Trinity nuclear test anniversary matters

July 16, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the world’s first detonation of an atomic bomb in New Mexico, USA by a group of scientists working for the US government during World War 2, altering the course of warfare and human history forever.

The Trinity nuclear test resulted in the nuclear bombs tragically deployed above the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war, which have left a radioactive signature in the rocks.

Associate Professor Alice Gorman, Space Archaeologist at Flinders University aka Dr Space Junk, says the Trinity Test c

reated the first example of nuclear glass where the heat of the detonation fused sand, often called Trinitite, which are also scattered around the sands of Maralinga, Australia’s nuclear test facility in the 1950’s.

“Nuclear explosions leave radioactive fallout, and dangerous high-level nuclear waste has to be carefully stored in geologically stable regions. Archaeologists typically investigate the deep past and the materials that survive into the present where we can study them,” says Associate Professor Gorman.

“Some archaeologists have looked at how you mark a nuclear waste site with materials that last as long as the half-life of radioactive materials. Plutonium 239, which was used in the Trinity test, has a half-life of 24,000 years, meaning that after this time, only half of it will have decayed into a safe, non-radioactive element.”

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