When the gods dance...

Friday, September 21, 2012

The U.S. Dropped Nukes On Beer, and It Was a Good Idea Too

The U.S. Dropped Nukes On Beer, and It Was a Good Idea Too

Posted by Brian_Merchant on Thursday, Sep 20, 2012

  • Nuclear-boom_large

Is bottled beer nuclear bombproof? The United States government conducted a couple tests in the 1950s to find out—it exploded nuclear bombs with “packaged commercial beverages” deposited at varying distances from the blast center to see if beer and soda would be safe to drink afterwards. The finding? Yep, surviving bottled and canned drinks can be consumed the event of a nuclear holocaust, without major health risks.

The US government’s official statement concluded that “These beverages could be used as potable water sources for immediate emergency purposes as soon as the storage area is safe to enter after a nuclear explosion.”

has obtained
the government documents that detail these tests, which it uses primarily as a springboard to poke fun at cold war paranoia.

“Should you find yourself near an atomic blast and run short of potable water, you can chug a Coke or a beer, but don’t expect it to taste great,” the piece reads, “…it makes sense to keep a six-pack or two or three (or four), in the basement, just in case. What if there’s no lootable convenience store conveniently close by?”

frames the exercise as a little silly and extraneous, which is, I admit, pretty tempting: “The atomic age was crazy, right? I mean, the government was blowing up nuclear bombs just to test ’em on beer!”

But let’s not forget—people were horrified of the prospect of nuclear war. Millions lived in constant fear, built bomb shelters, practiced evacuation drills, and kept the news on round the clock. And, recall, there was a pretty good chance that nuclear bombs would fall, somewhere. We came close, remember? The omnipresent prospect of nuclear holocaust was certainly not the quaint vestige of a curious historical moment that we treat it to be now—it was a bloody reality.

As such, it was probably a good idea that somebody tested out whether or not packaged beverages would be too irradiated to drink in the event of a nuclear explosion; both so folks could be encouraged to keep such supplies on hand in their fallout shelters, and so that health departments (those that survived) would have the relevant information on hand when people inevitably drank the bottled supplies they happened upon in the wake of disaster. At a time when the specter of nuclear disaster loomed largest, it was worthwhile investigating what was and wasn’t safe to consume should it happen. I mean, I’d want to know.

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