Belfast Telegraph

US declassifies nuclear weapons test footage and uploads to YouTube

The US government has declassified footage of hundreds of secret nuclear tests.

10,000 films have been locked away in high-security vaults and now 750 have been declassified and uploaded to YouTube.

A team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a federal research facility in northern California, restored the footage from the government archives.

Nuclear weapons physicist Greg Spriggs said the films were made of nitrate cellulose – which releases a vinegar smell as they degrade.

"You can smell vinegar when you open the cans, which is one of the byproducts of the decomposition process of these films," Mr Spriggs said in a YouTube video.

"We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they'll become useless. The data that we're collecting now must be preserved in a digital form because no matter how well you treat the films, no matter how well you preserve or store them, they will decompose.

"They're made out of organic material, and organic material decomposes. So this is it. We got to this project just in time to save the data.

"We found out most of the data which had been published was wrong and we decided we need to rescan and reanalyse all the films.

"We discovered a lot of pieces of information were not analysed in the 50s and we are discovering new things about these detonations we had never even seen before."

Mr Spriggs estimates it will take another two years to scan the rest of the films, and longer to complete the analysis and declassification.

"It's just unbelievable how much energy's released," Mr Spriggs added.

"We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again. I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them."

The US conducted around 200 nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962 with devices being detonated on the ground, in the water and in the air.

Tests took place in the Mojave desert in Nevada and on islands in the Pacific.

60 videos have been published to YouTube and the playlist can be viewed here.

Belfast Telegraph Digital