Edward Teller, père de la bombe H américaine, initie le projet Chariot : créer, ex nihilo, un grand port en Alaska en utilisant six bombes atomiques. Aucune détonation naura finalement lieu. Mais les résidus dune explosion sont transportés sur le site pour estimer les effets sur les sources deau d’éjectas radioactifs retombant sur les plantes de la toundra.

Pierre Barthélémy, « Redessinons l’Alaska à la bombe atomique », Le Monde, 27 janvier 2014

The newly developed Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) founded the Plowshare Program, named for the biblical injunction to beat swords into plowshares.  The Plowshare Program specifically sought alternative uses for nuclear technology. AEC scientists theorized that atomic bombs could be used to quickly and efficiently excavate land. With little thought to long-term implications of their tests or to the region’s local inhabitants, in 1958 the AEC selected northwest Alaska in as one of the first test sites for peaceful uses of nuclear technology.  They dubbed the plan Project Chariot.  Project Chariot called for the construction of a deep water harbor at Point Thompson by detonating 2.4 megatons (later reduced to 280 kilotons) of thermonuclear devices.

Physicist Edward Teller headed Project Chariot.  Known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, Teller was one of the foremost proponents of nuclear technology during the Cold War era.  He became the face of Project Chariot in Alaska, assuring and reassuring people of the great benefits and low risk of nuclear land excavation.  He argued that the majority of radioactive material resulting from the blasts would remain buried underground;  in one instance, he insisted radiation exposure from Project Chariot would not amount to any more than people already received from their wristwatches.  If the risks were low, he argued, the benefits were high: the proposed harbor would significantly aid Alaska’s economic development.

Elizabeth James, Project Chariot, LitSIAlaska

For further reading:

O’Neill, Dan.  The Firecracker Boys:  H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement.

« The Nuclear Legacy of Project Chariot. »

United States Committee on Environmental Studies for Project Chariot.  United States Atomic Energy Commission Division of Technical Information.  Environment of the Cape Thompson Region, Alaska.