The Manhattan Project Is Finally (Sort of) Coming to Texas

Categories: Texas

Texas didn't get the bomb, but the nuclear waste is all ours.
Back in the early 1940s when the U.S. Department of Defense was looking for some remote corner of nowhere to work on the Manhattan Project, maybe Texans were just a bit hurt that none of the out-of-the-way corners of our state (ahem -- the Panhandle) got picked.

Alas, Texas wasn't even on the list, though the folks in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, were more fortunate -- the federal government seized 56,000 acres of land and tossed the people living on it out for next to nothing so they could build a production facility.

No, instead of going Texan, Oppenheimer and his gang decided to go off and develop the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico. They picked the spot because of the dry desert scenery (with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains right out the window, it was a spot right out of a John Ford western) and went to work on the bombs that would obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and pretty much end World War II, according to some.

And Texas didn't get even a tiny piece of the glory, though they did consider using Padre Island as a site to test the first bomb, so we almost had that feather in our cap.

Instead, Oppenheimer and company built some bunkers in New Mexico, created and blew up the bombs and then went and made history by using them on real people (check out John Hersey's Hiroshima if you want to get a feel for the true horrific experience of what it was like for the people who actually got the atomic bomb dropped on them). When you are working with the stuff of nuclear warfare, there's always nuclear waste. Since the project was based in Los Alamos, a whole bunch of the nuclear waste from the project and general nuclear testing was buried in the ground and kept in big old barrels at the Los Alamos laboratories in that little corner of New Mexico.

Which was all fine and basically dandy, until June 2011 when a massive wildfire got extremely close to those barrels of plutonium-contaminated waste, causing officials to start monitoring the situation intently, according to the Associated Press. You know, because when you've got a whole bunch of nuclear waste, it's generally not a great idea to set the stuff on fire. Firefighters managed to avoid that situation (thus probably avoiding creating unexpected superheroes or, you know, just wreaking cancerous havoc on anyone who happened to breathe in the stuff), and after that, New Mexico environmental officials decided they'd had enough of being the special chosen nuclear place. Last year, they made a deal with the folks over at Los Alamos to get rid of the nuclear waste by January 2014, AP reported.

But where is this nuclear waste headed? Well, Texas didn't get to learn how to stop worrying and love the bomb way back in the day, but the Lone Star State finally gets to play a part in the epic of the A-bomb.

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This location has actually been accepting very dangerous, radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project for quite a while.  Much of the Manhattan Project waste was stored at the Fernald Feed Materials Processing Plant in Ohio, a federal facility for the processing of uranium and plutonium for nuclear power stations and atom bombs.  When that plant shut down, following a series of failures that allowed radioactive clouds to escape in to the neighboring farms and residential areas, the K65 waste (as the Manhattan Project waste was known) was carefully transferred in to concrete flasks and shipped to Texas.

Thank Harold Simmons and the tens of millions of dollars he has, so far, given to various politicians, for granting of this license.  Good luck Texas - you will be glowing in the dark in no time.

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