geographical engineering.   We will change the Earth's surface to suit us."
[TB]   But after ten years, despite extensive nuclear testing, the AEC seemed to be getting further and further away from actual operational employment of the technology, due to treaty limitations on atmospheric nuclear tests and growing public concern over the radiological consequences.   As a result, the program began to shift towards alternative uses, what the AEC called "underground engineering": fully-contained underground applications of nuclear explosives, in cooperation with private industry (who would also shoulder much of the development costs), in which, at least in principle, no fallout would escape into the environment.