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US Nuclear Weapons Test Details Declassified: Footage Published Online

19 March 2017, 5:09 am EDT By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
The United States has declassified the footage of the nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962 and published them online. It is hoped that the videos provide scientific data and serve as a moral deterrent for nations using nuclear weapons.
  ( LLNL )

The United States has declassified its secretive footage of the nuclear tests it conducted between 1945 and 1962 and published them online on YouTube.

Much of the footage will make viewers run for cover as they see chilling reminders of the arms race for military superiority during the Cold War.

The footages were captured by multiple cameras at various angles. They documented each explosion at the rate of 2,400 frames per second and made an estimated 10,000 films.

Out of the 750 declassified video recordings, around 210 are of atmospheric nuclear tests. In the footage, nuclear bombs can be seen blown on the ground as well as on ocean atolls.

Raw footages of the nuclear tests were taken mostly from Nevada and the Marshall Islands. While some videos are seconds long, many are beyond seven minutes.

The video documentation of the nuclear tests extends until the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and may serve as a moral deterrent to nuclear-armed countries.

"We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again. I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons is and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them," said Gregory D. Spriggs, a weapon physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Footage Unseen For Almost 70 Years

Most of the videos are spine-chilling - showing blinding light flashes and mushroom-like white clouds spewing out into the atmosphere.

Spriggs and his team of experts at the LLNL tracked down the nuclear test films, which had been locked up in high-security vaults across the United States. They have been scanning, reanalyzing, and declassifying the films for the past five years. The project aims to preserve the footage before the films fall into decay and their content is lost forever.

The project has recovered thousands of the nuclear test films, around 6,500 of the estimated total. The film rolls, made of nitrate cellulose and which had been gathering dust for more than 65 years, gave off a vinegar-like smell, a sign of film decomposition.

The effort has led to the declassification of 750 films. Their digital versions are now published in the LLNL's playlist on YouTube.

Benefit For Nuclear Researchers

The declassification of the footage has a sociological benefit and historical significance. According to the LLNL, the main benefit will be that researchers of the post-Cold War era can understand the impact of nuclear weapons. The project The project will also provide scientists with the data they need to ensure that the aging nuclear deterrent of the United States is effective, safe, and secure.

Another gain from the reprocessing of the footage is the opportunity to correct distortions in data by comparing restored footage with the original data sheets for each test.

Data Correction In Nuclear Records

Spriggs said the revived footage helped in correcting many of the errors in the published data during the tests.

Decades ago when the tests were conducted, researchers analyzed each of the frames on each roll of film manually. They used a kodagraph to enlarge the image in each frame, project it on a grid, and carefully note the size of the fireball and shockwave. Because the tests were filmed at the rate of 2,400 frames per second, at least a thousand analysts were needed to do the measurements.

Now computers are doing that analysis, with programs making precise measurements from each of the captured frames.

"We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent," Spriggs said.

He added many discoveries about the detonations were made possible from the footage not seen before. That helped in making fresh correlations by the nuclear forensics community.

It will take two more years to digitize the remaining films. Spriggs expressed the hope that the footage will stop nations from ever using the nuclear arsenal option.

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