I've recently read about these atom bomb tests that frequently occurred semi-near Las Vegas, which people flocked to. Even if they didn't understand the risks at the time, isn't it a serious problem to blast some stretch of land repeatedly with huge explosions?

Didn't they begin the nuclear tests far away from home on some remote islands or something? Why ever bring it "home"? Why not keep making the tests far away? Why take the risk that maybe there is something unforeseen about the a-bombs?

  • 3
    The first experiments were in the Arizonan desert (Project Manhattan).
    – gktscrk
    Jun 26, 2020 at 11:26
  • 5
    @gktscrk New Mexico, not Arizona.
    – Spencer
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:12
  • 1
    @Spencer: Sorry, poor geography on my part. Should have said "desert around Los Alamos".
    – gktscrk
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:20
  • 8
    Testing a secret weapon you are still working on during the middle of a war on someone else's soil seems like it would be a foolhardy risk.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:43
  • 1
    @Maycol - because testing was a huge operation with massive logistic and it rapidly became clear that doing it in the middle of the Pacific was not going to work well. nationalatomictestingmuseum.org has some info.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 26, 2020 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


Perhaps you are not familiar with the US West? Even today (and more so in the 1940s & 50s) there are places where you can be miles and miles (substitute km if desired) away from anything much other than sagebrush and rattlesnakes. The tests were conducted in such locations. (Note that Las Vegas wasn't much of a place in those days, either.)

OTOH, those "remote islands" were mostly populated. When later H-bomb tests were conducted there, the military had to remove the populations from them, in addition to the logistical problems of transporting the bombs, monitoring equipment, and support staff. See e.g. Bikini Atoll.

  • 1
    Did you know not all the tests were down by Vegas?
    – justCal
    Jun 26, 2020 at 18:48
  • @justCal: Yes, I'm quite well aware of that. My point still holds: the places where the tests were held were a long way from anything, and in most cases still are. Las Vegas only had a population of about 25,000 in 1950.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 27, 2020 at 0:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.