7 Surprising Facts About the Nuclear Bomb Tests at Bikini Atoll

Bikini Atoll met the military’s criteria, as detailed in a National Resources Defense Council report. It was under American control and it was far from shipping lanes, but less than 1,600 miles from a base from which bombers could take off. Additionally, the lagoon encircled by the atoll provided a protected harbor for naval vessels, including ships that would be used as targets. And there was only a small population – according to one account, only 167 people – that could be moved by the army.

REGARDER: Rise of the Super Bombs sur HISTORY Vault

In February 1946, Commodore Ben H. Wyatt, military governor of the Marshall Islands, visited Bikini Atoll and met with a gathering of residents to announce the news that they had to leave, at least temporarily. According to Jack Niedenthal’s 2001 history of Bikini Atoll, For the Sake of Mankind, Wyatt told them the tests were necessary to prevent future wars. Residents reacted with confusion and sadness. Finally, their leader, King Judah, stood up and announced, “We will go, believing that everything is in God’s hands.

The small atoll would soon become one of the most famous places on the planet, a name so recognizable that a French designer named a swimsuit after it. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 23 nuclear devices on Bikini Atoll, including 20 hydrogen bombs. Among these was the Castle Bravo H-bomb test of March 1, 1954, which achieved a yield of 15 megatons, 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945.

Here are some seven facts about nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll.

1. The first atomic bomb dropped on Bikini Atoll missed the target

A mushroom cloud seen from the island of Eneu, resulting from an atomic explosion of "Capable" during Operation Crossroads, July 1, 1946.

A mushroom cloud seen from the island of Eneu, resulting from an atomic explosion of “Able” during Operation Crossroads, July 1, 1946.

Archives Bettmann/Getty Images

The atoll was chosen as the location for Operation Crossroads, a program to investigate the effects of nuclear explosions on Navy ships. On July 1, 1946, Test Able was staged. A target fleet of 95 ships has been positioned in the lagoon of Bikini Atoll, with laboratory animals – pigs, goats and mice – on board so scientists can study the potential effects of radiation on the ships’ crews. A support fleet of 150 other ships withdrew to a position 10 nautical miles from the atoll and waited.

At 9 a.m., a B-29 bomber flew over the lagoon and dropped an atomic bomb, which detonated 520 feet from the surface and missed the target ship in the middle of the lagoon by 1,500 to 2,000 feet, according to an account of the Atomic Heritage Foundation. The bomb only sank five of the ships, but the force of the explosion and radiation killed about a third of the laboratory animals.

2. The second atomic bomb test on Bikini Atoll created a tsunami

The Baker test during Operation Crossroads, a series of two nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll.

The Baker test during Operation Crossroads, a series of two nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll.

Gallery Bilderwelt/Getty Images

In Test Baker on July 25, 1946, the U.S. military attempted a different approach, detonating a bomb 90 feet below the surface of the lagoon water. It was the first underwater test of a nuclear weapon and resulted in all sorts of startling phenomena, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation. The explosion generated a huge bubble of hot gas that simultaneously expanded downward and upward.

At the bottom, he dug a crater 30 feet deep and 2,000 feet wide on the surface of the sea floor. On the surface, it erupted like a geyser and created a huge dome of water that eventually reached over a mile in height. The explosion triggered a tsunami with a wave 94 feet high, so powerful that it lifted the Arkansas , a 27,000-ton ship. The wave of water swept away many of the target ships, coating them with radioactivity. Eight of the ships were sunk, according to a U.S. Navy account.

Scroll to continue

3. The Soviets watched the tests, but weren’t impressed

The United States allowed international observers to the tests, and Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, who was both head of the Soviet atomic program and head of the Stalin regime’s secret police, sent a physicist and a geologist, according to the book. Richard Rhodes from 1995. Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb .

Apparently they weren’t impressed. One of the observers Simon Peter Alexandrov, uranium manager for the Soviet nuclear effort, told an American scientist that while the purpose of the test was to scare the Soviets, it didn’t work, because the Soviets had bombers. that could reach US cities, according to the National Security Archive. The Soviet newspaper Pravda afterwards criticized the American tests as “common blackmail” and said that apart from a few obsolete warships, the only thing the United States had blown up was “belief in the seriousness of American discussions on atomic disarmament”.

4. A third atomic bomb test at Bikini was canceled

An aerial view of a target outline on Namu Island in Bikini Atoll.

An aerial view of a target outline on Namu Island in Bikini Atoll.

