Table 1. Summary of atmospheric nuclear tests by major site and country (Adapted from Table 2, Volume 1, Annex C, UNSCEAR 2000)

Country

Test Site

Number of Tests Conducted

Yield (megatons)

Total Yield (megatons)

China

All

22

21

21

France

All

45

10

10

United Kingdom

Christmas Island

6

7

8

Others

15

1

United States

Nevada

86

1

154

Marshall Islands

69

109

Christmas Island

24

23

Johnston Atoll

12

21

Others

6

0.1

Former USSR

Novaya Zemlya

91

239

247

Semipalatinsk

116

7

Others

12

1

 

Totals

543a

 

440

aIncludes 22 safety tests of the United States, 12 safety tests of the United Kingdom, and five safety tests of France not listed above.

The feasibility study under review did not consider all the weapons tests indicated in Table 1 but was restricted to aboveground tests during 1951–1962, so it embraces only the atmospheric weapons tests conducted by the United States, the former USSR, and the United Kingdom. The authors of the draft report offer as a rationale for that restriction the assertion that “it is generally acknowledged that the most important contributions to the radiation doses arose from atmospheric nuclear tests conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the former USSR during the pre-1962 time period.” To support that statement, they note that “the tests considered in this report that were conducted at the NTS account for over 95% of the total 131I produced during the entire testing period at the NTS (NCI, 1997).”

Although the detonation of a nuclear weapon produces more than 900 fission products, only about 165 radionuclides have half-lives long enough to contribute to fallout and thus to constitute a potential threat to human health. The threat arises from exposure of a person to radioactive materials deposited on the ground, termed external or ambient exposure, and through the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive materials, called internal exposure.

External exposure to fallout from the NTS tests was evaluated in the feasibility study by estimating the deposition density of some 43 radionuclides throughout the United States and



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