Interesting and disturbing issues

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By The Staff

Dear Editor,

As described in a June 27 Los Alamos Monitor news article by Roger Snodgrass the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval Assessment (LAHDRA) final report, was presented by staff of the United States Centers for Disease Control (US CDC) at a public meeting in the Hilton Hotel at Buffalo Thunder Resort on June 25.

Much interesting information was conveyed during the approximately two hours alloted to summarizing the report.

For example, quoting directly from the LAHDRA final report’s chapter 22, under the heading, “Early airborne releases of Plutonium.”

“Plutonium was processed in crude facilities in D Building during World War II, and many roof-top vents were unfiltered and unmonitored. After DP West Site took over production late in 1945, there was some filtering of releases, but poor monitoring practices caused releases to be underestimated. Documents indicate that DP releases for 1948-1955 alone were over 100 times the total reported by the Lab for operations before 1973.”

Snodgrass reports, “ ...  after the meeting Joe Shonka of Shonka Research Associates, a contributing author of the report, said that LAHDRA was intended to be a historical study.

‘Almost everybody is already dead,’ he said. ‘How many people do you know who were alive in the ’40s?” and, “There is a lot of distrust and some of this may help the public to trust that scientists know what goes on.”

Also, “Shonka noted people in New Mexico and particularly the impacts on the ‘hapless civilians’, who were caught up in the first atomic explosion at Trinity Site, have not been fully evaluated.”

However, quoting from the LAHDRA final report’s, chapter 22, under the heading:

“Public exposures from the Trinity test.”

“Residents of New Mexico were not warned before the 1945 Trinity blast, or warned of health hazards afterward, and no residents were evacuated. Exposure rates in public areas from the world’s first nuclear explosion were measured at levels 10,000 times higher than currently allowed. Residents reported that fallout ‘snowed down’ for days after the blast, most had dairy cows, and most collected rain water off their roofs for drinking. All assessments of doses form the Trinity test issued to date have been incomplete in that they have not addressed internal doses received after intakes of radioactivity through inhalation or consumption of contaminated water or food products.”

In my view, it’s questionable that a careful reading of the LAHDRA final report will do much to “rebuild trust in activities having to do with nuclear materials.” In this context, that a contributor to the LAHDRA study (J. Shonka), should refer to people who lived within approximately 30 miles of the Trinity blast, and who were all unwarned and thus unsheltered at the time, as “hapless civilians” seems disturbing. 

According to Webster, “hapless” means “unlucky.” But, these people were not just unlucky. In fact, they had had their vital interests covertly subordinated to national interests by agents of the U. S. federal government.

Ken LaGattuta