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Tired Mountain Syndrome (wikipedia.org)
47 points by pionerkotik on April 3, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

This was a feature of project gasbuggy (nuclear fracking): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gasbuggy

> It was part of Operation Plowshare, a program designed to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosions.

I don’t know how that would ever be possible.

Civil engineering uses lots of explosives, so I can see how someone would reasonably think that. Cutting canals and mountain passes and the like.

Problem is the same as the problem of military use - you usually wants the force distributed in a very specific way.

Russians used to use nukes to seal leaking gas wells

Not only that, also seismic sounding and other uses, 115 peaceful nuclear explosion in total:


Wait; is the mountain releasing radioactivity from the bomb tests, or is the radioactivity coming from the rock and soil itself? The later is mmuch more interesting than the former.

From one of the cited articles

> Chinese scientists already have warned that further nuclear tests could cause the mountain to collapse and release the radiation from the blast.

It sounds like it's "tired" in the sense that the mountain itself is exhausted from too many underground tests, and additional tests may collapse it risking test-originating radioactive fallout.

And why "tired?" Is that a term for something other than what you feel at the end of a long day?

I think it's more like metal fatigue, so Mountain Rock Fatigue Syndrome might be more appropriate?

Sounds like the rock is riddled through with fractures. Weakening the whole mountain

Is there a difference between "tired" amd "stressed" in this context?

the word they're looking for is fatigued


Which is French for tired.

It's more like "fatigue" in the materials science context.

Subterranean nuclear testing produced rock fatigue from the unusual stresses and strains.

It's one of the few geologically detectable effects of the anthropocene era, like increased atmospheric CO2, and the discontinuity in the baseline C-14/C-12 ratio. If human civilization were to be erased from Earth, a future researcher would still be able to determine that at some point, something dug up carbon fuels and burned them for power, and at a somewhat later point, something detonated nuclear weapons in the open atmosphere, and in underground tests.

Potentially. Stressed could mean something is being pushed to the limit, but not exhibiting performance degradation yet.

Where as tired could imply performance degradation is already happening.

Obviously this isn't that precise, but it's my personal interpretation.

In other materials not much stress is needed once a material is tired. Happens to steel if it gets bent a lot.

Stress is an engineering term that refers to internal force. It would not apply to this description.

Does anybody have more details on what these underground nuclear test sites are like? It seems like the whole thing would just collapse after the first explosion, and be completely unobservable. And if it was observable, that seems like it would create problems too.

They literally drill a hole into the ground and stick a nuke in it. The surrounding rock is vaporized, but eventually the pressure and heat is low enough that the surrounding earth can contain it. You're left with either a big void in the earth, or if the nuke wasn't buried deep enough the void collapses and makes a crater on the surface.

You might have thought that there was some giant underground complex, but it's really just mining equipment drilling a hole and a bunch of sensors strung out feeding data to recording devices that are a long way away.


Edit: to clarify, they don't reuse holes for repeat testing (that I'm aware of), they just drill a new one a few miles apart. So a "testing site" is just a bunch of land that the government owns and is willing to never use it for anything else.

Sometimes the same hole is reused, though not usually:


Wow, I am now extremely curious about what the inside of that cave looked like! But I suppose taking pictures of it wouldn't have really served enough practical purpose to deal with hauling something back out of the hole, not the mention the lingering radiation from the previous test would probably instantly expose any film sent down there.

Still! What does the container for a nuclear explosion look like on the inside? Is it smooth and glassy? Does molten material drip down and form stalactites and stalagmites? Does the surface crack as it cools? What color is everything?

Everyday you just learn something new.

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