18 April 1953 - Badger
On 18 April 1953, the United States conducted the Badger test. The device, which was detonated from a 300-foot tower, had a yield of 23 kilotons, slightly higher than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima but lower than the expected 35 to 40 kilotons. The test was part of the operation ‘Upshot-Knothole’, a series of 11 nuclear tests which involved troop maneuvers in the immediate vicinity of the explosions to evaluate the effects of nuclear weapons such as radiation on troops and equipment.
It would take to[o] many words to describe just how frightening this experience was. Immediately after the blast, we were ordered to advance to ground zero. However we were stopped after advancing 500 yards because a sudden wind shift rained down heavy amounts of Gamma radiation upon the Regiment.Frank Bushey, U.S. serviceman who participated in the Badger shot
During the Badger shot, around 2,800 troops took part in an exercise close to ground zero, including an airlift involving 39 helicopters. A U.S. government fact sheet (PDF) notes: “…the number of overexposures at UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE was unusually large. This resulted in part from the heavy fallout and the unanticipated directions in which it was deposited on the ground.” According to calculations by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (PDF), fallout from two tests that were part of the Upshot-Knothole series, Simon and Harry, had the highest caesium-137 levels of any of the continental U.S. tests.
The health hazards from nuclear testing have been evaluated by a number of studies and those affected have sought recognition and financial compensation in many lawsuits. The 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act required the U.S. government to compensate individuals who suffered health consequences from exposure to radiation released by the nuclear testing programme. In 2011, the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution designating 27 January as the National Day of Remembrance for ‘downwinders’ affected by nuclear weapon tests.
The United States conducted its last nuclear test ‘Divider’ on 23 September 1992. In 1996, it was the first country to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear explosions. However, the United States has yet to ratify the Treaty, a step that is mandatory for its entry into force. The same applies to seven other ‘nuclear-capable’ States: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran and Pakistan.
- Nuclear Weapon Archive
- Nuclear Files (exposure maps)
- U.S. Department of Defense Official Report on the Operation Upshot-Knothole (PDF)
- Defense Threat Reduction Agency fact sheet on the Operation Upshot-Knothole (PDF)
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