American Nuclear Weapons Testing: Necessary For National Security


             American policy makers in the late 1940s debated the very controversial topic of nuclear weapons testing on American soil. Previously, American policy makers such as Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) head Sumner Pike stated that, "only a national emergency could justify testing in the United States” (Ball 27-28). As the Soviet Union and communism expanded half a world away, hostilities broke out in Korea, which authorities asserted was a national emergency that would warrant nuclear testing on American soil. Authorities within the AEC believed that in order to maintain nuclear superiority and preserve national security, nuclear tests would have to be conducted in the continental United States. The Nevada Test Site (NTS) was chosen for a few primary reasons: it was a flat area with little rainfall to minimize radioactive fallout, the winds traditionally blew east towards the relatively "uninhabited” portions of Nevada and Utah and away from the heavy population concentrations of the West coast (Cheney 36). Nuclear weapons' testing was essential for national security, yet it was not absolutely necessary for these tests to take place within the continental United States.

             Testing at the Nevada Test Site began in early 1951 and within the next seven years 90 nuclear explosions occurred in the Nevada desert. The ominous result of these tests was the distribution of radioactive particles throughout the United States with areas in eastern Nevada and southern Utah especially affected (Some Questions 1). The tests were conducted to enhance the American nuclear arsenal - the goal wasn't only to achieve the biggest bomb, it included the development of tactical nuclear devices that could be used on the battlefield against enemy troops without causing harm to friendly troops. As Glenn Cheney, a radioactivity researcher and author, comments on the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, "To fall behind, to become weaker, might be to practically ask for attack” (Cheney 37).

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