Sacramento Branch Meeting- Atomic Blast Studied for State Water Plan: The Plowshare Program and the DWR Connection

The Sacramento Branch is pleased to present:

"Atomic Blast Studied for State Water Plan: The Plowshare Program and the DWR Connection"

Chris Bonds, PG, CHg
California Department of Water Resources


In 1958, the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) established the Plowshare Program under the technical direction of Lawrence Radiation Laboratory as a research and development activity to explore the technical and economic feasibility of using nuclear explosives for industrial and scientific purposes. The reasoning was that the relatively inexpensive energy available from nuclear explosions could prove useful for a wide variety of peaceful purposes. Plowshare’s main industrial applications fell into two broad categories: Large-scale excavation and quarrying
(geographic engineering), and underground engineering. In response to a journalist’s request for a definition of geographic engineering, Edward Teller, Father of the Hydrogen Bomb and technical director of Plowshare, quipped, “If your mountain is not in the right place, drop us a card.”

Between 1961 and 1973, the AEC conducted 27 Plowshare nuclear explosive test projects in three states: New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Hundreds of applied projects were proposed and studied worldwide including canals, harbors, transportation, water resources, mining, oil, gas, and geothermal, and miscellaneous others; however, most projects never got past the feasibility and planning stages. Water resource applications included dams, canals, groundwater recharge and storage, and waste water disposal. The Plowshare Program was discontinued at the end of fiscal year 1975, funding quietly ended in 1977, and program costs were estimated at more than
$770 million. Remarkably, the USSR operated a similar program from 1965 to 1989 and conducted 122 tests.

This talk will take you on an eye-opening journey through the largely forgotten history and vast applications of the Plowshare Program, highlighting select projects conceived and conducted, including the proposed West Side Conveyance System studied by DWR to further develop the water resources of California’s North Coast. Additionally, fascinating historical information about the Nevada Test Site, where most Plowshare tests were conducted, will be presented.


Chris Bonds is a Senior Engineering Geologist with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in Sacramento. Since 2001, he has been involved in a wide variety of statewide DWR projects including exploration, monitoring, modeling, policy, research, and water transfers. Chris currently manages DWRs Future Water Supply Program which focuses on monitoring, management, modeling, and water transfers in the Sacramento Valley and Upper Feather River Watershed restoration activities. He has over 25 years of geology and groundwater experience with private consulting and the public sector in California, Alaska, and Hawaii and is a licensed Professional Geologist and Certified Hydrogeologist in California. Chris received a B.S. in Geology from California State University, Northridge and a M.S. in Geology from California State University, Los Angeles. He has been a member of GRA since 2010, has served as a Sacramento Branch officer since 2017, and has presented at numerous GRA events since 2004. Lastly, Chris is a DWR co-recipient of GRAs Kevin J. Neese Award in 2004 for publication of DWRs Bulletin 118-2003 and in 2015 for DWRs contribution to improving groundwater management and protection statewide.


Sac Branch Sponsor Earth Sense  


Earth-Sense Inc, together with strategic partners Green Geophysics & Blue Green Geophysics, offer a range of geophysical services, solving practical problems related to groundwater as well as other environmental, engineering, and exploration applications. They specialize in the efficient collection of data using mobile technologies (ground-based, airborne, & offshore) and have strong expertise in electromagnetic, magnetotelluric, nuclear magnetic resonance, and seismic methods. These complementary methods are key to characterizing the architecture of groundwater basins and developing hydrogeological conceptual models for SGPs. They can also be useful for delineating freshwater/salter interfaces and identifying suitable sites for artificial recharge. 


All Proceeds to Benefit Science Students

The GRA Sacramento Branch has a history of supporting university-level science students. Our Scholastic Sponsorship Program is an opportunity to publicize your business while contributing toward a good cause. The cost is minimal; if interested, please contact Michael Bombard at (916) 514-4458 or email him at


Social Hour - 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Announcements & Dinner - 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Presentation - 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Usual great food, including two meat entrées, salad, rice, potatoes, vegetable and Iced Tea. A No-host beer and wine bar will be available.


Members: $27.00
Non-Members: $32.00
Students: $10.00

  • Cancellations must be made by noon on Monday, July 9th.
  • If you register after Noon on Monday, July 9th, or walk-in, a $3.00 surcharge will be added to the meeting cost.

If you have questions about the meeting, please telephone Rodney Fricke at 916-407-8539 or email him at  For questions about Sacramento Branch in general, including submittal of your ideas and/or desires for future presentations, please telephone Linda Bond at (530) 757-1500 or email her at


August 8th: NGWA 2018 McEllhiney lecturer Todd Halihan, Ph.D, Professor of Geology, Oklahoma State University, Chief Technical Officer for Aestus LLC, The Future of Water: Data or Instincts?

September 12th: Glenn Meek, CA State Water Resources Control Board, Update on the Central Valley Salts Program


Wed, July 11, 2018
5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Event has ended


Aviator's Restaurant at the Sacramento Executive Airport
6151 Freeport Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95822