Event Title

Nuclear bomb testing in the western US: a legacy of environmental and social effects in southern Nevada

Department

Chris W. Baynard, Ph.D., Associate Professor, UNF Dept. of Economics and Geography

Adrienne Sebesta, post baccalaureate, International Business major and Geography minor

Start Date

8-11-2017 12:00 AM

End Date

8-11-2017 12:00 AM

Description

This work provides an introduction into the environmental and social effects of the nuclear testing legacy in the western US. For four decades, the US government detonated nuclear bombs in the southern Nevada desert, creating a militarized landscape whose environmental effects endure to the present. A series of over 1,000 mainly underground tests throughout the area has converted this desert environment into what appears as a lunar landscape, pockmarked by numerous clustered craters. These tests also prompted nearly 700 earthquakes ranging up to 5.8 on the Richter scale. Although this area is desert and access restricted, the loss of natural desert shrub vegetation in this sensitive ecosystem resulted in the introduction of pioneer species, changing the character of the landscape. Moreover, nearby towns and communities across 3 states were exposed to nuclear radiation from prevailing winds at the time, resulting in elevated adverse and deadly health effects. Presently, groundwater contamination of a crucial aquifer has placed other communities at risk. The history and trajectory of this area has led to the notion that part of Nevada will become a permanent environmental sacrifice zone. In this work, we adopt geospatial data and techniques used to measure the effects of extractive activities on the landscape, to map and quantify the surface disturbance created by these nuclear-related features. Additionally, we model detonation scenarios across several test site locations to better understand vulnerable communities. Finally, we highlight the area and communities at risk from groundwater contamination.

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Nov 8th, 12:00 AM Nov 8th, 12:00 AM

Nuclear bomb testing in the western US: a legacy of environmental and social effects in southern Nevada

This work provides an introduction into the environmental and social effects of the nuclear testing legacy in the western US. For four decades, the US government detonated nuclear bombs in the southern Nevada desert, creating a militarized landscape whose environmental effects endure to the present. A series of over 1,000 mainly underground tests throughout the area has converted this desert environment into what appears as a lunar landscape, pockmarked by numerous clustered craters. These tests also prompted nearly 700 earthquakes ranging up to 5.8 on the Richter scale. Although this area is desert and access restricted, the loss of natural desert shrub vegetation in this sensitive ecosystem resulted in the introduction of pioneer species, changing the character of the landscape. Moreover, nearby towns and communities across 3 states were exposed to nuclear radiation from prevailing winds at the time, resulting in elevated adverse and deadly health effects. Presently, groundwater contamination of a crucial aquifer has placed other communities at risk. The history and trajectory of this area has led to the notion that part of Nevada will become a permanent environmental sacrifice zone. In this work, we adopt geospatial data and techniques used to measure the effects of extractive activities on the landscape, to map and quantify the surface disturbance created by these nuclear-related features. Additionally, we model detonation scenarios across several test site locations to better understand vulnerable communities. Finally, we highlight the area and communities at risk from groundwater contamination.