The Nuclear Weapons
The Nuclear Weapons
Massive Growth in Number and in Power

The Nevada Test Site

Over 1,000 Tests from 1951 to 1991

Updated July 2024
Posted February 2024

Raising Mushrooms in the Desert
After the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic weapon in 1949, the United States was determined to maintain nuclear superiority over its Cold War foe. Developing bombs with greater destructive power required an intensive scientific and engineering effort. It also required a place to test the weapons.

In 1950, President Truman authorized the establishment of what would become known as the Nevada Test Site. Located 65 miles north of Las Vegas and initially covering 680 square miles, the first test took place on January 27, 1951. The final test - the 1,021st - occurred 41 years later.

Initially, tests were conducted above ground. These tests measured the impact of the weapons on the environment, man-made structures, and military equipment. Mushroom clouds from these tests were visible as far as 100 miles away.

These atmospheric tests produced large amounts of radioactive fallout, endangering the health of anyone near or downwind from the explosion. The last atmospheric test took place on July 17, 1962. Subsequent tests took place underground, where the possible spread of radiation and fallout was significantly reduced.

Although nuclear tests are no longer conducted at the Nevada Testing Site, the federal government continues to use the site for other national security purposes.

ISIDOR I. RAAB:Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen... It was seen to last forever. You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds.

- Isidor I. Raab, Ph.D., physicist

Nevada Test Site on Google Maps
The Nevada Test Site area is northwest of Las Vegas

Nevada Test Site Boltzmann Test
Boltzmann Test
  • NATO observers watch the BOLTZMANN test at the Nevada Test Site on May 28, 1957.

Nevada Test Site Uranium Rock
Uranium Rock
  • This sample of uranium is a Uraninite and Gummite mineral.
When Uranite weathers, yellow gummite becomes present.

Nevada Test Site Uranium Rock

Trinity Test Trinitite Rock
Trinitite Rock from the Trinity Test
Trinitite, also known as Alamogordo glass, is the residue left on the desert floor after the plutonium-based Trinity nuclear bomb test on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. It is mildly radioactive but safe to handle.
  • In the late 1940s and early 1950s, samples were gathered and sold to mineral collectors as a novelty.
The glass is primarily composed of arkosic sand composed of quartz grains and feldspar.

Frenchman Flat Nevada Test Site on Google Maps
Nevada's Frenchman Flat Test Site

Nevada Test Site Frenchman Flat
Frenchman Flat
  • On April 15, 1955, observers from Canada and the United Kingdom watch a nuclear weapons test at Nevada's Frenchman Flat test site.

Atomic Tests Hotline Phone
Hotline Phone
  • This 1960s rotary phone provided one-way information on atomic tests to VIPs needing quick access to knowledge regarding tests and threats.