Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory – Dawsonville, Georgia - Atlas Obscura
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Dawsonville, Georgia

Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory

The remains of one of America's first radiation testing grounds still rest ominously in a Georgia forest. 

The first step in creating an nuclear powered vehicle is to see if it can even withstand the likely exposure to radiation it, and the surrounding environment, will receive. Of course the best way to test this in the 1950s was to simply head out somewhere remote and start blasting stuff with radiation, and thus the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory was born.

Built in the wilds of Georgia’s Dawson Forest in the early 1950s, the sprawling testing center was a joint effort between the Air Force, and weapons manufacturer Lockheed. During its years in active use the center would fire up its small nuclear reactor and irradiate various pieces of military equipment and the forest itself and observe how they held up, all in an effort to see whether a nuclear-powered airplane was a feasible invention. According to reports, the reactor was unshielded and the personnel would have to retreat to underground bunkers whenever it was turned on and the residual radiation pollution caused the forest to lose all of its leaves. 

The exact goings on at the center are still Top Secret, but the facility was closed down and largely dismantled in 1971 leaving behind nothing but concrete pilings and husks. Today the flat building foundations can still be found in addition to a single remaining building from the complex, all hidden away in the Dawson Forest, some even fenced off. The entrance to the underground tunnels was buried, but that has not stopped curious explorers from trying to find it. No radiation is still detectable around the ruins.