US military detonates largest nuclear bomb in test 69 years ago, but scientists didn’t expect it to be that big

Thermonuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.

Thermonuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

  • Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted dozens of nuclear tests in the Pacific.

  • The largest of these was the explosion of the Castle Bravo device on March 1, 1954.

  • It was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

The U.S. military tested dozens of nuclear weapons in the Pacific in the years after World War II, but none of the scale of the explosions compared to the scale of the Castle Bravo test, says former nuclear weapons historian. called “The Largest Radiation Disaster in U.S. History”

The Castle Bravo device was the largest nuclear weapon ever tested by the United States. On Wednesday, March 1, 1954, exactly 69 years ago, the military detonated this bomb on Bikini Atoll, a small reef in the Marshall Islands.

The fallout produced by the explosion was far worse than anyone expected, a spectacular incident that raises questions about the development of atmospheric tests, a nuclear weapons expert tells an insider. rice field.

Castle Bravo was the first of six weapons tested as part of the week-long series of large-scale thermonuclear weapons tests (also known as Operation Castle) from 1 March to 31 May 1954. A mushroom cloud that reached an altitude of 130,000 feet and left a crater over 250 feet deep and 6,500 feet wide.

But scientists grossly miscalculated this yield, predicting that it would only produce an explosive yield of up to 6 megatons. the brookings instituteThey didn’t realize that fusion fuel would have such a large effect on bomb detonation.

The Pentagon said in Operation Castle the explosion actually produced 15 megatons of explosive force. fact sheetIn other words, it was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that flattened Hiroshima, Japan at the end of World War II.

“It got worse”

Castle Bravo also caused a large amount of radioactive fallout that had a negative impact over the years. Radioactive material rained down on the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and was found thousands of miles away, leading to serious illness. Exposure Contaminated food and dust caused long-term health problems.

A photographic print of the atomic bomb, the first underwater test at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia.  Dated 1946.

A photographic print of the atomic bomb, the first underwater test at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia. Dated 1946.Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group at Getty Images

A Japanese fishing vessel sailing about 80 miles from the test site on the day the Castle Bravo device exploded was exposed to radiation, ultimately killing one crew member and leaving others on board with radiation poisoning. . Nuclear Heritage FoundationNearly 40 U.S. Navy sailors exposed to the fallout also suffered skin injuries, the Pentagon said. I got it.

Whenever the military prepared for a nuclear test, it set up a safe zone for the fallout that would follow after the device exploded. But these previous assumptions about safety could be undermined if the bomb produces a larger-than-expected explosive force, Hans Christensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told an insider. rice field.

“Of course, what happened after Bravo was that a lot of the fallout was greatly amplified and drifted over a much wider area than expected,” Christensen said. It was expected to be serious, but it made things worse.”

The fallout caused serious health problems for residents of the Marshall Islands, although the exact number affected by testing is unknown.National Cancer Institute found Some cancers in residents who lived during the years of nuclear testing can be attributed to radiation exposure. I’m here.

2019 report According to the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission, nuclear weapons tests like Castle Bravo have had a devastating effect on the country’s environment, and people routinely fear how long-term exposure to radiation will affect them. Some people do. health.

Castle Romeo was the codename for one of the series of American thermonuclear tests, Operation Castle, which began at Bikini Atoll in March 1954.

Castle Romeo was the codename for one of the series of American thermonuclear tests, Operation Castle, which began at Bikini Atoll in March 1954.Photo by Gallery Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

“There has been a real impact for people living on the surrounding islands,” Christensen said. “And those consequences are very serious and long-lasting,” he added.

Castle Bravo was a real ‘wonder’

Despite the devastation caused by Castle Bravo, US forces continued to conduct nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. A total of 67 tests were conducted between 1946 and his 1958.

However, the incident raises the serious dangers associated with this particular type of testing in the United States, and the international community, as continued atomic and hydrogen bomb detonations have led to heightened concerns about the effects of radioactive fallout. helped to recognize

A year later, in 1955, the United Nations established a Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. imposed It monitors the effects of radiation exposure and helps governments and organizations develop protective measures and assess radiation risks.

signed by the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 1963 Prohibits nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, space and water.agreement is the first Several Targeted nuclear weapons during the Cold War but did not ban underground testing. The subsequent Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was signed in the 1990s.

“It definitely contributed to the perception that an atmospheric nuclear test is probably not that wise,” Christensen said, adding, “I think it was also really eye-opening for the international community. It was something,” he added. I mean that really helped boost it. “

Read the original article at business insider