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You may be surprised to hear that in Colorado, they tried using nuclear bombs for a very unique goal: fracking to extract natural oil and gas.

Post World War II, people were eagerly trying to find usefulness for nuclear weapons that did not involve war or killing. This idea was the driving force behind what was called “The Plowshare Program,” whose goal was to find peaceful ways of using our newfound nuclear abilities. This was ran by the AEC, The Atomic Energy Commission.

This triggered the idea for Project Rulison. The underground 40-kiloton nuclear explosion test  approximately 8,400 ft below the ground in Rulison, Colorado. The test ultimately did succeed at extracting oil, but sadly, the radioactivity of the nuclear explosion left the gas unable to be used safely for cooking or heating the home. There were two other tests under the Plowshare Program:  Project Gasbuggy in New Mexico (1976) and Project Rio Blanco in Colorado (1973).

Ultimately, civilians did not want these tests to continue due to the fear of the effects of radioactivity. There were even protestors walking the grounds to send the message to the government that Americans did not want this to keep happening. Those working closely to these projects are now covered under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA) for those illnesses caused by radiation and chemicals from the explosions.

Protestors of the Plowshare Program’s nuclear fracking