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Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Nevada National Security Site Celebrates 65 Years

The history of this 1,375 square-mile patch of desert is even more dynamic than 928 nuclear tests going “boom!”
December 1, 2016
Nevada National Security Site Celebrates 65 Years

Several Las Vegas showgirls transformed into atomic beauty queens during the 1950s. Among the most famous was showgirl Lee Merlin (pictured), who was Miss Atomic Bomb 1957. Merlin is wearing a cotton mushroom cloud attached to her swimsuit.

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In 1957, the test site was home to 1,200 pigs that lived in several pens collectively called the Pork Sheraton.

The Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was selected as the Nevada Test Site for its remote location. The site was large enough that unanticipated winds would not drop fallout on any nearby town, and the surrounding towns were sparsely populated. South of the range, a government-owned airfield and housing for more than 300 people already existed. 

The nuclear devices being tested at NTS were classified, so scientists assigned each test a codename that had to be approved by the Department of Energy’s Office of Military Applications. Early names used the military phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.), but as the number of tests outgrew the alphabet, names included nature terms, Native American tribes, famous scientists, and New Mexico counties and towns.

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