50 years from the Rulison nuclear bomb explosion
The Rulison explosion was larger than the one that devastated Hiroshima. “They truly believed they could play God,” said a man who protested the experiment.
Special to the Colorado Sun
Long-time Parachute resident Judy Beasley has witnessed nearly all the failed attempts to wrench hydrocarbons from the dusty, high ridges and deep, desert valleys of the Piceance Basin.
But they all pale in comparison to the stab taken on Sept. 10, 1969, when the United States government asked the 270 residents of Parachute to leave their homes during the day while scientists detonated a 43-kiloton nuclear bomb 7 miles away and 8,400 feet below an arid, windblown site called Rulison.
The hope was the bomb — equivalent to 43,000 tons of TNT and larger than the one that devastated Hiroshima in World War II — would force commercially marketable quantities of natural gas from the fine-grained, low-permeability sandstone of the Williams Fork Formation of the Mesaverde Group.
Beasley, then an English teacher at the town’s K-12 school, stood outside her home with some friends who came from nearby Rifle to witness the blast. Students got out at noon and by midafternoon, Beasley and her friends were standing around and getting ready for … nobody knew for sure.
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