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US East Coast Test Site?

  1. Mar 8, 2017 #1
    Pages 41-44 of this document discuss the various continental nuclear test sites that were considered before the selection of Nevada. While North Carolina seems like an unusual choice at first, it would be in close proximity to Savannah River Site in South Carolina. North Carolina also established the world's first university based nuclear engineering program at North Carolina State University in 1950.

    How would a test site in North Carolina have been in fallout contamination? Would a coastal site have made it easier for foreign powers to snoop on American nuclear tests?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 8, 2017 #2


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    At the bottom of page 44, one finds the statement that the Texas Gulf Coast and East Coast in North Carolina were in the five choices, but the ranked below the other three choices. On page 47 to 48 is a discussion of the final determination by Truman.

    In answer to the above questions, above ground testing would have contaminated the area, and fallout would have drifted with prevailing winds. Had they decided to use the North Carolina coast, hopefully they would have waited for winds to blow out to sea. However, fallout would have contaminated the fishing resources off the coast.

    Using the east coast would have allowed Russian/Cuban ships to monitor the tests and collect samples.

    Eventually, above ground testing was suspended in favor of underground testing.
  4. Mar 9, 2017 #3
    To clarify, I'm thinking about this from the perspective of fallout contamination. Apart from Hawaii and other Pacific islands, most of the United States and the territories it controlled are at latitudes where the prevailing wind would carry fallout towards population centers to the East. While Nevada had the lowest state population in 1950 (the Alaska Territory wasn't far behind it), Nevada actually experienced less fallout contamination than areas to the East, with the heaviest concentration falling on Utah.

    In the case of an East Coast test site, much of the fallout would come down over the ocean instead of populated areas, and the weather forecasting area would be smaller too. Would that help reduce the human toll of nuclear testing, or could it make matters worse through bioaccumulation of strontium-90 in the ocean, material leakage into water tables, rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean, etc.?
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