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Introduction

Mushroom cloud photo; Courtesy of the National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office
Courtesy of the National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office

The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is a comprehensive program dedicated to documenting, preserving and disseminating the remembered past of persons affiliated with and affected by the Nevada Test Site during the era of Cold War nuclear testing. From September 2003 through January 2008 a wide range of oral history narrators participated in the project including: national laboratory scientists & engineers; labor trades and support personnel; cabinet-level officials, military personnel & corporate executives; Native American tribal & spiritual leaders; peace activists and protesters; Nevada ranchers, families & communities downwind of the test site. Interviews with more than 150 people totaling 335 hours, related transcripts, documents and photographs are housed in UNLV Lied Library's Department of Special Collections. Searchable transcripts, selected audio and video clips, scanned photographs and images are available on this website.

In December 1950, President Harry S. Truman approved the establishment of a continental nuclear proving ground 65 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Between 1951 and 1992, 1021 nuclear detonations took place at the Nevada Test Site - one-hundred explosions were in the atmosphere and 921 were underground. It is estimated that the test site employed 125,000 during the Cold War. The photograph at the right shows the De Baca test, detonated on October 26, 1958. Five days later the U.S. and U.S.S.R. agreed to a nuclear testing moratorium which stayed in effect until the Soviets resumed testing in 1961. In 1992, a second nuclear testing moratorium went into effect and nuclear testing ceased. Subcritical tests and other national security programs are still conducted at the Nevada Test Site.

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