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Short Stories

A Blast From The Past
by Kaeru Kid

A Blast (nuclear weapons testing) was started out in the desert at the Las Vegas Test Site on January 27, 1951 and ended in the fall of 1992 when a moratorium on all explosive nuclear testing by the United States began. A total of 928 tests were conducted during that time, 100 of them above ground.

These events were popular tourist attractions and you can relive those days of yesteryear if you can tear yourselves away from the casinos for a short while and visit the Atomic Testing Museum at 755 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89119-5151, telephone (702) 794-5151. Their website is www.atomictestingmuseum.org. Adult entrance fee is $10 and seniors and youth under 17 is $7.

Allocate a minimum of two hours to absorb all the displays showing the activities taking place at the atomic test site. An absolute must-see is the Ground Zero Theater where one can experience watching a nuclear explosion as VIPs did. The sound and the shaking of the structure will impress everyone. There are usually volunteer docents at the museum now retired from their jobs at the test site. Engage them in conversation and your tour will be much more interesting as they will give you insight not always available from reading the signs.

I’m going to tell you about a little known but the best FREE fun and educational tour in Las Vegas. The Department of Energy (DOE) gives tours every month out to the actual test site and they even provide the transportation. Go to: www.nv.doe.gov and check the box for Nevada Test Site to view the dates of the public tours. Applications are required beforehand so they can do a background check. Foreigners are welcome. A group can also ask for a private tour so maybe some of the reunion committees might consider adding a tour to their program. A great idea is to visit the Atomic Test Museum the day before the scheduled tour as a preview of what to look for.

The tour I took started from the North Las Vegas DOE headquarters and traveled about 65 miles northwest past Nellis Air Force Base. You might be lucky enough to see pilotless drones and perhaps fighter jets maneuvering overhead.

We entered the town of Mercury that is the headquarters for the test site area and the largest town in Nye County. Most workers live in Pahrump, Las Vegas, or a trailer park a short distance away. The test site encompasses over a thousand square miles and presently is actively studying chemical and low-level radioactive waste disposal. Many homeland security forces and first responders practice their techniques in case of chemical or radioactive attack at this locale.

Mrs. KK and I saw where newsmen and dignitaries sat at what is called News Nob to watch the blasts. Test structures made of different materials and shapes and located at varying distances from the explosions revealed how well or poorly they could withstand these terrifying forces.

My favorite area I call the monster doodlebug range. Large and small craters pockmark the area as if a giant doodlebug lived there. This was where many underground explosions were set off. One of the largest is called Sedan Crater and the tour makes a stop there.

Yucca Mountain, the proposed area to store nuclear waste, is not far away and free tours there can also be requested by going to www.ocrwn.doe.gov/ymp/about/tour/tours.shtml. This tour would have to be on another day because a different agency manages that tour.

Another informative site to learn about radioactive waste is http://www-formal.stanford.edu/ jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html. Among the many interesting questions posed is why we don’t reprocess the nuclear waste since it would save money and also result in a smaller amount of waste.

I also visited Trinity Site in New Mexico where the first atomic bomb was exploded. It is open to the public only on the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October.

I suggest going in October and arriving a day earlier and staying overnight in Socorro to get in line early. No prior clearance is required. Another spectacular site close to Socorro is the Very Large Array of Radio Tracking site. These are gigantic antennas aimed at outer space to gather valuable scientific data. Is that ET calling?

The Albuquerque Balloon Festival is held on the same weekend so one should attend this world famous event, too.



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