‘It’s unbelievable how much energy is released’
These films were in peril of becoming so damaged that images and data would be irretrievable. The footage includes 10,000 films from 201 atmospheric nuclear tests, between 1945 until 1962.
Each film is being scanned and analyzed because scientists today do not have any experimental data for modern weapon systems in the atmosphere. "The only data we have comes from these old tests on decaying films."
The films are being released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in an unprecedented project to save save these historic films.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and a team of film specialists and archivists have been on a mission to hunt down these declassified films to preserve the films’ content before it’s lost forever.
This data is critical to post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the aging U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.
The team has located around 6,500 of the estimated 10,000 films created during atmospheric testing. Around 4,200 films have been scanned, 400 to 500 have been reanalyzed and around 750 have been declassified. The films are now slowly being released as they are restored.
Spriggs estimates it will take another two years to scan the rest of the films, and longer to complete the analysis and declassification. Why is he so zealous? He doesn’t want nuclear weapons to be used and passionately believes the key to ensuring they aren’t is to making sure the U.S. stockpile continues to be an effective deterrent.
“It's just unbelievable how much energy's released,”
Spriggs said. “We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again. I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them.”