The Gnome Nuclear Test Site is the location of a 1961 underground nuclear test conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission. This was the first test in the Plowshare Program, a program to develop peaceful uses for nuclear weapons. The Lawrence Radiation Lab (which later became Lawrence Livermore National Lab) designed this test, which was to have many physical experiments associated with it, including the collection of isotopes, and to study the possibility of using nuclear explosions to generate electricity.
The test, one of two large-scale underground nuclear tests in New Mexico, was conducted 1,200 feet below the surface in a salt deposit. The nuclear device was placed at the end of an underground corridor over 1,000 feet long. When detonated, the device, with an explosive yield equivalent to 3,100 tons of TNT, created a cavity 164 feet long and 72 feet high. A stream of radioactive smoke and steam flowed out of the shaft and ventilation lines, and formed a radioactive cloud that traveled northwards (and was detected, by some, as far away as Kansas).