How to Make an ‘Atomic Lake’ (Nuclear Bomb Required) via RealClear


On this day 54 years ago, the Soviet Union took drastic measures to make artificial body of water.


It’s a video, which surfaced a few years ago, of the “Chagan” blast in Kazakhstan near a nuclear test site known as Polygon. The explosion was one of the first “peaceful” uses of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union on this day in 1965. The idea was to use underground nuclear explosions to create reservoirs out of nearby rivers.

“The crater formed by the ‘Chagan’ explosion had a diameter of 408m and a depth of 100m” and quickly created a large lake, according to a 1996 history of Soviet nuclear explosions.

Following the explosion, radioactivity was detected as far away as Japan, and the U.S. protested the test.


As ominous as the idea seems in this era, the idea to use nuclear weapons as a kind of extreme landscaping tool was not a new one. The U.S. conducted more than two dozen similar experiments under what’s known as Operation Plowshare.


The DOE says using nuclear weapons for such peaceful purposes was considered before the first atomic bomb was ever detonated. The name itself, Plowshares, had its origins in biblical scripture about “ensur[ing] peace by beating swords into plowshares.”

Most of the “peaceful” American nuclear tests – with non-intimidating code names like Gnome, Ace and Sulky — took place in Nevada, but some were in New Mexico and Colorado. They tested how good nukes would be at digging canals and see how carbonate rock was affected by atomic blasts.

The tests continued until 1973 when the U.S. government pulled the plug on Plowshares.


One Cold War later, back in Kazakhstan, the government has opened Chagan, better known as “Atomic Lake” to tours for the bold or nuclear-obsessed.

In 2014 a journalist working for VICE visited the site, Geiger-counter in hand.

Read more at How to Make an ‘Atomic Lake’ (Nuclear Bomb Required)

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