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Infographic Of The Day: Is There A Nuclear Bomb In Your Backyard?

Almost certainly not. But a fantastic map by Mother Jones points out that nuclear power is all around us (okay, some of us).

Infographic Of The Day: Is There A Nuclear Bomb In Your Backyard?

I’ll bet that unless you live with a nuclear power plant in your community, nuclear power is almost vanishingly abstract. You hear about it all the time, but you never see it. Well, Mother Jones is trying to fix that, with a map of the country’s nuclear power plants, nuclear research facilities, and nuclear bombs. It’s interesting stuff: Between the lines, you can read a few stories about national security and urban planning.

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For example, as you’d expect, the Defense Department, beginning in the 1940s, mostly located the nation’s nuclear bombs very, very far away from its population centers. Nuclear weapons facilities are indicated in red:

But then a funny thing happened: The U.S. started growing in all sorts of surprising ways. Again, looking at the red tags, you can see that there are nuclear mobs surprisingly close to decent-sized and even very-big cities, such as Jacksonville, Dallas, and Kansas City:

[Click to view interactive version]

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Another smart thing that we’ve done is we’ve located nuclear research facilities far away from nuclear bombs–presumably, the idea is that you don’t want your muscle and your brains easily targeted in one fell swoop. The research facilities are in purple.

[Note also that there are nuclear bombs surprisingly close to Las Vegas–which makes sense, since for so many decades it was a tiny town; the population boom that made it a major city is very new.]

Meanwhile, nuclear power plants are heavily concentrated on the Eastern seaboard, pictured in green:

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Sure, there were probably lots of politics that created that situation. But I’ll bet the major factor was that there simply weren’t enough hydroelectric-power resources or sparsely populated regions that could handle more coal-fired power plants. What you see when you look at all that green is that nuclear power became a necessity, despite all the hand-wringing in the 1970s and 1980s about nuclear safety. But it is a mark of our politics today that building any more nuclear plants is so hard, even when we have no other guaranteed scalable sources of clean power.

Check out the map here.

[Image: Flickr user x-ray delta one]

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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