In case of atomic bomb, beer still OK

Science historian Alex Wellerstein recently wrote of a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted in 1955 at the Nevada Test Site, known as Operation Teapot. Among the important civil defense questions explored at the time was: What will the survivors drink after a nuclear apocalypse?

There was only one way to find out, at least according to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) of the day: Detonate an atomic bomb near some bottles and cans of soda and beer and then examine the evidence.

The results, it turns out, are quite reassuring. Many bottles and cans survived the nuclear blast, even those only a quarter mile away. Further, only those closest to Ground Zero registered radioactivity—but these readings were “well within the permissible limits for emergency use,” according to the AEC.

Nearly as important: “Immediate taste tests indicated that the beverages, both beer and soft drinks, were still of commercial quality.”  (Immediate taste tests?)

Unfortunately, the flavor of the beers very close to Ground Zero was “definitely off,” the AEC concluded. Nonetheless, the ANS Nuclear Cafe concurs that it may be advisable, for readers who are so inclined, to keep a six-pack or two in one’s basement, as part of any sensible emergency preparedness program.

For further research:

Stefani Bishop announces the breaking news at WRKR radio, Kalamazoo, Michigan:

Atomic Beer Testing

Alex Wellerstein’s Restricted Data blog: “Beer and the Apocalypse

NPR’s Robert Krulwich’s sciencey blog: “U.S. Explodes Atomic Bombs Near Beers To See If They Are Safe To Drink


One thought on “In case of atomic bomb, beer still OK

  1. James Greenidge

    Re: “NPR’s Robert Krulwich’s sciencey blog: “U.S. Explodes Atomic Bombs Near Beers To See If They Are Safe To Drink”

    I think it’s prudent to mention that the military didn’t set off bombs specifically for that purpose. One extremely memorable episode of PBS’s early “Nova” had a feature on early battlefield nuclear tests (especially the “Davu Crockett” nukes) with ground troops dug in near ground zero and the vets interviewd mentioned how the Army had the troops sharing ground with virtual zoos of domesticated and wild animals and racks of all kinds of clothing and building materials and chemicals and foodstuffs placed at various distances from the blast. There were even troops stationed AT ground zero far BENEATH atomic air-to-air/grounds-to-air nuke intercepter missle tests thousands of feet right overhead (to see if cities could escape damage from their own intercepter missle blasts). The vets said it was “a blast!” I dunno. I might’ve leapt for the chance myself!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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