Environmental impacts of underground nuclear weapons testing

Since Trinity—the first atomic bomb test on the morning of July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico—the nuclear-armed states have conducted 2,056 nuclear tests (Kimball 2023)
1962 Sedan nuclear test Crater seen from above Crater from 1962 "Sedan" nuclear test as part of Operation Plowshare
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Since Trinity—the first atomic bomb test on the morning of July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico—the nuclear-armed states have conducted 2,056 nuclear tests (Kimball 2023). The United States led the way with 1,030 nuclear tests, or almost half of the total, between 1945 and 1992. Second is the former Soviet Union, with 715 tests between 1949 and 1990, and then France, with 210 tests between 1960 and 1996. Globally, nuclear tests culminated in a cumulative yield of over 500 megatons, which is equivalent to 500 million tons of TNT (Pravalie 2014). This surpasses by over 30,000 times the yield of the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

Atmospheric nuclear tests prevailed until the early 1960s, with bombs tested by various means: aircraft drops, rocket launches, suspension from balloons, and detonation atop towers above ground. Between 1945 and 1963, the Soviet Union conducted 219 atmospheric tests, followed by the United States (215), the United Kingdom (21), and France (3) (Kimball 2023).

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