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Actual Proposal: Nuke Alaska


(Image: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Alaska was the site of some nuclear testing during the 1960s and 70s, including the largest underground nuclear test ever conducted by the United States.

But Project Chariot was an entirely different idea. No one was trying to learn about the effectiveness of nuclear weapons.  Instead, the Atomic Energy Commission hoped to use nuclear weapons in the way that civil engineers might use dynamite: as a way of blasting out land. The agency planned to blast a channel from the sea up the Ogotoruk Valley, turning the rocky land into a deep water harbor. If the experiment worked, then the next step would be to blast a new Panama Canal at sea level. By cutting straight through the Isthmus of Panama, there would be no need for locks.

In 1993, US Department of Fish and Wildlife Service author Douglas L. Vandegraft wrote about the program. He said that the Native Alaskans were less than pleased with the idea:

The villagers would not only be invited to watch the blasts, but would be employed as coal miners, railroad and harbor operators. The AEC was trying to entice them into cooperating with Project Chariot. They were told that all the people living in Point Hope, Kivalina, and Noatak would be temporarily relocated to Kotzebue or Nome for a year or so after the blast. They would then be relocated again, not back to their original homes, but to modern dwellings near the brand new harbor in the Ogotoruk Valley (Rock, 1962). The now very concerned residents of these native villages began their vocal opposition to Project Chariot.

Alaskans agitated against the dangerous and impractical program, ultimately contributing to its shutdown. 

-via Atlas Obscura


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I can sort-of understand wanting to use a new technology that seems amazing to do wonderful things, it's just at the time when it wasn't really known how dangerous the byproducts would be.
Sort of like how fracking initially seemed like a non-destructive way to exctract natural gas, until it was done for real and ended up destroying the water table by either altering it's level or by contamination.
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