06.07.

1962: The Largest Nuclear Crater in the World

1962: The Largest Nuclear Crater in the World
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Crater from the 1962 "Sedan" nuclear test as part of Operation Plowshare.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 6 July 1962
  • The nuclear explosion caused the ground on a wide area to lift and create a 90 meters high dome. The dome then ruptured, splattering debris and gases in all directions, somewhat similar to a volcano explosion. It induced seismic waves equivalent to an earthquake of 4.75 on the Richter scale.

On this day a nuclear explosion was conducted in Nevada that made ​​the biggest artificial crater in the history of mankind.

The crater can be seen there today. It is almost 400 meters in diameter and about 100 meters deep. An explosion that would displace that amount of material from the soil (an estimated 11,000,000 tons) was never before, or since, performed.

The point of the test was to see whether a nuclear explosion could be used in peacetime for engineering purposes, such as digging large canals, creating artificial ports etc. Specifically, excavations of unseen dimensions in a short time could, theoretically, be done by using powerful nuclear explosions (like mining for construction purposes).

The bomb detonated on this day was a thermonuclear one with a yield of 104 kilotons (several times stronger than the one dropped on Hiroshima). The trick was that the bomb was dug 194 meters deep below the surface of the desert in Nevada. When it was detonated, the sight was an impressive one – the ground on a wide area lifted and created a 90 meters high dome. The dome then ruptured, splattering debris and gases in all directions, somewhat similar to a volcano explosion. It induced seismic waves equivalent to an earthquake of 4.75 on the Richter scale.

The conclusion of this test was not promising. Namely, it was shown that the explosion resulted in large amounts of radioactive fallout. In fact, that single explosion contributed about 7% to the total amount of radiation in the U.S. in history (and there have been more than a thousand other nuclear tests, even with much more powerful bombs). Thus, a nuclear bomb would be difficult to use for engineering blasting without creating a risk of a large amount of radiation.

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