1Blue Peacock: Chicken-Powered Landmine
Blue Peacock was a 10-kiloton nuclear landmine developed by the British during the 1950s to be used in Germany. To address the issue of cold weather affecting the bomb's electronics, one proposed solution was to use live chickens as a heat source to keep the system operational for up to a week.
2. There was a Soviet nuclear torpedo called the T-5, which had a range of only 10 km but a blast radius of up to 13 km, making it potentially deadly to the user's own submarines if not deployed carefully. The T-5 was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War but was never actually used in combat.
3. During the Cold War, the US Army trained officers to deploy backpack nukes called Special Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADM) and detonate them, potentially still within the blast radius. These bombs were built without electronics and relied on mechanical timers, which had accuracy issues and could go off as early as eight minutes ahead of schedule or as many as 13 minutes behind.
4. The US military developed the M45 AFAP, a cannon-fired nuclear weapon that could be launched from a standard 155-mm howitzer. These rounds cost at least $1.25 million each and remained operational from the 1960s until the program's retirement in 1992.
5. Tsar Bomba, a hydrogen bomb developed by the Soviet Union in 1961, holds the record as the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, with a yield of 50 megatons. The bomb's colossal size necessitated its delivery by a specially modified plane, and the explosion was visible from over 600 miles away. The resulting mushroom cloud reached a height over seven times that of Mount Everest, and its shockwave circled the Earth three times, even causing partial windowpane breakage at distances of 900 km.
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6Project Gasbuggy: Nuclear Fracking Attempt
Project Gasbuggy, conducted in the 1960s, involved the utilization of a nuclear explosion to stimulate natural gas and oil production by "fracking" trapped gas in shale. Despite testing at various locations in Colorado and New Mexico, the project did not yield the anticipated results due to the tendency of nuclear explosions to vitrify or convert the sandstone into glass-like material.
7. Article V of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty mandates that nuclear powers must sell nuclear bombs to non-nuclear powers for peaceful explosive purposes. This provision emerged in response to the peaceful nuclear explosion movement, which advocated using nuclear bombs for construction and aimed to eliminate it as a pretext for independent nuclear weapon development by other nations.
8. Atomic gardens were established as part of the Atoms for Peace program in the 1950s, which sought to develop "peaceful" uses of fission energy after World War II. These gamma gardens were created in laboratories across the US, Europe, parts of the former USSR, India, and Japan.
9. The red grapefruit originated from a 1950s government nuclear program called "Atoms for Peace," where crops were mutated using radioactive materials. In the "Gamma Gardens," plants grown in close proximity to the radiation source perished, while those farther away exhibited a red coloration.
10. The Qattara Depression in western Egypt, situated 60 meters below sea level, was considered for transformation into a lake after World War II. The ambitious plan involved using 213 hydrogen bombs to create a canal leading to the Mediterranean. Utilizing the natural gradient between the Mediterranean and the Depression, it was envisioned to generate up to 5 GW of electricity, sufficient to power over a million homes.
11Project A119: Lunar Nuclear Display
In 1958, the US Air Force devised plans to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon, aiming for its visibility with the naked eye from Earth. The objective was to boost American morale in response to the USSR's advancements in the space race. Known as Project A119, it was ultimately shelved due to concerns that the missile could miss the moon and return to an unknown location on Earth.
12. As part of Operation Fishbowl, the USA detonated Starfish Prime, a 1.4 megaton nuclear bomb, in space in 1962. The explosion generated an electromagnetic pulse that disabled satellites and caused damage to electrical infrastructure in Hawaii. Additionally, the event created a spectacular aurora visible from Honolulu.
13. Project Chariot, proposed in 1958, aimed to construct an artificial harbor in Alaska using five nuclear bombs as part of Operation Plowshare, which explored peaceful applications of nuclear explosions. Although it garnered significant public support, the project was ultimately abandoned due to strong opposition from the Inupiat village of Point Hope.
