Sunday, March 8, 2015

Partial List of US Scientific Nuclear Tests

I'm posting this as a separate post, prior to posting Part 3 of The Philosopher's Bomb, because there's a very common misconception about how many nuclear shots the Plowshare program fired off.   Most lists of Plowshare tests do not include most of these tests, because they were officially sponsored by the AEC's Division of Military Applications as military tests, and the incorporated experiment was only an add-on.   Nonetheless, if we ignore them - which almost all histories of the Plowshare program do - we're missing an important part of the story.

Note, by the way, that this is only a partial list.   First, there were some tests, as discussed in The Philosopher's Bomb, that I was not able to identify.   Second, although the Plowshare scientific applications program ended with PLIERS in 1969, other, later tests did incorporate science add-ons as part of other programs.   There was a project in the 1970s, codenamed HALITE/CENTURION, that used nuclear explosions as X-ray sources to test concepts for inertial confinement fusion.   There was another project in the late 70s and 80s that used nuclear explosions to determine the physical properties of metals under extreme pressure.   There was yet another project in the late 50s that used high-yield atmospheric tests to inject radioactive tracers into the upper atmosphere, to map the air currents up there.   And probably more I don't know about.   I hope to eventually investigate and write up those projects as well, but, until then, this list will remain incomplete.

Test Date Yield Sponsor Purpose Flux Lab Cites
BUTTERNUT 05/11/58 81 kT DMA SHEs ??? LASL [Kn]
??? May '58 ??? DMA Physics N/A LASL [CD]
QUAY 10/10/58 79 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [CD]
GNOME 12/10/61 3.1 kT DPNE Multiple N/A LRL
??? 1962 ??? DMA Physics N/A LRL [Alb]
ANACOSTIA 11/27/62 5.2 kT DPNE SHEs 2.5-4 LRL [Be2]
KAWEAH 02/21/63 3 kT DPNE SHEs ??? LRL [GURC]
GERBIL 03/29/63 Low DMA SHEs ??? LASL [GURC]
KENNEBEC 06/25/63 Low DPNE SHEs 4.6-6 LRL [Be2]
ANCHOVY 11/14/63 Low DMA SHEs 2-3 LASL [Be2]
GREYS 11/22/63 Inter. DMA SHEs ??? LRL [GURC]
OCONTO 01/23/64 10.5 kT DMA SHEs ??? LRL [GURC]
PIPEFISH 04/29/64 < 20 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [HDB]
BYE 07/16/64 20-200 kT DMA SHEs ??? LRL [GURC]
PAR 10/09/64 38 kT DPNE SHEs 11 LRL [Be2]
BARBEL 10/16/64 < 20 kT DMA SHEs 11 LASL [Be2]
PARROT 12/16/64 1.3 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [GURC]
SCAUP 05/14/65 < 20 kT DMA SHEs ??? LASL [GURC]
TWEED 05/21/65 < 20 kT DMA SHEs 12 LRL [Be2]
PETREL 06/11/65 1.3 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [GURC]
DURYEA 04/14/66 70 kT DMA SHEs ??? LRL [GURC]
CYCLAMEN 05/05/66 12 kT DMA SHEs 18 LASL [Be2]
KANKAKEE 06/15/66 20-200 kT DMA SHEs 12 LRL [Be2]
VULCAN 06/25/66 25 kT DPNE SHEs 12 LRL [Be2]
PERSIMMON 02/23/67 < 20 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [GURC]
POMMARD 03/14/68 1.5 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [Di]
HUTCH 07/16/69 20-200 kT DMA SHEs 35 LRL [Be2]
PLIERS 08/27/69 <20 kT DMA Physics N/A LASL [Di]

DMA: Division of Military Applications.DPNE: Division of Peaceful Nuclear Explosives.
LASL: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, now Los Alamos National Laboratory.
LRL: Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, now Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
SHEs: SuperHeavy Elements.

Citations can be found here.

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