I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.



Nuclear Weapons:
Manhattan Project - WW2 - The Cold War - Modern
Nuclear Accidents:
Nuclear Medicine:
The Element Hunt:

Radiation is an everyday phenomenon where energy is transferred or emitted in the form of waves.
Radiation is everywhere- light is low-level photon radiation, radio and microwaves are infrared radiation, hell, even sound is radiation! Most forms of radiation are completely harmless, but nuclear radiation are where things start to get deadly.

Radiation is divided into ionizing and non-ionizing, and it's the former we care about here. Ionizing radiation includes gamma rays, x-rays, and higher-end ultraviolet light. They break electrons away from atoms, which is why it's deadly to living cells.

Traditional nuclear radiation is divided into a few types, but there's only 3 that matter here: alpha radiation, beta radiation, and gamma radiation.
Alpha radiation is a helium nucleus, easily stopped by a sheet of paper.
Beta radiation, consisting of only electrons, can be stopped by a sheet of aluminum.
Gamma radiation, which consists of high-energy photons, has to be absorbed by several feet of dense materials, normally lead or 10+ feet of concrete will do the trick. X-rays are considered a variant of gamma radiation.

A lot of my energy on my interest in nuclear science is focused on disasters of any kind, from meltdowns to orphan sources to other operating errors.

Manhattan Project

"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

- J. Robert Oppenheimer, about the Trinity test,
quoting Hindu scripture Bhagavad-Gita

The infamous Manhattan Project was humanity's first delve into nuclear weapons. It was run by the US and lasted a total of 6 years. Though only 3 tests were conducted during its operation, the subsequent US nuclear weapons detonations would all be culminations of this project.
While the bombings of Japan in WW2 were a part of the Manhattan Project, they'll get their own section.


Date: July 16, 1945
Location: Jornada del Muerto Desert, New Mexico, USA
Bomb: "Gadget"
Element: Plutonium
Type: Atmospheric (Tower)
Yield: 25 kilotons of TNT / 100 joules

As a first leap, Trinity was a terrifying test to even scientists involved. While some were enthusiastic, bringing protective eyewear to watch the test, others were skeptical, assuming the test would be a dud, and Enrico Fermi began scaring other scientists and site guards with the theory that the surrounding air would ignite, or that the whole of the world's atmosphere would catch fire and be destroyed. In hindsight, these beliefs were silly, but for the time it was a horrifying ordeal.

Operation Crossroads


Date: July 1, 1946
Location: Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
Bomb: "Gilda"
Element: Plutonium
Type: Freefall
Yield: 23 kilotons of TNT / 96 joules


Date: July 25, 1946
Location: Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
Bomb: "Helen of Bikini"
Element: Plutonium
Type: Underwater
Yield: 23 kilotons of TNT / 96 joules

The first of several tests in Bikini Atoll, Operation Crossroads were to test the effects of atomic bombs on warships.
Contrary to some belief, people lived on Bikini Atoll. The residents were forcibly relocated, and even today the atoll is completely uninhabitable.

A third test was planned, but it was cancelled due to it being impossible to clean up the radiation caused by the Baker test. Radiation safety procedures weren't being followed and tons of sailors involved in the test were contaminated. The wildlife was horribly contaminated. Glenn Seaborg would go on to call the Baker test "the world's first nuclear disaster."

Hiroshima + Nagasaki

Part of the Manhattan Project, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WW2 were the first (and hopefully only) weaponized nuclear bomb detonations.
Highly controversial for several reasons, the bombs targeted civilian populations during a busy hour.


Date: August 6, 1945
Location: Hiroshima, Chūgoku, Japan
Bomb: "Little Boy"
Element: Uranium
Type: Freefall
Yield: 15 kilotons of TNT / 63 joules
Casualties: 70,000-126,000 civilians, 20,000 soldiers, 12 Allied POWs

30% of Hiroshima's population were killed by the blast and firestorm and 69% of Hiroshima's buildings were destroyed- the city was flattened. The detonation left black "shadows" of civilians imprinted into nearby structures, burned the pattern of their clothing into their skin, and of course much, much worse.
Modern Hiroshima is a desginated city and the largest city in Chūgoku, home to over 1 million people. It is a rich center of culture, arts, and nature.


