Las Vegas, Nevada – November 2023

Early in 2023 I signed up to visit the Nuclear Test Sites in Nevada. This is a free tour, but you have to make the request months ahead of time so the Department of Energy can give you clearance. This is a free tour on a commercial tour bus with about 40 people. I’d recommend that everyone take the tour. The only bad thing I have to say about the experience is that you aren’t allowed to take any photographs, instead the tour guide takes several group shots. These group shots even have to be approved for release before they are given to the participants. Our tour guide was a woman that worked here for decades and retired. She gave many stories f the tests as well as life in the town of Mercury and working at the site.

The top left photo is our group at the Area 2 Gun Turret. This is the Navy Mark 9 turret from the USS Lousiville cruiser. In 1957 the turret was acquired from the Mare Island Navy Shipyard. The turret was installed 1 mile from the tower supporting the nuclear device. The turret was repurposed with a single lead lined tube to restrict the detection of radiation from specific targeted areas during the explosion.

The top middle photo is the Apple 2 test and one of the test houses that still remain. There were a couple of similar tests and you see these in the old films where they placed mannequins, cars and furniture in buildings to study the effects of the blast and possible shelter options.

We drove past ground 0 for several tests as well as the benches where the media watched the tests and the trenches where the soldiers were placed during the tests. Besides these above ground tests we saw many craters left from the below ground tests.

The big picture is Sedan crater. This was one of the tests for the Plowshare program where the Atomic Energy commission was trying to find peaceful uses for these devices. The thought here was a harbor or new canal could be blasted out rather than dug out. A 104-kiloton thermonuclear device was buried 635 feet below the surface. The explosion displaced 12 million tons of earth and created a crater 1,280 feet in diameter and 320 feet deep. The force was equivalent to a 4.75 earthquake.

This tour was offered on a Monday so I decided to stay in Las Vegas/Henderson for the week. I didn’t know it at the time, but the F1 race was scheduled for the next weekend. The strip was a mess with preparations. Our tour left from the Atomic Museum. I visited this museum the day before. The whole history of the testing at the site is laid out on a time line that includes other major events to mark against as well as displays of various artifacts. This museum is a couple of blocks off the strip, the bus took us across one of the temporary bridges put in place to get over the race track. On the way back we passed the Sphere which presented several different light shows as we drive by in the evening.

This was the first time I stayed any length of time in Las Vegas on my own. I was able to visit Hoover Dam which I had previously tried after COVID restrictions were lifted, but I discovered weren’t lifted at the dam. Along with that, I was able to visit the Neon Museum for the evening presentation. I had previously been there during the day time, and the evening experience is much more impressive. Another place I was able to visit was Meow Wolf Omega Mart. I wanted to visit this after having been to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM. On my return to San Diego, I was able to visit Nelson Ghost town just south of Las Vegas.

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