Thanks to official tests from the US government, we now know that we can drink beers even if they happened to be near the vicinity of ground zero after a nuclear blast.
According to Alex Wellerstein in his blog, the US government actually did some experiments back in the 1950s to ascertain how viable beers and other commercially available drinks are in case of a nuclear apocalypse.
“Apocalypse” is the actual word the American Institute of Physics historian used and here are the results of the test.
It turns out that in 1955, a report was made by the US government where beers were laid out in varying distances to where a nuclear bomb was detonated in Nevada.
“All sorts of things have been studied in the name of Civil Defense — of what to do after the Worst Happens,” Welerstein said.
“ Two questions along these lines I’ve already discussed in the past: What do you do with all of the dead people? and What will happen to all of our paper-based records? Both of which have “interesting” answers,” he added.
According to him, the tests were named Operation Teapot and were part of 14 nuclear weapons tests in 1955 at the Nevada Test Site.
The tests sought to answer, among other things “What will survivors drink in the post-apocalyptic world? If the water supply is contaminated or otherwise dodgy, what about all of those cans and bottles that capitalist society churns out by the billions of gallons?”
Beer is one, the tests conclude.
“The Atomic Energy Commission did what they did best and dropped a nuke on bottles of beer and soda cans,” the historian wrote in his blog.
His blog entry is fairly long but here’s the gist of it which we quote here for the sheer hilarity of how he writes:
“They took a number of different types of bottles and cans, filled with different liquids, and put them in various positions relative to Ground Zero for two nuclear tests … closest ones were less than a quarter mile away from the first test — a mere 1056 feet. The furthest ones out were about 2 miles away.
The results were somewhat interesting. Even the bottles pretty near the test had a fairly high survival rate — if they didn’t fall off the shelves, or have something else smash into them (a “missile” problem), or get totally crushed by whatever they were being housed in, they had a good chance of not breaking. Not super surprising, in a way: bottles are small, and there’s a lot of stuff in between them and the shockwave to dissipate it. (Bottles seem more fragile than human beings, but in certain respects they are probably easier to keep safe. Also, human beings are rarely in refrigerators, Indiana Jones notwithstanding.)
As for radiation, only the bottles closest to Ground Zero had much radioactivity, and even that was “well within the permissible limits for emergency use,” which is to say, it won’t hurt you in the short term. The liquid itself was somewhat shielded by the bottles of the containers which picked up some of the radioactivity.”
Of course, the testers were also interested in how the beers and the sodas tasted after the tests so they got volunteers to taste them immediately. The report did not say who but those brave men really took one in the name of beers in a post-apocalyptic world.
The report says, according to Wellerstein:
“Examination made immediately upon recovery showed no observable gross changes in the appearance of the beverages. Immediate taste tests indicated that the beverages, both beer and soft drinks, were still of commercial quality, although there was evidence of a slight flavor change in some of the products exposed at 1270 ft from GZ [Ground Zero]. Those farther away showed no change.”
After that initial taste test, there were more:
“Representative samples of the various exposed packaged beers, as well as un-exposed control samples in both cans and bottles, were submitted to five qualified laboratories for carefully controlled taste-testing. The cumulative opinions on the various beers indicated a range from “commercial quality” on through “aged” and “definitely off.” All agreed, however, that the beer could unquestionably be used as an emergency source of potable beverages. Obviously, if a large storage of such packaged beers was to be trapped in a zone of such intense radiation following a nuclear explosion, ultimate usage of the beverages beyond the emergency utility would likely be subject to review of the taste before return to commercial distribution.”
The blog post offers a glimpse of how the US government used American tax dollars in the past. As Wellerstein put it: “Your tax dollars at work.”