skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: The ephemeral and the enduring: Trajectories of disappearance for the scientific objects of American Cold War nuclear weapons testing

Abstract

Here, the historical material culture produced by American Cold War nuclear weapons testing includes objects of scientific inquiry that can be generally categorized as being either ephemeral or enduring. Objects deemed to be ephemeral were of a less substantial nature, being impermanent and expendable in a nuclear test, while enduring objects were by nature more durable and long-lasting. Although all of these objects were ultimately subject to disappearance, the processes by which they were transformed, degraded, or destroyed prior to their disappearing differ. Drawing principally upon archaeological theory, this paper proposes a functional dichotomy for categorizing and studying the historical trajectories of nuclear weapons testing technoscience artifacts. In examining the transformation patterns of steel towers and concrete blockhouses in particular, it explores an associated loss of scientific method that accompanies a science object's disappearance.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1358160
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-16-24467
Journal ID: ISSN 1210-0250
Grant/Contract Number:
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Teorie vedy / Theory of Science
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 38; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 1210-0250
Publisher:
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; Cold War; bikini atoll; nuclear weapons testing; blockhouses; zero towers

Citation Formats

Hanson, Todd. The ephemeral and the enduring: Trajectories of disappearance for the scientific objects of American Cold War nuclear weapons testing. United States: N. p., 2016. Web.
Hanson, Todd. The ephemeral and the enduring: Trajectories of disappearance for the scientific objects of American Cold War nuclear weapons testing. United States.
Hanson, Todd. 2016. "The ephemeral and the enduring: Trajectories of disappearance for the scientific objects of American Cold War nuclear weapons testing". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1358160.
@article{osti_1358160,
title = {The ephemeral and the enduring: Trajectories of disappearance for the scientific objects of American Cold War nuclear weapons testing},
author = {Hanson, Todd},
abstractNote = {Here, the historical material culture produced by American Cold War nuclear weapons testing includes objects of scientific inquiry that can be generally categorized as being either ephemeral or enduring. Objects deemed to be ephemeral were of a less substantial nature, being impermanent and expendable in a nuclear test, while enduring objects were by nature more durable and long-lasting. Although all of these objects were ultimately subject to disappearance, the processes by which they were transformed, degraded, or destroyed prior to their disappearing differ. Drawing principally upon archaeological theory, this paper proposes a functional dichotomy for categorizing and studying the historical trajectories of nuclear weapons testing technoscience artifacts. In examining the transformation patterns of steel towers and concrete blockhouses in particular, it explores an associated loss of scientific method that accompanies a science object's disappearance.},
doi = {},
journal = {Teorie vedy / Theory of Science},
number = 3,
volume = 38,
place = {United States},
year = 2016,
month = 7
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record
The DOI is not currently available

Save / Share:
  • Native Americans residing in a broad region downwind from the Nevada Test Site during the 1950s and 1960s received significant radiation exposures from nuclear weapons testing. Because of differences in diet, activities, and housing, their radiation exposures are only very imperfectly represented in the Department of Energy dose reconstructions. There are important missing pathways, including exposures to radioactive iodine from eating small game. The dose reconstruction model assumptions about cattle feeding practices across a year are unlikely to apply to the native communities as are other model assumptions about diet. Thus exposures from drinking milk and eating vegetables have notmore » yet been properly estimated for these communities. Through consultations with members of the affected communities, these deficiencies could be corrected and the dose reconstruction extended to Native Americans. An illustration of the feasibility of extending the dose reconstruction is provided by a sample calculation to estimate radiation exposures to the thyroid from eating radio-iodine-contaminated rabbit thyroids after the Dedan test. The illustration is continued with a discussion of how the calculation results may be used to make estimates for other tests and other locations.« less
  • Discussions with the Western Alliance have raised confusion over the terms first use and first strike involving nuclear weapons. The proposal by Bundy, Kennan, McNamarra, and Smith in early 1982 confused the issue by using both terms. The relevant issues are those of defensive first use and the flexible response and improved crisis management necessary to prevent war. To renounce first use would undermine this strategy and make war more probable. While agreeing that a limited nuclear war would be difficult to control, the authors of this article suggest that the necessary mutual, verifiable arms reductions would be difficult tomore » achieve. Anticipating a less-than-worst-case scenario in which Alliance members accept equal risks and equal security, they recommend strengthening conventional options to raise the threshold for nuclear weapons. (DCK)« less
  • No abstract prepared.
  • Current International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards do not provide adequate protection against the diversion to military use of materials or technology from certain types of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle facilities. In view of highly enriched uranium’s relatively greater ease of use as a nuclear explosive material than plutonium and the significant diseconomies of commercial spent fuel reprocessing, this article focuses on the need for improved international controls over uranium enrichment facilities as the proximate justification for creation of an International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Association (INFCA). In principle, the proposal is equally applicable to alleviating the proliferation concerns provoked by nuclearmore » fuel reprocessing plants and other sensitive nuclear fuel cycle facilities. The INFCA would provide significantly increased nonproliferation assurance to its member states and the wider international community by holding long-term leasehold contracts to operate secure restricted zones containing such sensitive nuclear facilities.« less
  • The impact of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on U.S. security concerns is assessed in this article. Three technical issues specific to nuclear weapons are addressed: (1) safety and reliability of the existing U.S. arsenal, (2) constraints on the development of new types of nuclear weapons by the U.S. and other nations, and (3) prevention of further proliferation of weapons. Political aspects of the treaty, including the policy interpretation of the U.S. and other nations, are also examined. Based on the U.S. interpretation of the treaty, conclusions of the analysis include: (1) stockpiles can be maintained safely and reliably formore » several decades, (2) nuclear weapons states will be unable to develop radically new designs of nuclear weapons, and (3) non-nuclear weapons states could build weapons under the treaty but in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations.« less