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The Atomic Age

Soldiers watch atomic explosion. In the 1950s the American public accepted above-ground nuclear bomb blasts just 65 miles from an American city as part of the ongoing Cold War effort. The tests became a tourist attraction for visitors. Las Vegas became "Atomic City, USA." The public's enthusiastic reaction to the tests demonstrates how well the government both downplayed the possible dangers of the tests and emphasized the patriotic mission of the program.

In 1988 the U.S. Congress passed a bill to compensate veterans whose health was damaged from exposure to nuclear tests. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah sponsored the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) that was passed in 1990, providing compensation to civilians downwind from the above-ground tests (many in his home state) and quickly amended to also apply to workers at the Nevada Test Site. As of 2001, RECA has paid out some $232 billion for 3,135 claims.

Explore the different ways in which the government presented the safety and importance of the tests to the American public in the early years of the Cold War

1953 Speech: Atoms for Peace
"Atomic weapons have virtually achieved conventional status within our armed services."

Film [circa early 1950s]: "Let's Face It"
"Let us recognize the threat to our way of life, the threat to our survival, and, let's face it."

1955 Stamp: Atoms for Peace
"The inventiveness of man shall be consecrated to his life."

1957 Booklet: Atomic Tests in Nevada
"Fallout Can Be Inconvenient."

1958-59 Seal: Clark County Seal
"State of Nevada."

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