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I remember reading a story once about a plan to build a seaport and modify a significant amount of the coastline at once by using a nuclear explosion. I can't find anything about it now when I try Googling. Does anybody know what I am referring to and how I can find more information about it?

What I do remember: it was an Arctic Community in Canada (either in the Yukon or the N.W.T.). It was early on in the development of nuclear technology, so maybe around the 1960s, and it was ultimately cancelled when they realized that radiation would be a significant and long-lasting consequence. I did read the article online originally.

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There were also plans to use nuclear blasts to widen either the Suez or Panama canal. – GaryBW Jan 15 at 18:13
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This is NOT what the word "terraform" means. To terraform is "to alter the environment of (a celestial body) in order to make capable of supporting terrestrial life forms". See any online dictionary, e.g. here: dictionary.reference.com/browse/terraform – jamesqf Jan 16 at 8:06
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@jamesqf. is there a better word to use? Though technically you are correct, I think it is understood why terraforming is an appropriate word here. It literally translates to "world shaping" so I think it works well. Language is really cool that way. – Octopus Jan 16 at 9:54
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@Octopus This is just large scale landscaping. It's not appropriate as North America is not a planet, and it is habitable, and you're not changing anything except the shape of a tiny part of it. Really disappointed after reading the title in hot network questions. – MrLore Jan 16 at 14:47
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@Octopus: It's just earthmoving on a large scale, no different in principle than using dynamite and bulldozers - see e.g. any large open-pit mine. It's just faster and perhaps more economic: you get a big hole in a few seconds, rather than working at it for a couple of decades. – jamesqf Jan 16 at 19:45
up vote 48 down vote accepted

It was Project Chariot, in Alaska. A good book about it is the Firecracker Boys, I recommend you read it if you are interested in the subject. I think it was cancelled because conservationists and Alaska Natives brought it to the attention of the general public, and it would have been a disaster. The proponents were perfectly willing to try it (they had their own reasons, related to the "Atoms for Peace project"/Operation Ploughshare) and did not really care much about the long-term consequences.

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I think it might be debatable about the long-term consequences and whether they cared or not or were just naive. Even after all the testing that went on in Nevada and New Mexico I don't think it was completely apparent what the long term affects of radiation were actually all about until a decent amount of time passed thus presenting actual cases of long-term exposure. – Octopus Jan 15 at 6:07
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Right, exactly, which is why Hiroshima and Nagasaki are radiation-poisoned wastelands today. – Tyler Durden Jan 15 at 20:28
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@TylerDurden No they're not... Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been rebuilt. They built Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near where Little Boy detonated. – CoilKid Jan 16 at 0:31
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@RussellBorogove en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law – El'endia Starman Jan 16 at 6:39
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@Thorsten S.: No, my point is that it is incorrect to claim that an area is uninhabitable when people are actually living there. Beyond that, are there really any accurate, unbiased figures for things like cancer rates or differential survival rates between the displaced and those who stayed? – jamesqf Jan 18 at 5:42

Not Canada, but Alaska. In 1958 "Project Chariot" was the idea to use several nuclear explosions to build a harbour at Cape Thompson, Alaska. It was part of a series of ideas to use nuclear explosions for non-military, commercial purposes. The series was called "Operation Plowshare".

Wikipedia:

Project Chariot

Operation Plowshare

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Ah, too slow :-) – gdir Jan 15 at 5:05

Many similar bad ideas are discussed in this article: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-u-s-s-insane-attempt-to-build-a-harbor-with-a-two-megaton-nuclear-bomb

Atomics to dredge harbors, release natural gas from underground reservoirs, generate steam. So many ill-conceived plans.

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