Nuclear Secrets Revealed

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WASHINGTON: Imagine the construction industry making regular use of the atomic bomb to build harbors, tunnels and canals, as if it were nothing more than an extremely large stick of TNT. That was the dream of the Energy Department, which according to newly declassified documents set off more than two dozen atomic blasts some of them six times as powerful as Hiroshima between 1961 and 1973, to test the process.

A new open-DOE policy, inaugurated by the Clinton administration, has turned up 270,000 pages of previously secret material. There's also some film footage which even Energy Secretary Federico Pena found "disturbing" of radiation tests on pigs and other animals at the blast sites.

These revelations may be nothing new to a public that is becoming immune to the government's Cold War follies they're certainly small beer compared with the Soviet Union's estimated 175 peace-time atomic tests. But it could be a call to arms to residents of Richland, Washington, who will be able to read details on the Internet of the Hanford nuclear reservation, which appears to have decided to dump radioactive water directly into the Columbia river. Although releasing documents won't turn back the clock, it may make the DOE think twice about such outlandish experiments in future.