image of a little girl and an atomic bomb exploding

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Classical Gas

In 1968 an instrumental musical piece was released as a single and Classical Gas, performed by Mason Williams, was an instant hit in the pop charts of the day. Around this time, the American government of President Richard Nixon was also having fun with gas. But this gas was natural and deposited below ground.  Drilling for the gas was too expensive and so the government, in its wisdom, decided to try a novel approach to release the gas. They planned to explode an atomic device underground.

Rulison in Colorado, was the chosen subject for Project Rulison, a plan to explode a 40-kiloton nuclear device on the 10th September 1969. This project was part of Operation Plowshare, a series of projects which explored the possibility of peaceful uses of nuclear explosions for engineering purposes. Rulison was going to determine if natural gas could be released from underground, quickly, without having to spend a lot of time and money drilling. There was one slight problem that Project Rulison encountered, there were people living close to the blast site. However, that did not deter the powers that be and the locals were evacuated on the actual day of the explosion.

The test was both a resounding success and an abject failure. The explosion released a huge amount of natural gas, but radioactivity from the nuclear blast left the gas contaminated and it was deemed unsuitable for commercial use.

It’s taken the US Department of Energy almost three decades to clean up the site and even now the site and surrounding area is tested on a regular basis to see if there is any radiation leakage. This was a classic case of a government not thinking through an idea before testing it in real life.

In this day and age it beggars belief that a government would seriously consider such a thing and it also poses a question. How many of these tests, 31 nuclear warheads were detonated in 27 separate tests, resulted in serious illness or even death from such a cavalier attitude to nuclear explosions.

It’s probably by pure luck that the current commander-in-chief, one Donald J. Trump, was dissuaded from using a nuclear bomb to disperse a hurricane.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

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