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In a desolate canyon in northern New Mexico, a black puff of dust and smoke rises up from the ground following a quick flash. It takes about a second and a half for the loud boom and rush of air to catch up.
Explosives experts at the nation’s premiere nuclear laboratory just blew up 85 pounds of waste left over from some of the experiments Los Alamos National Laboratory conducts on improvised explosives and other terrorist threats.
Some of the high explosive waste also comes from the work scientists do to bolster national security and to ensure the stability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
Critical is how lab officials describe the work — and the detonations needed to get rid of the waste.
They’re asking New Mexico regulators to modify the lab’s sweeping hazardous waste permit so the detonations can continue.
Los Alamos lab has been the site of nuclear weapons research, chemistry and physics studies and work with hazardous and radioactive materials since its beginnings as part of the Manhattan Project, which developed the world’s first atomic bomb.
Almost since its inception, the lab has been using controlled detonations to get rid of high explosive waste.
Under the current permit, those explosions have been covered under an interim status.
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