Uranium mining boom started near Grants, New Mexico in 1950. In
Los Alamos eight years earlier, the top-secret Manhattan Project
pushed nuclear science to the limit. Its 1945 climax of three
nuclear detonations (the Trinity Bomb near Socorro, Fat Man in
Hiroshima and Little Boy in Nagasaki) truly set in place New
Mexico's industrial nuclear fate for the second half of the 20th
century. The uranium mining industry and the post-Manhattan
Project era in Los Alamos are two enduring ways our state's
nuclear legacy have not faded. Opponents of nuclearism vigilantly
oppose further uranium mining and push for an end to the nuclear
weapons work of Los Alamos.
Trinity Site was the first nuclear bomb site, but Farmington and
Carlsbad have also hosted underground nuclear explosions in New
Mexico. As Los Alamos sped up its work in designing bigger
bombs to be detonated in Nevada during the Cold War, the
mining companies continued to pull uranium from the ground to
feed nuclear reactors and the nuclear weapons industry. The
uranium mining industry peaked in the 1970s but people in the
Gallup area were sickened and worried after a horrifying
accident at Church Rock near Gallup in 1979. This accident,
which spilled tons of uranium tailings into the Rio Puerco,
was exactly 34 years after the Trinity Bomb was dropped, BOTH at
5:30 AM on July 16th. The 1979 incident symbolizes the reckless folly of mining and waste products in the nuclear age. The 1945 incident symbolizes the violent arrogance of nuclear weaponry.
Los Alamos, New Mexico is only one ad hoc storage ground for
leaking radioactive waste while Kirtland Air Force Base (in
Albuquerque) now stores more nuclear weapons than any other city
on earth. The U.S. government began storing radioactive wastes at another site
in 1999, the WIPP site, near Carlsbad in southeast New Mexico.
contaminating projects and dumps are just a few reasons
for New Mexicans in this century to expedite a peaceful
end to the nuclear weapons age.