NPR

Digitization Unearths New Data From Cold War-Era Nuclear Test Films

The U.S. conducted hundreds of atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962 — and filmed them. A project to digitize those films has changed the analysis of the nuclear explosions themselves.
A still from a film recently digitized by a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The film shows a 1958 explosion at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Source: Screen grab by NPR

The film is silent, but it starts with a bang. The screen blows out white, then a tropical beach comes into view, before an explosion tears across the horizon. A two-tiered mushroom cloud flows skyward, revealing a dark, intense plume of smoke that smolders in the distance.

Another film, showing the charmingly titled "Operation Teapot," is a black-and-white nightmare: A ball of fire comes into the frame over a mound in the distance, engulfing the

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