See also: http://onf-nfb.gc.ca/eng/collection/film/?id=50234
Give me a place to rest my lever, and I will move the earth.
Archimedes, ca.200 BC
If your mountain is not in the right place, just drop us a card.
Edward Teller, 1959
A feature documentary by Face to Face Media
in coproduction with the National Film Board of Canada
One sentence descriptions
- Russian and American scientists planned to re-shape the surface of the planet with nuclear explosives. Nuclear Dynamite cracks open the archives and interviews scientists and environmentalists in this first-ever documentary on this bizarre atomic mega- dream.
- Nuclear Dynamite cracks open Russian and American archives and traces the roots of the environmental movement back to the 1950s as it presents the untold story of superpower plans to harness the power of the atomic bomb for planetary engineering projects.
Nuclear Dynamite reveals the untold story of American and Soviet plans to use nuclear explosives to launch spaceships and carry out gigantic “geographical engineering” projects including digging a new sea-level Panama Canal with atomic bombs. More than 150 nuclear blasts were carried out between 1958 and 1988 before this bizarre and extraordinary atomic dream was destroyed by the emergence of the environmental movements in both countries.
In the 1950s Edward Teller, the co-inventor of the H-Bomb proposed using “the great and violent power” of the atom bomb for peaceful purposes. Nuclear Dynamite explores the Soviet- American race to develop nuclear explosives for gigantic megaprojects. Scientists planned to harness the power of the bomb to launch huge spaceships, dig an instant harbour in Alaska, blast out oil and gas deposits, cut through mountain ranges, and dig a new Panama canal with 300 explosions. More than 150 nuclear blasts were carried out between 1958 and 1988 before this bizarre and extraordinary atomic dream was destroyed by the emergence of the environmental movements in both countries.
Nuclear Dynamite cracks open Russian and American archives, interviews nuclear scientists and traces the traces the roots of the environmental movement back to the 1950s as it presents the untold story of US and the Soviets plans to use nuclear explosives for huge "geographical engineering" project. Superpower plans included hundreds of explosions to blast out oil from the Athabasca tar sands, dig an instant harbour in the Arctic, reroute rivers in Siberia, and dig a new Panama Canal. Scientists were even designing huge interplanetary rocket ships that would be launched into space by nuclear explosions.
Using recently discovered test footage, promotional films, visits to test sites, and interviews with scientists and witnesses, the documentary investigates the untold story of Project Plowshare and its Soviet counterpart, and their attempts to convert the atom bomb into a nuclear plow and shovel for engineering projects on a planetary scale.
The leading spokesman for Project Plowshare was Dr. Edward Teller, co-inventor of the hydrogen bomb, and the director of the Livermore laboratories in California. Teller and his colleagues recall their ambitious plans to dig a new sea-level canal in Central America, using hundreds of nuclear explosions, totalling more than 300 megatons. A former member of Project Orion, physicist Freeman Dyson, recalls the excitement surrounding the nuclear rocket project.
The Soviets, as shown in rare archival footage, had an even larger program, using nuclear dynamite to build dams and reservoirs, snuff out raging gas well fires, and dig underground caverns. Together the superpowers spent hundreds of millions of rubles and dollars, and set off more than 150 nuclear explosions over a period of thirty years developing and testing “peaceful nuclear explosives.”
But these nuclear dreams were undermined by the emergence of the environmental movements in both countries. In North America the "baby tooth" campaign documented the build up of radioactive fallout in the bones of children. This was the first stirring of the new environmental movement more than a decade before ‘environment’ became a household word, and well before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) traced the similar movement of pesticides through the food chain.
“Plowshare was always getting in trouble with the best of intentions” says one physicist. What began as a dream descended into a nightmare. Radiation leaks, political gaffes, angry Native Americans, and a public increasingly afraid of nuclear technology and critical of those who promoted it destroyed Teller’s dream by the mid 1970s. Unhampered by critics, the Soviet program continued until 1988, two years after Cher- nobyl.
Nuclear Dynamite examines the story from diverse perspectives. American and Russian scientists recall the excitement, and the scale of the plans. Inupiat hunters in Point Hope Alaska have vivid memories of the team of scientists who arrived at their village in the Arctic with plans to set off five nuclear explosions nearby. Activists recall how the intense debate about the dangers of radioactivity sparked a new awareness of the global environment. Our awakening understanding of the fragility of the ecosystem, they believe, put an end to the nuclear dream.
"The unleashed power of the atom,” Einstein wrote in 1946, “has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." Now, more than fifty years after the first atomic explosions, the way we think about the atom, technology, and the world around us has changed.