Date: August 9, 1945
Location: Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan
Bomb: "Fat Man"
Element: Plutonium
Type: Freefall
Yield: 21 kilotons of TNT / 88 joules
Casualties: 60,000–80,000 civilians, 150+ soldiers, 8-13 Allied POWs

The US threatened to detonate bombs on other cities in Japan if they did not surrender. Not getting one after Hiroshima, they went forward with bombing Nagasaki.
The effects of the bombing were lessened in Nagasaki despite Fat Man being larger than Little Boy, as the detonation was partly contained to Urakami Valley. Like Hiroshima, the city was completely flattened.
Modern Nagasaki is a core city with a population of about 400,000. It is a port city and is a center for shipbuilding.

Cold War

The Cold War was a 44-year-long period of indirect warfare between NATO-aligned countries (mainly the US) and members of the Warsaw Pact (mainly the USSR). A large part of this was the nuclear arms race, where the USSR and US tried to make as many atomic weapons as swiftly as possible.
Being Cuban, the Cold War instilled a lot of generational trauma into my family, my mother and abuelos living through its heights. This leaves me with an inherent interest in it, in more aspects than just the arms race.

There are a ton of detonations associated to the nuclear arms race, so I won't cover them all. Instead I'll list them and only cover major ones in-depth.


US: Operation Sandstone (pictured, bomb "Yoke")


Operation First Lightning / RDS-1

Country: USSR
Date: August 29, 1949
Location: Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakh SSR (Kazakhstan)
Bomb: "RDS-1"/"Izdeliye 501"
Element: Plutonium
Type: Atmospheric (Tower)
Yield: 21 kilotons of TNT / 88 joules
Casualties: 1,500+ test animals

RDS-1 was the first Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb. The US and UK didn't expect the USSR to have developed bombs at this point, so this test took them by surprise. The test was detected by a Boeing WB-29 weather recon craft flying from Japan to Alaska.
The bomb was instructed to be made as an exact copy of Fat Man.


US: Operation Ranger
US: Operation Greenhouse (pictured, bomb "George")
US: Operation Buster-Jangle


US: Operation Tumbler–Snapper (pictured, unknown bomb)

Operation Hurricane

Country: Britain
Date: October 3, 1952
Location: Trimouille Island, Montebello Islands, Australia
Bomb: "Hurricane"
Element: Plutonium
Type: Ship
Yield: 25 kilotons of TNT / 100 joules

The first British nuclear detonation. This test was conducted to see the effects of a bomb smuggled onto a ship, which was a concern of Britain's at the time.
The Montebello Islands are modernly safe to visit and are home to many endangered species.

1952 cont.

US: Operation Ivy


US: Operation Upshot–Knothole (pictured, bomb "Grable")
USSR: 4 Usilennaya
USSR: 5 Tatyana
Britain: Operation Totem


Operation Castle

Country: USA
Date: Feb 28, Mar 26, Apr 6, Apr 25, May 4, + May 13, 1954
Location: Namu, Irioj, + Eninmen Islands, Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, + Elugelab Islet, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands
Bomb: "Shrimp", "Runt", "Morgenstern", "Alarm Clock", "Runt II", "Zombie"
Element: Composite Pu + U
Type: Dry Surface, Ship
Yield: 15 Mt (Bravo), 11 Mt (Romeo), 110 kt (Koon), 6.9 Mt (Union), 13.5 Mt (Yankee 2), 1.7 Mt (Nectar)
Casualties: 1 civilian

Infamous for its Bravo test, Operation Castle was a US test of 6 bombs.
The radiation of Bravo caused severe fallout, requiring surrounding atolls be evacuated, causing the 23 crew of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) to develop acute radiation sickness, leaving its radioman dead in the following 6 months.

The tests caused outrage, with the secret test's cover being blown when other countries discovered high levels of radiation in sea water. Coconut milk and banana plants contained high levels of caesium-137 after the test, and milk was contaminated with strontium-90, causing affected atolls to be evacuated a second time.