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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Numbered Areas 9 - 15

Area 9 - This area, within the Nuclear Test Zone, occupies 52 km2 (20 mi2 ) in the northeast quadrant of the Yucca Flat weapons test basin. Seventeen atmospheric tests were conducted in this area between 1951 and 1958. Area 9 has been used extensively for underground nuclear testing; 100 such tests were carried out from late 1961 to mid-1992. Of the dozen underground tests involving the simultaneous detonation of multiple devices, most involved the use of separate emplacement holes (two or more holes, each with a single device). The Area 9 sanitary landfill is located in a subsidence crater formed as a result of a subsurface nuclear detonation in the early 1960s. This Class II landfill is allowed to receive all types of nonhazardous waste. In October 1995, the landfill underwent partial closure and will reopen as a Class III construction and demolition debris landfill.

Area 10 - This area, incorporated in the Nuclear Test Zone, occupies 54 km2 (21 mi2) in the northeast quadrant of the Yucca Flat weapons test basin. Area 10 was the selected location for the nation's first nuclear missile system test, an air-to-air rocket, detonated in mid-1957. This was the only nuclear rocket test ever conducted at the NTS. Two of the earliest shallow nuclear cratering experiments conducted at the NTS were detonated in 1951 and 1955 at this location. Resuming with the deeply buried Sedan cratering experiment in mid-1962 and extending through early 1991, a number of underground nuclear tests were conducted in Area 10. Counting both the cratering and contained underground tests, there were 57 nonatmospheric nuclear tests. A number of the underground tests detonated in Area 10 were simultaneous detonations of multiple devices in the same emplacement hole, while others involved the firing of multiple devices, but with each of the nuclear devices located in separate emplacement holes. Area 10 is the site of Sedan Crater, which was formed by a thermonuclear device detonated in July 1962. It left a large throw-out crater with a diameter of 390 m (1,280 ft) and a depth of 98 m (320 ft). Sedan was the first in a series of 23 Plowshare experiments conducted at the NTS to develop peaceful uses of nuclear explosives. Sedan Crater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a file of cultural resources of national, state, regional, or local significance identified by the National Park Service. The Scooter Crater, also located in Area 10, is the result of a 500-ton conventional high-explosive experiment carried out in 1960.

Area 11 - This area, which is split among the Nuclear Test and Reserved Zones, occupies 67 km2 (26 mi2) along the eastern border of the NTS. Four atmospheric plutonium-dispersal safety tests were conducted in the northern portion of Area 11 in 1954 and 1956 in what is now known as Plutonium Valley. Because of the radioactive residues that remain from the safety experiments, Area 11 continues to be used on an intermittent basis for realistic drills in radiological monitoring and sampling operations. In addition to the aboveground safety tests, five underground nuclear weapons effects tests were carried out in Area 11 between the spring of 1966 and early 1971. An explosive ordnance disposal site is located in the southern portion of Area 11. This is a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permitted treatment unit. The site consists of a detonation pit surrounded by an earthen pad, approximately 8 m (25 ft) by 30 m (100 ft), and supplemental equipment, which includes a bunker, electrical shot box, and electrical wire. Typically, up to six detonations of 45 kilograms (kg) (100 pounds [lb]) or less of explosives are conducted annually.

Area 12 - This area, within the Nuclear or High Explosive Test Zone, occupies 104 km2 (40 mi2) at the northern boundary of the NTS known as Rainier Mesa. No atmospheric tests were conducted at this location. Rainier Mesa was the site of the nation's first fully contained underground nuclear detonation in the fall of 1957. Of the 61 underground nuclear tests carried out in Area 12 between late 1957 and the fall of 1992, only 2 were detonated in drilled holes, whereas all of the others were detonated in mined tunnels. Today, there are a number of tunnels mined into Rainier Mesa, within which most DoD horizontal line-of-sight exposure experiments were conducted. In particular, N-, P-, and T-Tunnel complexes were extensively developed during the past several decades. N-Tunnel was also the location for a non-proliferation experiment, detonated in September 1993; this experiment involved 1.3 x 106 kg (2.9 x 106 lb) of conventional high explosives. The DoD currently operates a high-explosives research and development tunnel in Area 12. This reusable test bed supports programs involving the detonation of conventional or prototype explosives and munitions. The Area 12 camp was used to support operations in the northern region of the NTS. The camp includes housing and feeding facilities; other support structures include a major maintenance building, various craft and repair shops, a first-aid facility, and a supply depot. The camp is currently closed.

Area 13 - Officially, there is no Area 13 within the NTS boundary; however, there is a land plot on the Nellis Air Force Range [NAFR] Complex, known as NAFR Complex Area 13, which lies off the northeast corner of the NTS. This was the location for a plutonium-dispersal safety experiment conducted in early 1957. The only future DOE activities that would occur in this area would involve environmental restoration.

Area 14 - This Reserved Zone area occupies 67 km2 (26 mi2) in the south-central portion of the NTS. Relatively isolated from the NTS's major operational and support facilities, no atmospheric or underground nuclear tests have ever been conducted in Area 14.

Area 15 - This Reserved Zone area occupies 96 km2 (37 mi2) at the northeast corner of the NTS, and no atmospheric tests were conducted at this location. However, between early 1962 to mid-1966, three underground nuclear tests were carried out in Area 15. Two major complexes are located in Area 15, the Hardhat/Piledriver site and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Farm Complex, both of which are now closed. The Piledriver experiment in mid-1966 was one of the most complex and expensive DoD underground nuclear tests ever carried out. The purpose of these tests was to investigate the simulated effects of a nuclear surface detonation on a deeply buried, superhard command and control center in a granite rock formation. From 1978 to 1983, the Spent Fuel Test, Climax was carried out in a separately mined drift at the Hardhat/Piledriver site. The purpose of this study was to learn more about how granite would react to heat and radiation from spent nuclear fuel. As part of the nation's long-range health and safety program, an experimental 30-acre dairy farm was developed and operated in Area 15 between 1965 and 1981. The purpose of this extensive research program was to study the passage of airborne radionuclides through the soil-forage-cow-milk-food chain.

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