Archives Bettmann/Getty Images

The US nuclear weapons program had a problem in 1946 because it didn’t have many bombs yet. The Able and Baker tests used two of only three nuclear cores in US stockpile, according to Rhodes. Even though production of new bombs soon resumed, the US military remained concerned about the waste of resources. Operation Crossroads was originally to include a third test, Charlie, scheduled for April 1947, in which researchers planned to detonate an atomic bomb even deeper in water. But senior Manhattan Project and Pentagon officials argued it had no military value and that providing another bomb would hamper efforts to produce a lighter, smaller atomic weapon, according to the National Security Archive account. The test was postponed and eventually cancelled. Officials were apparently also unhappy with the atoll’s lack of land to create a support base and the inability to build an airstrip there. After the 1946 tests, Bikini Atoll was not reused as a site until 1954, when the United States began testing hydrogen bombs.

5. A hydrogen bomb test produced a larger than expected explosion

Crew members of a Japanese tuna fishing boat attend a news conference at Tokyo University Hospital March 16, 1954. All 23 crew members were exposed to nuclear fallout from the U.S. nuclear test Castle Bravo while fishing for tuna near Marshall Island's Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.

Crew members of a Japanese tuna fishing boat attend a news conference at Tokyo University Hospital March 16, 1954. All 23 crew members were exposed to nuclear fallout from the U.S. nuclear test Castle Bravo while fishing for tuna near Marshall Island’s Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.

Les Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

The Bravo test was not the first H-bomb the United States had. exploded – that distinction belonged to Ivy Mike, a device exploded in November 1952 in Enewak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. But it was the first thermonuclear weapon small enough to be used as a weapon. While its designers had achieved a technological first, they also made a critical mistake, drastically underestimating the magnitude of the yield that would be created by its fusion fuel.

When the 23,500-pound device detonated on March 1, 1954, it produced a 15-megaton explosion, three times larger than expected, according to a Brookings Institution report. The explosion was so powerful that it vaporized three of the atoll’s islands and tore a mile-wide crater at the bottom of the lagoon.

Stanford University biology professor Stephen Palumbi, who visited the atoll in 2017 as part of a TV documentary, estimated the bomb blast sent debris into the air equivalent to 216 Empires. State Buildings, according to Stanford Magazine .

Radioactive debris vomited from the explosion infected 23 crew members aboard a Japanese fishing boat 80 miles away, as well as residents of Rongelap and Utirik atolls. Kuboyama Aikichi, a crew member of the Japanese boat, died six months later at the age of 40. Japanese doctors who performed an autopsy on Aikichi cited radiation sickness as the cause of death, although this determination has remained disputed.

6. H-bombs tested in Bikini in the 1950s had strange nicknames

The Bravo test nuclear device was nicknamed “Shrimp”, even though it weighed 23,500 pounds. The Romeo test, conducted a few weeks after Bravo, used an even larger bomb dubbed “Runt I”. Other bombs had nicknames such as “Morgenstern” and “Alarm Clock”, according to the NRDC report.

7. Bikini Atoll is still not suitable for habitation

Residents of Bikini Atoll carry their belongings to the beach as they prepare to evacuate the atoll. In 1946, the population of the atoll was moved to Rongerik Atoll, 109 miles away.

Residents of Bikini Atoll carry their belongings to the beach as they prepare to evacuate the atoll. In 1946, the population of the atoll was moved to Rongerik Atoll, 109 miles away.

Archives Bettmann/Getty Images

When the people of Bikini Atoll were relocated in 1946, it was promised that they could eventually return. Instead, they were moved to other Marshall Islands. Beginning in the late 1960s, the United States Atomic Energy Commission declared Bikini Atoll finally safe for human habitation again and allowed the return of some former residents. But that experiment was cut short a decade later, when a study showed that cesium-137 levels in the bodies of returnees increased by 75%.

The residents of Bikini were again relocated, this time to Kili Island, 450 miles away. Scientists say it’s still not safe to return. “Probably the strongest finding from our research is that Bikini Island needs to be cleaned up if people are to live there again,” says Ivana Nikolic Hughes, associate professor of chemistry at Columbia University and director of the K -1 Project Center for Nuclear. Studies “This is based on cesium-137 levels in food, background gamma radiation, and the presence of various isotopes in soil and ocean sediments.”

In 2010, UNESCO declared Bikini Atoll a World Heritage Site as a reminder of the fearsome power of nuclear weapons and their influence on modern civilization.

Source link

Related Posts