Several critical nuclear bomb tests in the early 1950s were moved from a remote Alaskan island to Nevada so fallout could be measured more easily, even as some scientists worried about contaminating civilians, newly discovered documents reveal.
Some military planners portrayed the bomb tests in late 1951 as a highstakes gamble that could doom nuclear bomb testing in the continental United States if anything went wrong.
But military and Atomic Energy Commission scientists concluded “the potential data that could be obtained on fallout patterns justified the risks,” according to an analysis of the previously secret papers by the presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.
The advisory panel, which is reviewing radiation experimentation documents from the Cold War, found the papers in archives at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Several of the participants called it “a question of calculated risk” for populations downwind of the site, but they concluded the information that could be obtained made the tests worthwhile.