Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Numbered Areas 4 - 8

Area 4 - This area, within the Nuclear Test Zone, occupies 41 km2 (16 mi2) near the center of the Yucca Flat basin. Area 4 was the site of five atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1952 and 1957. From the mid-1970s through 1991, a total of 35 underground nuclear tests were conducted in Area 4, mainly in the northeast corner. Two of these tests involved the simultaneous detonation of multiple devices in the same emplacement hole. The Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF) is a hydrodynamic testing facility, located at the Department of Energy's Nevada Test Site in Area 4, about 95 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The need for the BEEF site originated when, due to community encroachment near the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) facility in Livermore, California, DOE was no longer allowed to perform large high explosive experiments at the facilities Site 300, Shaped Charge Scaling Project. Therefore looking at the Nevada Test Site as a location to continue to perform these large high explosive experiments, two earth-covered, two-foot thick steel reinforced concrete bunkers, built to monitor atmospheric tests at Yucca Flat in the 1950s, were located and found to be ideally configured. The facility consists of a control bunker, a camera bunker, a gravel firing table, and associated control and diagnostic systems. The facility has conducted safely conventional high-explosives experiments using a test bed that provides sophisticated diagnostics such as high-speed optics and x-ray radiography on the firing table, while operating personnel are present in the bunker. The September 2002 Watusi experiment sought to show that existing seismic and infrasound sensors at the test site and across the West that were used in the days of underground nuclear testing still can detect and characterize explosions accurately. The yield of the experiment was equivalent to approximately 37,000 pounds of TNT. It took place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Big Explosive Experimental Facility, or BEEF, about 12 miles east of the test site's central Control Point.

Area 5 - This area, within the Reserved Zone, occupies some 246 km2 (95 mi2) in the southeastern portion of the site and includes the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site, the Hazardous Waste Storage Unit, and the Spill Test Facility. From 1951 through early 1962, 14 atmospheric tests were conducted at Frenchman Flat, several of which were weapons effects tests. Among the remains of the structures tested in Frenchman Flat are simulated motel complexes, metal frames that supported a variety of roofing materials, a window test structure, cylindrical liquid storage vessels, reinforced concrete domes and aluminum domes, bridge pedestals, and a bank vault; all of these remains are of considerable historical interest. Five nuclear weapons tests were conducted underground at Frenchman Flat between 1965 and 1968. However, the presence of the carbonate aquifer makes this area less suitable for underground testing than other locations on the NTS. In the GMX area, 24 experiments, some utilizing relatively small quantities of fissile materials, were conducted between 1954 and 1956. These experiments were so-called "equation-of-state" studies where "instantaneous" changes in the physical properties of plutonium materials subjected to detonations from conventional explosives were measured. The Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site is located in a 732-acre Radioactive Waste Management Zone used for low-level waste disposal. Mixed waste, including transuranic mixed waste, has been disposed of at the site in the past, and transuranic wastes are currently being stored there pending disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The Hazardous Waste Storage Unit is an accumulation point for nonradioactive materials, such as paints, chemicals, unused or surplus fuels,and other items. Periodically, all hazardous wastes generated at the NTS are sent to permitted commercial facilities for recycling, incineration, or disposal. The Spill Test Facility is a complex of fuel tanks, spill pads, meteorological and camera towers, equipment and control buildings, and a wind tunnel used for releasing hazardous materials and measuring their behavior in outdoor conditions.

Area 6 - This area occupies 212 km2 (82 mi2) between Yucca Flat and Frenchman Flat, straddling Frenchman Mountain. Only one atmospheric nuclear test was conducted in Area 6, and that was in 1957. Between 1968 and mid-1990, five under ground nuclear tests were conducted at this location, two of which involved the simultaneous detonation of multiple devices in separate emplacement holes. The Control Point complex serves as the command center, air operations center, and timing and firing center for the Yucca Flat weapons test basin, Frenchman Flat, Pahute Mesa, and surrounding areas. Augmenting facilities near the secured compound include a communications building, several radiological sciences and technical services buildings, a fire and first-aid station, and various maintenance and warehouse structures. The Area 6 Construction Facilities provide craft and logistical support to activities in the forward areas of the NTS. This forward area complex replaces older construction base camps in Areas 2 and 3. Those elements comprising the Yucca Lake facilities include a variety of equipment storage facilities, a heavy- duty maintenance and equipment repair facility, and decontamination facilities. A 3,353 m (11,000 ft) airstrip and nearby weather station also are located on the Yucca Lake bed. The Device Assembly Facility is the primary location of all nuclear explosive operations at the NTS. Nuclear explosive operations include assembly, disassembly or modification, staging, transportation, testing, maintenance, repair, retrofit, and surveillance. The Device Assembly Facility contains about 9,290 m2 (100,000 ft2) of interior floor space within a Critical Assembly Zone composed of approximately 22 acres. The Hydrocarbon Contaminated Soils Disposal Site is an existing, state of Nevada-approved, Class III landfill. All non-Resource Conservation and Recovery Act-regulated hydrocarbon contaminated soils and materials generated on the NTS are disposed of at this landfill.

Area 7 - This area, within the Nuclear Test Zone, occupies 52 km2 (20 mi2 ) in the northeast quadrant of the Yucca Flat weapons test basin. Twenty-six atmospheric tests were conducted in this area. From late 1964 through the fall of 1991, a total of 62 underground nuclear tests were carried out in Area 7, all consisting of a single nuclear device in a drilled emplacement hole.

Area 8 - This area, within the Nuclear Test Zone, occupies 34 km2 (13 mi2) in the northeast quadrant of the Yucca Flat weapons test basin. Area 8 was the site of three atmospheric nuclear tests conducted in 1958. From mid-1966 through late 1988, 10 underground nuclear tests were carried out at this location. Two of the underground tests involved the simultaneous firing of multiple devices put in the same emplacement hole. Underground shelter structures were tested in the late 1950s, and in 1964 these shelters were used by the University of Florida for shelter habitability studies. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has conducted experiments in this area.

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