Old gate 100

Happy 67th Birthday, NNSS!

Old gate 100
The entrance to the Nevada Proving Ground in the early 1950s.

On Dec. 18, 1950, President Harry S. Truman signed an order establishing the Nevada Proving Ground as the nation’s on-continent nuclear weapons testing area. That place is now known as the Nevada National Security Site. At that time, the Atomic Energy Commission was looking for a “continental site for all atomic weapons tests.” On their wish list: an area remote enough where “detonations could be done safely and with minimum non-productive cost in time, effort and money…preferably within two to three months.” Also desirable: “ready accessibility to the Los Alamos Laboratory by land and air, good communications, adequate radiological safety, reasonably regular topography and prospects of economy of preparation and operation” — all for $1 million. The NNSS, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was selected as the most desirable location for the reasons mentioned above; in addition, its mild weather and terrain were conducive for testing year round.

“The Special Committee of the National Security Council on Atomic Energy recommends approval by the President of the development of a portion of the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range as an atomic weapons test site,” said the memorandum for the president. And so it was done. On Jan. 27, 1951, the NNSS conducted its first atmospheric experiment: Operation Ranger’s “Able,” a one-kiloton device dropped from an Air Force plane at Frenchman Flat.

Read more about the Site’s origins here.