pigrabbitbear writes: Its destructive force aside, the atomic bomb represented the pinnacle of American scientific development in the mid-20th century. And even as scientists like J. Robert Oppenheimer seemed rather horrified at what they’d unleashed, others became more consumed by the scientific possibilities of the atomic age. The most famous proponent of nuclear was Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb and one of the inspirations for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
As the world’s superpowers raced towards mutually-assured destruction, Teller became more enthusiastic about finding potential non-weapon uses for the phenomenal power of splitting or fusing the atom. Teller liked nuclear energy; his final paper, in 2006, would detail how to build an underground thorium reactor. But as the Cold War heated up, Teller became obsessed with using actual atomic bombs for civil engineering. Thanks to that type of numbers-driven thinking — if a bomb is as powerful as a million tons of TNT, why not use it to reshape the Panama Canal? — as well as Teller’s incessant prodding, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) created Project Chariot. The mission: to create a new port in northwestern Alaska using a series of underwater nuclear explosions.