Excerpt from 'Deception, Cover-up and Murder in the Nuclear Age'- "Manhattan Project and Army staff, although they were in even greater danger from Trinity's intense radiation at close range, apparently largely escaped harmful exposures. How? They were instructed by their superiors to... follow 'protective measures' such as closing windows, staying indoors, and even breathing through a slice of bread!" more
You are reading from a free online e-book titled 'Deception, Cover-up and Murder in the Nuclear Age.' The book discusses the Trinity test, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hydrogen bomb testing fallout, U.S. experiments done on Marshall Islanders (Project 4.1), the Irene Allen trial, Cosmos 954, the Fukushima meltdowns, Three Mile Island updates, and so much more. Visit the Table of Contents to find this free content.
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|Chapter 8 - Mighty Oak||
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Sixteen days before Chernobyl (April 26, 1986) the biggest nuclear accident and containment failure since Three Mile Island occurred in the U.S. Critics, including 'Project Censored,' the author of 'American Ground Zero: the Secret Nuclear War' and Gore Vital have alleged that the U.S. government lied to cover up the radiation release of 'Mighty Oak.' In this chapter, we discuss how the U.S. government's tactic of deceptive environmental data collection allowed it to cover up this massive radioactive release, which remains one of the greatest in the past 35 years.
One day before Halley's Comet made its closest approach to Earth and five days after the West Berlin disco bombing that killed three persons including U.S. servicemen, an accident occurred about 1,300 feet below Rainier Mesa, a volcanic, flat-topped mountain on the expansive Department of Energy Nevada Test Site located northwest of Las Vegas. The Nevada Test Site was the location of choice by the U.S. government for the underground testing of nuclear bombs from 1962 to 1992 during the Cold War. The 'Might Oak' test involved one of the smaller nuclear devices detonated at the site but resulted in one of the worst nuclear testing accidents in the latter Cold War.
Upon the explosion of Mighty Oak's atomic device in an underground cavity on April 10, 1986, the next to worst-case scenario happened. The explosion overwhelmed closure systems and resulted in the contamination of a miles-long technologically-enhanced tunnel beneath the mesa. But the nature of the accident was as closely-guarded as the test's purpose was to the U.S. government.
Mighty Oak was a product of President Ronald Reagan's obsession with the idea of space defense. Reagan thought that it was necessary - and possible - to construct a defense 'shield' in space that could flawlessly destroy Soviet ICBMs in their boost phase as they strove to destroy America's cities and nuclear silos. The Pentagon's Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) was tasked with carrying out overly-ambitious experiments to determine a SDI technology that could both flawlessly work, and meet certain objectives (such as cost). The DNA sponsored several experiments of a nuclear blast-pumped X-ray laser in tunnel structures under the Nevada Test Site.
These tests simulated the radiation-effects (such as an X-ray pulse) of a nuclear blast on a 'target' in space (i.e., an orbiting satellite or other space equipment). In order to see how a nuclear 'x-ray gun' would work in space, test planners needed to simulate space on Earth by creating an airless 'medium' to test their new weapon. Thus, they came up with the idea of extremely long (and bizarrely-shaped) airless steel pipe. At one end would be the nuclear device and at the other end would be several 'targets' (i.e., warheads and satellites). The pipe - more like a very long enclosed funnel - was air-tight and airless. Since the X-ray pulse would diffuse - it would enlarge like the beam of a flashlight on a distant object (whether on Earth or in space) - the steel pipe was tapered so that the 'target end' had a diameter of 25 feet.
The reason for this airless funnel is simple: explosions in space don't create shock waves - because there is no air - yet an explosion on Earth would create a shock wave. But testing such an x-ray gun even with the airless funnel on Earth had challenges; a shock wave may nevertheless ensue through the metal or air surrounding the pipe. In order to rule out any damage to the targets caused by a shock wave (which could send debris into the target), huge blast doors in the pipe were installed to allow the X-ray radiation to pass through; milliseconds after the blast, the doors would slam shut to prevent any unexpected form of shock-related damage as well radioactive gases and debris from reaching the 'targets.'1 This challenge of preventing non-radiation damage from harming the targets, however, proved too big to overcome. As happened in a previous test ('Misty Rain'), the blast doors failed for the 'Mighty Oak' test... It all started on April 10, sixteen days before Chernobyl...
On April 10, 1986, beneath Rainier Mesa, Mighty Oak detonated and the blast doors failed.2 The intense pressure and thousand-degree heat had caused two blast doors to reopen 50 or 60 seconds after they had closed. A combination of damaging shock waves, fire and pressurized gas and debris compromised the airless steel pipe and contamination and fire traveled throughout underground tunnel complex.3
The test chamber and the rest of the tunnel was supposed to be spared from this contamination and inferno but it was all turned into a scene of destruction - a 20-foot section of tunnel went 'missing' and the radioactive storm finally stopped at a final 6-foot thick door leading to the outside air. Had that last door failed, it would have caused an extremely radioactive cloud to be released into Nevada's air.
