Nuclear Excavation of a Sea-Level Isthmian Canal

by Luke J. Vortman,

Serial Information: Journal of the Waterways and Harbors Division, 1964, Vol. 90, Issue 4, Pg. 27-54

Document Type: Journal Paper


Data on high-explosive and nuclear cratering events are combined with 1947 Route Surveys (Panama Canal Company) to estimate the number and yield of the nuclear devices required to excavate a sea-level, transisthmian canal along nine routes. Cost estimates are developed for both all-nuclear and combined nuclear-mechanical methods. Savings vary with different routes and combinations, but the use of nuclear explosives can reduce excavation costs by as much as 90% and overall costs by approximately 65%. The study is meant to evaluate present (1964) capability, not to be determinative. Scaling-method uncertainties, slope stability, and different channel widths are considered, and their effect on cost and yield is examined. The study concludes that nuclear excavation is promising and offers the possibility of large savings, but that considerable further experimentation (in areas specified and examined) is required to perfect the technique.

Subject Headings: Excavation | Sea level | Canals | Flood routing | Civil engineering landmarks | Electronic equipment | Explosions | Uncertainty principles | Panama | Central America

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