Hundreds of Cold War-era nuclear tests have left a trail of death across the country.

by Mary Dickson, The Progressive

As Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer painstakingly demonstrates, after witnessing the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, J. Robert Oppenheimer, knew the destructive force he had helped to unleash with the Trinity Test in 1945. Almost eighty years later, Americans and people across the globe are still living with the devastating consequences.

The film has been criticized for not including what came after Trinity, but fortunately it is generating a long overdue dialogue about the test’s aftermath—not just the arms race it triggered, but the millions of innocent people around the world, including my family and I, whose lives have been shattered by nuclear weapons production and testing.

The BAKER test of Operation Crossroads, July 25, 1946. Seconds after the water column rose, and formed a condensation cloud, it fell back, unleashing a billowing base surge forming a 500 foot high wal

As audiences leave theaters, I want them to think about this: the explosion at Trinity was only the first nuclear bomb detonated on American soil.  From 1951 to 1992 during the Cold War, the United States detonated 928 nuclear bombs in the deserts of Nevada, just sixty-five miles from Las Vegas. Hundreds were many times more powerful than those that leveled Hiroshima and 100 were detonated in the open air, spreading radioactive fallout across the entire nation and beyond. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) knew when it moved testing to Nevada  that the prevailing winds in the United States would blow eastward and carry fallout with them, but it went ahead with testing there anyway. They hid the truth from the public for decades opting instead for the “judicious handling of public information.” The landmark federal case Allen v. United States concluded in 1984 that the government’s negligence harmed and killed its own citizens.

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