The tunnel complex - the 'T-Tunnel' - was now 'off-limits.' Dangerous levels of airborne radiation throughout the tunnel surpassed federal guidelines for workers exposure and test site workers would need to wait for radiation levels to subside. These levels would subside both naturally and as test site workers slowly discharged the radiation into the outside air through vents. That would take a while - several weeks or months. (As we will learn, that was too long to wait and when an opportunity arose to quickly 'dump' radioactive air, the test site officials jumped at the chance. The reason for the rush to 'air out' the tunnel was that the preoccupation of U.S. nuclear policy experts was not with warheads but with 'Star Wars' and the federal government cared more about their 'experimental equipment' for SDI and its data than any environmental costs.4 Actually, there were several 'Star Wars' tests in the 1980s, like 'Misty Rain' in 1985, that failed and whose radioactive air was rather quickly vented from tunnels into the outside air simply to access 'data' and millions of dollars of equipment.5 According to the books written by the late statistitian and nuclear expert Jay Gould, some of the greatest radioactive releases in America since 1970 came from these failed Star Wars tests.)
As had been the protocol for decades, deliberate releases of radiation at the test site was conducted at the mercy of the winds. Areas to the north and east - sections of Utah and northern Nevada, once dubbed 'low-use segments of the population' in a memo of the Energy Department's predecessor - were expendable. When the winds would cooperate, the radiation pent up in underground test tunnels would be sent 'their' way. But the winds don't always cooperate. Winds at the test site in some seasons would flow north over the nighttime hours and south during the day. And sometimes the winds could really howl. "March through June," at Yucca Flat, which is to the south of Rainier Mesa,"tends to experience the fastest average wind speeds ...with the faster wind speeds occurring at the higher elevations."(DOE EA-1550). In fact, on average, something like 30% of the time the winds are blowing from the test site to the east or north. So, purging T-Tunnel would take place, on average, on 'every-other-other' day, when the wind direction was flowing to the north or east.
On April 21, American reporter and talk show host Geraldo Rivera presided over the opening of the newly discovered vault of Al Capone, which, anticlimactically, revealed a more or less treasureless trove.
No one knew that the next day another mobster's vault opened with something that would take Americans' breath away. Twelve days after Mighty Oak, on April 22nd, Energy Department employees first started purging the air from the tunnel as the winds blew to the north-northeast. Mechanized 'gas seal plugs'6 had sequestered the tunnel into three sections and on this day the two sections closest to the tunnel aperture were 'purged' (from 10:00am to 9:30am on the following day).
The gases easily poured out as air would blow out a balloon; a more accurate analogy is a car tire tube. The April 10 nuclear explosion spontaneously created radioactive gases compressed at billions of times normal atmospheric pressures - as these gases spread throughout the tunnel immediately after Mighty Oak's detonation, the tunnel pressure dropped, but was still intense and would remain highly elevated until the first purgings..
Radioactive gases like Iodine-131 and Xenon-133, which are heavier than normal air7, shot out of the tunnel like air from a punctured tire.
After a two day hiatus, on April 25, the winds again were right and the Energy Department released the third and final seal, allowing almost the entire contents of the tunnel to 'breathe' into Nevada's air. The tunnel's aperture was opened between 10:30am and 4:00 pm on April 258 and, as would be expected, the 'wind' coming out of the tunnel on this day contained highest concentrated amounts of contamination, including xenon-133 gas.9 This radioactive gas was detected later that day by EPA radiation equipment arrayed around the Nevada Test Site, some at distances tens of miles away. EPA monitoring stations installed in the town of Hiko, Nevada and at 'Medlin Ranch' had readings of 270 'xenon units' (full day average) and 550 'xenon units,' respectively.10
The Medlin Ranch reading was the highest radio-xenon level recorded that month by the EPA, which kept its 'noble gas' monitoring equipment around the test site through May 10. It was one of the highest such levels recorded in Nevada in over a decade.
On April 26, 1986, Unit 4 reactor of the Chernobyl power station in Ukraine experienced an unprecedented accident and released a tremendous radioactive plume that would disperse radioactive gases like xenon and iodine and dozens of radio-chemicals - similarly found in 'nuclear fallout' - across the world and the United States. It was, however, a meteorological miracle for someone who wanted to dump radiation into the air.
Wanting their precious data and equipment, the Defense Department was losing patience with the 'conventional' method of waiting for the winds to be right in order to vent. But something could allow test site managers to promptly get rid of waste without anyone knowing. They could use the cover of the Chernobyl clouds to vent continuously, regardless of the winds.11
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