Castle Bravo Miscalculation

The famous detonation of a 15-megaton nuclear weapon off of the Bikini Atoll in the 1950s has an under-reported aspect: the size of the detonation was miscalculated, exposing many people to unanticipated levels of radiation:

The designers of Castle Bravo seriously miscalculated the yield of the device, resulting in critical radiation contamination. They predicted that the yield of the device would be roughly five to six megatons (a megaton is the equivalent of one million tons of TNT). Scientists were shocked when Castle Bravo produced an astounding 15 megaton yield, making it 1,000 times as powerful as the U.S. nuclear weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The miscalculation occurred because scientists did not realize that the “dry” source of fusion fuel, lithium deuteride with 40 percent content of lithium-6 isotope, would contribute so greatly to the overall yield of the detonation. (post)

The explosion was recorded on film:

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The history of the nuclear weapons program in the U. S. is rife with error. See Command and Control

This YouTube video is a five minute documentary explaining the miscalculation. (youtube)

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