UPDATED: Local Man Finds Explosive Test Crater


By Jay Michaels

Bruneau Desert, Idaho (KMVT-TV) Two weeks ago a Twin Falls man found what looked like a meteor crater on Google Earth. It turns out that it's the remains of a nearly 50 year old explosive test.

Back in the 1960's, the Atomic Energy Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers were trying to find ways to use nuclear and chemical explosives constructively in "Project Plowshare." One of those tests was September 30th, 1965, which left a good sized hole in the ground.

Local explorer Kelly Carlson says, "As part of that program, they set off a very large chemical explosion out here on the Bruneau Desert. The result is this giant crater behind us."

The crater is about 200 feet across and 75 to 80 feet deep. After the explosion, three or four trenches were dug at the edge of the crater so engineers could see how the rock fractured at different levels.

Carlson says, "The whole purpose of this test was to see how high explosives would do in very hard rock. And this place was an ideal test laboratory."

In some cases, there are rocks as big as this one 1/8 to 1/4 of a mile away from the crater. It's most likely that those rocks were thrown there by the original explosion.

Many of the rocks are shattered, revealing a smooth glassy surface which may be quartz or some kind of silica. Carlson says one of the things that led to the end of Project Plowshare was people finally recognizing the danger of nuclear and chemical explosions.

Carlson says, "The second thing that really killed the program was Nixon signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited any further testing of nuclear weapons."

Carlson says some of the projects originally proposed were mining operations in Colorado and New Mexico, a harbor on the coast of Alaska, and a sea level Panama Canal.

Sept. 18, 2012.

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