The Nevada Test Site was established a few years after the end of the second world war, against the fear of an all-out nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. As the Cold War took hold, America needed a convenient place to design and build its nuclear arsenal.
From 1951, over four decades, the US government carried out almost a thousand nuclear tests at this test site, earning it the nickname of the “most bombed place on Earth”. Here, they took the crude nuclear weapons that had been dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and honed their destructive power.
A hundred of these tests, known as atmospheric shots, took place above ground, creating the characteristic mushroom clouds that have become synonymous with nuclear detonations.
The government still carries out classified work on the site, and access is limited to a small number of carefully vetted visitors each year, who are not allowed to take photographs. The Guardian was given extremely rare access to film at the site.