Secret Nuclear Test Films Saved, Declassified And Uploaded on YouTube
Thanks to a project by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), thousands of nuclear testing explosion films conducted between 1945 and 1962 has been declassified by the U.S. government for the first time and placed on YouTube.
Shot at the height of the Cold War when the arms race was at its severest, the chilling videos have just been shared on YouTube in an effort to preserve footage found decomposing in high security vaults.
Between 1945 and 1962, the LLNL carried out 210 nuclear tests across New Mexico, Nevada and both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Greg Spriggs, a weapon physicist at LLNL and head of the project and a team of archivists have been chasing down, scanning and declassifying these decomposing films before it is too late.
The American nuclear blasts, which were filmed on high-speed cameras and shooting each event at around 2,400 frames per second were published online on Wednesday.
Until now, the team has located around 6,500 of the estimated 10,000 films created during atmospheric above-ground testing.
So far, around 4,200 films have been scanned, 400 to 500 have been reanalysed and around 750 have been declassified for the public to view. The first set of 64 videos is now available on YouTube. Some are in black and white, some are in color, and all of them bear the unusual names of top secret missions: Operation Hardtack, Operation Plumbbob, Operation Teapot.
Spriggs said when they got their hands on the film they could smell it wasting away. It is made of nitrate cellulose, an organic material that, when decomposes, smells like vinegar.
“You can smell vinegar when you open the cans,” Spriggs said in a YouTube video.
“They’re made out of organic material, and organic material decomposes. So this is it. We got to this project just in time to save the data.”
According to the LLNL, the aim of the recovery was to provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the ageing U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.
By making the movies public and evaluating them, Spriggs hopes to help other nuclear weapon physicists learn more about nuclear explosions.
“We don’t have any experimental data for modern weapons in the atmosphere,” Spriggs says in a video about the project. “The only data we have are the old tests, so it gets a little bit more complicated.”
It will take another two years to scan the remaining of the films and longer to complete the comprehensive analysis and declassification.
Spriggs hopes that the release of these films will be used to warn other nations against the use of mass destruction weapons and act as an effective deterrent.
Spriggs said: “It’s just unbelievable how much energy’s released.
“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 are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them.”
The release comes a day after warnings that the U.S. military’s new “supernukes” could push Russia into a “catastrophic pre-emptive strike”.
The public can now watch some of these declassified films on the LLNL’s YouTube playlist.