Nevada Nuclear Testing Facts & Figures

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1950's Nuclear Tests Were A Las Vegas Attraction 

Time Frame:  All tests were conducted between 1951 to 1992. 

Location:  Nevada Test Site, now referred to as the Nevada National Security Site (and formerly the Nevada Proving Grounds), approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Nye County.  It is operated by the Department of Energy and covers an estimated 1,360 square miles of desert and mountain terrain.  

Troops watching the blast

Exercise Desert Rock

Number Of Tests:  928.  100 of these tests were detonations in the atmosphere which produced mushroom clouds visible in Las Vegas and California.  The remaining 828 tests were conducted underground.  


Effects:  Las Vegas experienced noticeable seismic effects, visible mushroom clouds and bright flashes on the horizon.  As a result, the tests became tourist attractions with the best views coming from downtown hotels.


Magnitude:  From 1951 to 1955,  tests conducted ranged from less than one kiloton up to considerably less than 100 kilotons. (A kiloton is equal to 1,000 tons of TNT.)  


Atomic Explosions Compilation – Operation Plumbbob (1:04)

Operation Plumbbob:  In 1957, a series of 29 tests were conducted over several months. Amongst them, Hood, the largest atmospheric detonation in the continental United States at 74kt, a two-stage thermonuclear test.  

In comparison, the Hiroshima bomb "Little Boy" was the equivalent of an estimated 10,000 - 15,000 tons of TNT.  The most recent North Korean nuclear test on September 3, 2017, was an estimated 120kt.  

old frontier village during a nuclear test

Swimmers and sunbathers at Old Frontier Village watch a distant mushroom cloud from the NTS.

Survival Town:  Also known as Survival City, was located in Area 1 of the NTS.  Tests were conducted to gauge the effects of nuclear blasts onto civilian structures.  With other constructed areas, they were collectively known as "Doom Towns." 


Fallout:  St. George, Utah received the worst of the above ground testing due to prevailing winds.  An increased number of cancers occurred between the early 1950's and 1980.  


Protests:  From 1986 to 1994, over 500 anti-nuclear protests occurred at the NTS involving over 33,000 protestors and 15,000+ arrests.  

Nuclear Blast Lights Up The Las Vegas Sky

A nuclear test lights up the early morning sky.

How 1950s Las Vegas Sold Atomic Bomb Tests as Tourism (1:30)

Atom Bomb Tests – Target Nevada 1951 (13:40)

Atomic Bomb Test – Operation Cue 1955 – Nevada (0:52)

1951 Time Capsule

No. 1 Song, February 15, 1951:  Tennessee Waltz - Patti Page

No. 1 Movie, February 15, 1951:  At War With The Army - Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis

No. 1 Book, February 15, 1951:  Joy Street by Francis Parkinson Keyes

No. 1 TV Show in 1951:  Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts

Cost For 1 Gallon Of Gas: $0.19

Average Income in 1951: $3,510.00 

Average New Home Cost in 1951: $9,000.00

Average New Car Cost in 1951: $1,500.00

Postage Stamp Cost in 1951: $0.03

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