A group of Middlebury Institute students recently toured the historic Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), where the United States and the United Kingdom detonated over a thousand nuclear explosions over the course of four decades.
A group of students from the Middlebury Institute, mostly from the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies degree recently toured the historic Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), where the United States and the United Kingdom detonated over a thousand nuclear explosions over the course of four decades.
Nye County, Nevada is located along a desert and mountainous stretch of US-95 that connects Carson City to Las Vegas and is home to the largest tract of U.S. territory that cannot claim a single resident - because of the nuclear testing. Touring the site was an opportunity to explore some “hands-on history,” according to Laura Peyton MANPTS ‘21. “It was an opportunity to gain an intimate knowledge of the country’s nuclear pursuits and subsequent testing moratorium. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about and seeing the results of our nuclear testing history.”
Nuclear testing officially ended at NNSS in 1992 after the introduction of The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). During their December visit, the group of students toured various notable testing locations, including the Sedan Crater, formed from a 104-kiloton thermonuclear explosion in 1962. Featuring a similar topography to Moon craters, American astronauts who walked on the moon trained at this site in preparation for their missions.
Virginia Kerr MANPTS ‘21 says she was “curious about who works in national security. The images of national security [personnel] in our political consciousness are often military or presidential - not everyday people with gentle smiles in 30-year-old buildings in the Nevada desert.” It was also a chance to step out of the classroom and to interact with real-world policy implications. “I’ve spent almost 9 years in academia,” she said, “So I’m happy to take any opportunity that bridges the academic with the real world...the nation's testing sites [like NNSS] were not keen on the CTBT during negotiations for obvious reasons. I think seeing and hearing what they do is necessary for understanding the stakes in security and arms control.”
The students made the most of their visit to Nevada, checking out other sites such as the National Atomic Testing Museum and The Hoover Dam. The trip was organized and sponsored by the MIIS CTBT Youth Group, the MIIS Nuclear Policy Club and the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, which has a student chapter on campus.
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