Documentary by local teen looks at history of atomic testing in Nevada, Kazakhstan
Thu, Oct 4, 2012 (11:53 a.m.)
No matter where you stand on the issue of nuclear testing, Southern Nevada’s role in the Cold War was huge. But despite countless books, lingering debates and the repetition of pop culture imagery, the story of nuclear testing in Southern Nevada is still largely unknown in terms of its depth and magnitude.
Locally, the National Atomic Testing Museum tells part of the story through artifacts, documents and videos, and the award-winning Nevada Test Site Oral History Project, available online through UNLV Libraries, contains transcripts, videos and other documentation of interviews with more than 150 people involved directly or indirectly with what went on at the Test Site. More recently, a cultural and information exchange program between individuals in Kazakhstan (where the Soviet Union tested nuclear weapons) and individuals in Las Vegas took place this year.
Known as Nuclear Weapons Testing Legacy: A Tale of Two Cultures, the grant-funded project included students, teachers, researchers and residents (on both sides) gathering, studying and sharing information in an apolitical atmosphere to better explore what happened. Each group visited the other’s country.
One participant, 14-year-old Harrison Kirk, is completing a documentary on the project to share the experience with larger audiences. In Kazakhstan, villagers lived in and around the Semipalatinsk Test Site, known also as “The Polygon,” with little knowledge of the dangers of radiation exposure. Kirk says the main difference between students in Kazakhstan and students in Southern Nevada is that in Kazakhstan almost everyone is thoroughly educated about nuclear testing and its history there.
“Everybody in the United States from New York to California should know more about the testing here,” he says.