Today, I seen a tweet that lead me down an interesting rabbit hole.
I had no idea what Operation Teapot was prior to this, so regardless of the claim, it was a good thing because it got me interested, and got me digging.
— tomkelshaw (@tomkelshaw) June 13, 2017
Operation Teapot was the name of fourteen nuclear test explosions conducted at the Nevada Test Site in the first half of 1955. It was preceded by Operation Castle, and followed by Operation Wigwam. Wigwam was, administratively, a part of Teapot, but it is usually treated as a class of its own. The aims of the operation were to establish military tactics for ground forces on a nuclear battlefield and to improve the nuclear weapons used for strategic delivery.
The United States test series summary table is here: United States’ nuclear testing series.
In the 13th test of Operation Teapot or Apple-2. Shot on May 5th, 1955, the point of this shot was to test an assortment of buildings, residential spaces, commercial spaces, and electrical substations. This site was nicknamed, “Survival Town” or “Japanese Village”.
In buildings of Survival Town they had mannequins, and an assortment of canned, and packaged foods.
Three executives from Can Manufacturers Institute and the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute for the Federal Civil Defense Administration, wrote a report based on this explosion called, “The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages”. In short, after placing cans and bottles of soda and beer next to an actual atomic explosion, after measuring subsequent radioactivity and after actual taste tests, the beverages would be safe to drink.
“These beverages could be used as potable water sources for immediate emergency purposes as soon as the storage area is safe to enter after a nuclear explosion.”
The closest containers were placed “less than a quarter-mile away,” says Alex, “a mere 1,056 feet,” the outliers a couple of miles off. Some were buried, some left in batches, others were placed side by side. These images, copied from bad photocopies, are in the report. The cans, as you can see, survived.
Lots of bottles survived, too. Some were shattered by flying debris, fell off shelves, or got crushed by collapsing materials, but a surprising number stayed intact.
Will the beer be radioactive?
As for radiation, they checked, and found that bottles closest to ground zero were indeed radioactive, but only mildly so. Exposure, the authors say, “did not carry over to the contents.” The sodas and beer were “well within the permissible limits for emergency use,” which means, says Alex, “It won’t hurt you in the short term.”
Will it taste good?
But what about taste? Post-bomb beer might not poison you, but will it keep its flavor?
The report says, “Immediate taste tests [gotta wonder who got that job] 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 1,270 feet from Ground Zero.” The most blasted beers were “definitely off.”
The first tasters then passed samples to selected laboratories for further testing, and this time the contents were rated “acceptable.” So here’s your government’s considered advice: Should you find yourself near an atomic blast and run short of potable water, you can chug a Coke or a beer, but don’t expect it to taste great.
What’s the lesson here?
There’s a second lesson here, Alex thinks. Because beverages in bottles and cans keep you safely hydrated in dire emergencies, it makes sense to keep a six-pack or two or three (or four), in the basement, just in case. What if there’s no lootable convenience store conveniently close by?
“For me, the takeaway here is that the next time you find yourself stocking up on beer, remember, it’s not just for the long weekend,” he says. “It might be for the end of days.”
If you continue the practice of drinking radioactive beer, will you get super powers? You might already be put in a position where you would be considered a vigilante just in the act of sharing a cold brew in your new apocalyptic environment. To what end will this proceed?