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Las Vegas: The National Atomic Testing Museum

by Sanne
The National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas

The National Atomic Testing Museum is all about the Nevada nuclear testing site active for almost 4 decades, from the 1950’s and beyond. The testing site was located just a short drive outside Las Vegas and the mushroom clouds, which could be viewed from Downtown Las Vegas, used to be a major tourist attraction (!).

The spirit of the museum is very pro-nuclear, but the reasoning doesn’t go much further than “if we hadn’t done it, we would all be dead by now and the world would be run by communists”. Furthermore, some people may find the theme park lingo and excessive sound effects slightly inappropriate, considering the severity of the subject. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the museum is an impressive source of knowledge. You will find everything you need to know about the history of nuclear weapons testing in the US at this place.

It was interesting to see the actual tools used to assess the radiation level and calculate the risk of nuclear downfall based on current weather conditions, and the movie theater showing actual testing of the weapons sent shivers down my spine. The timeline with the plotting of different nuclear testing events throughout the years alongside other major happenings was also both informative and thought-provoking. However, the souvenir shop at the entrance, selling posters of pin-ups wearing nothing else than mushroom clouds was just wrong in so many ways..

There was also an Area51 exhibition on the museum premises but as we arrived a bit late and only had one hour before the museum closed, we just walked quickly through the displays, and we didn’t have the time to read about the could-be extraterrestrial encounters.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, I’ve always belonged to the “fascinated, but repelled” group of nervous spectators. “Fascinated” because of the enormous efforts put into developing this stuff. How about spending your entire life, figuring out how to most efficiently kill other people? How do these people find the motivation to get out of bed each morning? “Repelled” because I find it hard to grasp how humanity hit such an all-time low.

I know, at that time, in that context, no actual alternatives existed, but today, every aspiring dictator with an expense account can go and purchase his own personal A-bomb. I find the mere thought of that slightly discomforting..

There are so many aspects of the topic of nuclear weapons and visiting the National Atomic Testing Museum really triggered a lot of thoughts and added an unexpected, but appreciated dose of realpolitik to my Vegas trip. I am very happy that I went.

The National Atomic testing Museum, 755 E. Flamingo Rd. (Just East of Paradise Rd.), Las Vegas

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