Earth & Conservation

Where Has The U.S. Tested Nuclear Weapons?

During the Cold War, the U.S. carried out nearly a thousand nuclear tests throughout the country. Where were these tests conducted?

If a single image could sum up the anxieties of the Cold War era, a mushroom cloud would be it.

Two atomic bombs, the only nuclear weapons ever used in wartime, exploded over civilian populations in Japan bringing about the end of World War II, but thousands more nukes were detonated in remote regions for testing purposes on land, underground and even in space.

Where exactly did the United States test its nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War arms race?

RELATED: Where Did the USSR Secretly Test Nuclear Weapons?

According to the Arms Control Association, the United States has conducted 1,030 nuclear tests since the advent of the atomic era, more than half of the 2,055 tests conducted worldwide.

The atomic bomb made its debut at a testing site in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The test site for the Trinity explosion was chosen because it was remote and unpopulated, addressing potential safety and security concerns. The terrain is also flat and little wind passes through, reducing the possibility of fallout spreading over a wide area.

After World War II, the U.S. military moved its nuclear testing operations to the Pacific Ocean, specifically the Marshall Islands. Over a 12-year period between 1946 and 1958, 67 tests were conducted using bombs of ever-increasing magnitude.

Unfortunately for the islanders -- many were evacuated but not everyone made it out -- the radioactive fallout proved a health hazard, increasing the risk of certain kinds of cancers as a result of exposure. Decades after the tests, many of the islands are still uninhabitable.

WATCH VIDEO: What Does Nuclear Fallout Do to Your Body?

Beginning in the 1950s, nuclear tests began at a rural test site in Nevada, a venue that would over the coming decades have the distinction of being the most bombed place on Earth. The mushroom clouds from the tests were visible from Las Vegas, which led to the curious occurrence of nuclear weapons tests becoming tourist attractions. Who wouldn't want to sip on an "atomic cocktail" at a "Dawn Bomb Party" while waiting for the show to start? Maybe mushroom clouds weren't so scary after all.

The United States ceased nuclear weapons testing in the 1990s, as did most of the rest of the world. Only eight countries have ever tested nukes, and only one today continues to do so: North Korea.

-- Talal Al-Khatib

Learn More:

Washington Post: A ground zero forgotten

New York Times: Marshall Islands Can't Sue the World's Nuclear Powers, U.N. Court Rules

KPBS: Nation Recognizes Nuclear Test Downwinders

Department of Energy: Trinity Site - World's First Nuclear Explosion