As golden anniversaries go, it's a somber occasion. In a forlorn expanse of desert scarcely an hour's drive northwest of Las Vegas, on Jan. 27, 1951, the Nevada Test Site went into operation by exploding an atomic bomb.
During more than a decade, mushroom clouds often rose toward the sky. Winds routinely carried radioactive fallout to communities in Utah, Nevada and northern Arizona. Meanwhile, news media dutifully conveyed U.S. Atomic Energy Commission announcements to downwind residents: "There is no danger."