LIVERMORE (CBS News) — Thanks to a project headed by Gregg Spriggs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the public can see the destructive power of atomic blasts as never before.

Starting in 1945, the United States conducted 210 above-ground nuclear tests — all of them documented on film — from as many angles as possible.

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Filming an atomic bomb blast. (U.S. Dept. of Defense via CBS News)

That ended in 1963 when, for the good of the planet, the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to stop testing in the atmosphere.

Spriggs set out to re-analyze and then release to the public images from an estimated 9,000 rolls of unclassified film that had been shot. He found most of them in the archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb.

There, untouched for decades, a vast scientific treasure trove had been left to decay.

Gregg Spriggs with David Martin

Gregg Spriggs is re-analyzing footage from America’s above-ground nuclear tests, and is finding our calculations about the power of nuclear weapons has been inaccurate. (CBS)

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Digital technology has allowed Spriggs to analyze the films with great precision and he found that measurements made decades ago of blasts over the Pacific Ocean and in the Nevada desert were inaccurate.

“The best they could do out in the Nevada test site, out in the Pacific, in the ’50s was on the order of about plus or minus seven percent, maybe ten percent,” said Spriggs. “So, we’re talking maybe plus or minus 100 kilotons for a one-megaton shot.”

A kiloton is an explosion equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT. One hundred kilotons is about six times bigger than the bomb which leveled Hiroshima, killing a third of the population.

The Pentagon would not tell CBS News if the new data from the old tests has forced any change in current nuclear targeting plans.

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