Chariot, Alaska, harbor excavation plans, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

The Chariot, Alaska site (known as “Project Chariot”) was part of the Plowshare Program created in 1957 by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). A main purpose of the Plowshare Program, which was located in Chariot in the Cape Thompson area of the state, was to research the potential of using nuclear explosives to excavate a harbor. Project Chariot began in 1958, and conducted more than 40 pretest studies of the Cape Thompson area between 1959 and 1962. No nuclear detonations were ever conducted at Chariot for the purposes or excavation research, however a subsequent test did bring radioactive contaminants to the area.

Materials from a 1962 nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site were transported in 1962 to the Chariot Site. These materials were used in several experiments and then buried. The materials remained buried until 1993, at which time a University of Alaska researcher, through the discovery of correspondence between the AEC and the U.S. Geological Survey, brought the news of the buried contaminants to media attention. Residents of nearby areas demanded removal of the radioactive contaminants, and the government removed them promptly.