TECH

The US Once Considered Using Nukes To Build Roads

24/09/2014 11:52 BST | Updated 24/09/2014 11:59 BST

So you're looking to build a railroad but unfortunately your path is blocked by a mountain, what do you do? Build a tunnel? That would seem the only alternative. Or not.

Sarah Zhang has written a fascinating piece on the Factually blog for Gizmodo which looks at Project Carryall, a plan that involved using atom bombs to clear a path through the mountain.

That's right. They were genuinely considering using nuclear weapons as a construction tool.

According to Zhang the idea wasn't considered as barmy as you'd have expected, it was the 1960s and the Atomic Energy Commission was looking for something peaceful to do with all these nuclear weapons they'd just built.

The plan would be to detonate a nuclear weapon that would clear a path through the Bristol Mountain formation, enabling the railroad and road construction firms to build a road that could stretch through to California.

What's probably the most terrifying however is that this wasn't an isolated case, according to Earl Swift's book 'The Big Roads' the AEC spent over $700m investigating construction methods using nuclear weapons.

Despite being deeply flawed Zhang raises a good point, which is that at least the commission was trying to find ways to harness this new form of power in a way that wouldn't have wiped out an entire city, indeed she later points out that Nuclear Weapons, although terrible, may be our only hope of defending against rogue asteroids.