Mapping the atomic tests

Interactive map tells the story of nuclear weapons tests and their toll

From the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

During the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW, ICAN launched a new interactive resource to discover the (hi)stories of nuclear weapons testing. 

On the new website you can discover an interactive map as an educational tool to provide an overview of what we know about the impacts of nuclear weapons use and testing of the over 2,000 nuclear weapons detonated since 1945, featuring dozens of survivor testimonies and stories of their activism for justice. 

For example, you can learn about the story of Dr. Enver Thoti Bughda, a medical surgeon and Uyghur rights activist from Xinjiang China. After exposing the devastating effects of nuclear tests on the local population in the Lupnur region, he was compelled to leave China and seek political asylum in the UK where he continues to promote awareness of the shocking consequences of the nuclear tests.

Or listen to the stories of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, who are fighting for restitution for the harm they suffered from the Trinity Nuclear Test in New Mexico, US.

The atomic test at Bikini atoll is just one of the 2,000 such atrocities featured on ICAN’s new interactive map. (Photo: SDASM Archives/Wikimedia Commons)

Or you can watch the stories of people affected by the nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United States in the Marshall Islands assembled by students from the Marshall Islands Students Association in Suva, Fiji.

Moreover, the website also answers the most important questions about nuclear weapons testing, such as how many nuclear weapons have been used or tested and how the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons addresses the legacies of nuclear weapons testing and use.

We hope that this resource will be useful to many of you to both dive more into the stories of survivors, and pass these stories on.

About the tests

From 1945 to 2017, more than two thousand nuclear test explosions were conducted around the world, resulting in epidemics of cancers and other chronic illnesses. Large swathes of land remain radioactive and unsafe for habitation, even decades after test sites were closed.

While more research is needed, there are already a lot of in-depth resources out there about nuclear weapons testing, production and use and its impacts around the world.

If you’re ready to dive deeper, we have collected some key resources.

Few survivors of nuclear testing anywhere in the world have ever been compensated for their suffering. Where efforts have been made to clean up former test sites, they have been woefully inadequate. The victims of these toxic experiments must not be forgotten – and their demands for justice and assistance must be met.

About the regions


France conducted both underground and atmospheric nuclear tests at two sites in Algeria during the 1960s and there may have been a nuclear test off the coast of South Africa in 1979. Indigenous Tuareg and Berber communities in Algeria and Africa have a powerful history of resistance against French nuclear colonialism. African grassroots and political leaders strongly objected to the tests and pioneered activism for nuclear justice in Africa.

The massive Tsar Bomba was exploded over the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. (Photo: Tsarhigh/Wikimedia Commons)


The first ever use of nuclear weapons for war was in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan by the United States in 1945. The Soviet Union conducted most of its nuclear tests in the former Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, which is now independent Kazakhstan, during the period of 1949-1989. The Soviet Union also carried other nuclear tests, including “peaceful nuclear explosions,” across other locations in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia. From 1964 to 1996, China began its own nuclear testing programme at Lop Nor in the northwest of the country. In 1974 and again in 1998, India tested six nuclear devices and in 1998, Pakistan carried out several nuclear tests. From 2006 to 2017, North Korea has detonated six underground nuclear tests.


All nuclear tests carried out in Europe were conducted in Russia and Ukraine by the former Soviet Union or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). From 1949 to 1990, the Soviet Union tested 715 nuclear weapons in total, 184 of which were in Europe. These include tests in the atmosphere, underground and above and underwater. Some tests were for military purposes, while others were “Peaceful Nuclear Explosions” (PNEs) or to develop devices used in PNEs.

The Soviet Union began testing nuclear weapons in Europe at Novaya Zemlya Island above the Arctic Circle between 1955 and 1990. At the Russian Novaya Zemlya test site, there have been 130 tests, 86 in the atmosphere, two at the water surface, three underwater, and 39 underground. Atmospheric fallout and radioactive gasses leaking from underground tests affected nearby Indigenous communities, as well as spreading across Europe especially to the northern European states of Finland and Norway.

Beyond the Novaya Zemlya test site, 54 nuclear tests (the majority of which were considered “Peaceful Nuclear Explosions”) took place in Europe (52 in present-day Russia and two in Ukraine).

North America

All nuclear tests carried out in North America were by the United States (or jointly with the United Kingdom). The first nuclear test took place at the Trinity site in New Mexico. Between 1945-1992, within the continental United States (including Alaska) there were nearly 1,000 nuclear tests, including atmospheric tests, underground and underwater tests. Most detonations were conducted at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) / Nevada National Security Site with 100 atmospheric tests and 828 underground tests, including 24 joint tests with the United Kingdom. The other nuclear tests (some of which were described as so-called Peaceful Nuclear Explosions) took place in New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi and elsewhere in Nevada.


From 1946 to 1996, 315 nuclear weapons were tested across Oceania. Immediately after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 atmospheric nuclear weapons at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands. Following suit, between 1952-1957 the United Kingdom tested 12 atmospheric nuclear weapons in Australia across the Montebello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, and followed this with a set of highly toxic “minor trials” from 1953 to 1963. Between 1957 and 1962, the UK and USA conducted 33 (9 by the UK and 24 by the USA) atmospheric nuclear weapons at or close to Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands.

Mushroom cloud of shot Dominic Truckee, Kiritimati Island. (Photo: Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)

The United States also tested 12 atmospheric nuclear weapons at Johnston Atoll, an unincorporated territory of the United States and four over open ocean (not under jurisdiction of any one state). Later, France tested 193 nuclear weapons in Maohi Nui/French Polynesia (a Self Governing Territory of France) from 1966 to 1996. Of these, 46 were atmospheric tests (which was well after other nuclear powers had ceased atmospheric tests with the Partial Test) and 147 were underground at both Moruroa and Fangataufa atoll.

To engage with the full interactive map and additional information, click here. For more on the TPNW and the nuclear weapons ban, see the ICAN website. Headline photo taken from interactive map.

The opinions expressed in articles by outside contributors and published on the Beyond Nuclear International website, are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Beyond Nuclear. However, we try to offer a broad variety of viewpoints and perspectives as part of our mission “to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future”.

One Comment on “Mapping the atomic tests

  1. Pingback: Mapping the atomic tests via Beyond Nuclear International | The Atomic Age

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