The Cold War was a time of incredible stress and anxiety for the world. Just a single targeted nuclear bomb released by either side had the potential to decimate the world, razing entire cities to the ground. Fortunately, that tragedy never came to be, but a new series of never-before-seen Cold War videos highlighting testing at the time are a stark reminder of exactly what was – and potentially, is – at stake.
• The videos, which you can watch yourself here at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)’s YouTube channel, cover tests between 1945 and 1962. All are above-ground tests, a procedure the US stopped due to safety concerns at the end of the testing period. We’ve added one of the videos below.
• A few of the tests identified in the declassified videos played a significant role in helping American weaponists learn about nuclear power and how it might be used to protect the country. Videos showcase Operation Dominic, Operation HardTack, Operation Teapot, three critical learning exercises.
• The LLNL clarified that the auspicious timing of the videos being released just weeks after struggles to convince North Korea to denuclearize was little more than a coincidence. Instead, the release was a matter of urgency because the old film reels storing the videos were beginning to break down in storage.
• “The goals are to preserve the films’ content before it’s lost forever, and provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the aging U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” LLNL explains in its main channel video.
• LLNL also indicated that a pre-release review indicated that American scientists struggled with facts and evidence around nuclear weaponry. Many of the concluded “results” were either completely wrong or miscalculated, including explosion radius, power, and fallout spread.
• LLNL’s weapon physicist, Greg Spriggs, also stated that the videos are helping American scientists learn “new things about these detonations that have never been seen before.” He indicated that a review of the declassified videos allowed them to “come up with better data to better understand nuclear weapon effects.”
• There’s really no possible way to explain the sheer power of these weapons; seeing them in video, even if black and white, is a chilling and terrifying experience. It’s also a great reminder of how much we stand to lose if we don’t make protecting America, and the people who live here, a priority.