US planed to nuke California to make a way for Route 66


Just after the Second World War, scientists started looking for alternative ways to use nuclear energy. For example, in the 1960s, the U.S. wanted to use atomic bombs to build a new highway.

The U.S. government planned to detonate a number of nuclear bombs in the California desert in order to create a highway pass for Route 66. The plan was part of the Plowshare project of the federal government. This was conceived in 1951 as a way of ‘turning nuclear weapons into plowshares’.

Bombs that exploded underground, experts thought, could be a cheap solution to move large amounts of Earth. For example, dozens of chains of explosions could form new channels, roads or even ports. When a side branch had to be built for Highway Route 66 in the early 1960s, a committee of inquiry came to the conclusion that a nuclear-powered bypass would be ‘technically feasible’, and more importantly, ‘much cheaper than conventional excavation work’.

Nuclear bombs with a power of between 20 and 200 kilotons would be used to get through a mountain range. The combined yield would be 1730 kilotons, or about 115 times that of’ Little Boy ‘ – the bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima less than two decades earlier. Apparently, the Americans learned in time that the use of nuclear bombs does not only have advantages.

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