In the early 1960s, the two nuclear superpowers of the world—the United States of America and the Soviet Union—began looking for ways to utilize the tremendous energy released by nuclear bombs for productive purposes. Things that were discussed included blasting a new canal through the Isthmus of Panama, creating an artificial harbor in Alaska, excavating mountains, and other such projects that involved moving large quantities of earth and rocks. Under Operation Plowshare, the US carried out a few tests in the Nevada desert, the effect of which can still be seen in the crater-riddled desert floor. The largest of these craters, from the Sedan nuclear test in 1962, is now a tourist attraction.
Oil well fires blaze out of control outside Kuwait City during Operation Desert Storm. Photo credit: David Mcleod