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US nuclear test films rescued, declassified, put on YouTube

By showing the power of these nuclear weapons, physicist Greg Spriggs hopes "maybe people will be reluctant to use them."

Lawrence Livermore National Labratory

Experts at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California are working to preserve archival footage of the above-ground nuclear tests conducted in the US in the past.

The first set of restored films was released on YouTube earlier this week.

Between 1945 and 1962, the US conducted 210 above-ground nuclear tests. Each test was captured with multiple cameras at 2,400 frames per second from various angles. Since the testing ended, roughly 10,000 films have been slowly decomposing in high-security vaults.

Weapon physicist Greg Spriggs leads a team of film experts, archivists and software developers whose goal is to preserve the films' content before the organic material becomes useless and the data is lost. By reanalyzing the restored footage, the team hopes to provide new data that helps to ensure the stockpile continues to serve as an effective deterrent.

So far around 4,200 of the estimated 10,000 films have been scanned, up to 500 have been reanalyzed, and around 750 have been declassified.

The team hopes to provide better data to the scientists who ensure the safety of US nuclear weapons. Spriggs believes showing the force of these weapons will encourage people to be reluctant to use them.