14. Edward Teller, often referred to as the "father of the H-bomb," once proposed the idea of using nuclear bombs to mitigate hurricanes. However, meteorologists expressed skepticism, asserting that the trajectory of hurricanes cannot be controlled once they have formed.
15. NASA had ambitious plans to send astronauts to Mars using Nerva nuclear rockets in 1981. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts by Congress and the subsequent cancellation of the Nerva project by President Nixon in 1973, NASA shifted its focus to the development of the Space Shuttle program instead.
16Nuclear Aircraft Project: Expensive Failed Attempt
The US Air Force and later the Atomic Energy Commission made efforts to develop a nuclear propulsion system for aircraft between 1946 and 1961. This endeavor incurred a total cost of approximately $1 billion. Although ultimately unsuccessful, two assemblies consisting of a reactor and two modified turbojets are now on display at the Idaho National Laboratory.
17. In the aftermath of World War II, the United States contemplated launching a preemptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. The idea behind this strategy was the belief that by annihilating Russia with nuclear weapons before the Soviets could mass-produce their own, a nuclear war could be won. While ultimately discarded, this notion was seriously considered during the early years of the Cold War.
18. SIOP-62 was a US nuclear war plan rooted in the massive retaliation doctrine. It treated all communist countries as a unified bloc and called for a comprehensive strike employing the entire US nuclear arsenal-consisting of 3,200 warheads and 7,847 megatons-simultaneously targeting the USSR, China, and Soviet-aligned states.
19. The USA and the USSR entered into a treaty during the Cold War that restricted the development of defense systems against nuclear missiles. This agreement aimed to maintain the effectiveness of the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine, wherein neither party would initiate an attack due to the certainty of devastating retaliation in the absence of proper defense systems.
20. In the early years of the Cold War, a debate arose regarding whether the United States should retaliate in the event of a Soviet nuclear strike. Some argued that if such an attack occurred, the US would already have suffered a defeat. General Thomas S. Power, Commander in Chief of the Strategic Air Command, famously remarked, "Restraint? Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards. At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian left alive, we win!"
21No First Use Policy: US Exception
Despite possessing a nuclear arsenal capable of obliterating the world, the US government maintains the position that it must retain the ability to launch a first strike. While countries like the Soviet Union, India, and China have declared a No First Use (NFU) policy, the US, along with France, Pakistan, and the UK, explicitly refuses to adopt such a policy. Russia, on the other hand, asserts a "defensive only" policy, contending that its nuclear capabilities will solely be employed in self-defense.
22. The W19 was a nuclear artillery shell that the United States developed for use from an 11-inch howitzer in the 1950s. With a yield of up to 15 kilotons, the W19 ranked among the smallest nuclear weapons ever developed by the US, yet it possessed sufficient power to inflict significant damage. However, the W19 was never produced in large quantities and was eventually phased out in the 1960s.
23. General MacArthur proposed a strategy to achieve victory in the Korean War by employing 30 to 50 atomic bombs on air bases. Additionally, he suggested spreading nuclear waste along the ground to establish a lasting radioactive border, serving as a deterrent against future invasions from the North. However, President Truman's decision to relieve General Douglas MacArthur of his command in 1951 likely played a crucial role in averting the outbreak of a global nuclear conflict.
24. The Soviets embarked on Project Gamma Kolos, also known as nuclear tractors, in an attempt to induce mutations in wheat seeds before planting them. These tractors were equipped with containers of cesium 137 and lead shielding to protect the driver. The irradiation of wheat seeds aimed to generate beneficial mutations in the crops. Additionally, radiation was applied to the harvested grain to prevent germination.
25. Project Iceworm was a covert United States Army initiative during the Cold War that focused on constructing a network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites beneath the Greenland ice sheet. Originally envisioned as a vast military complex spanning 52,000 square miles, the project's actual length at the time of its evacuation was 1.9 miles. The complex included facilities such as a hospital, a shop, a theater, and a church. Presently, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet poses a risk of potential toxin release into the ocean. Greenland only became aware of this classified project in 1995.