Los Alamos Has Its Faults


J. Robert Oppenheimer was doubtless a smart guy, given his critical role in developing the Atomic Bomb.

But it turns out the place he selected to design and build the bomb – now grown into the major Los Alamos National Laboratory – is over a fault line.

That piece of info was dropped almost in passing yesterday when the Senate Subcommittee on Strategic Forces heard testimony from the directors of the country’s nuclear labs. Los Alamos has been in line for some time for major renovation and building projects. One building, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building, was built in 1952, Michael Anastasio, director of LANL told the senators.

A replacement building is in the works, but the project will be delayed if money planned for its construction is cut back as the government looks to areas to reduce the budget. A proposed FY 2012 budget of $11.78 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration includes a 21 percent increase in infrastructure improvements, some of which would be going toward continued construction of a new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility.

“With a delay, we’ll of course have to continue to work in our old facility, which right now is almost 60 years old,” Anastasio said. “And it happens to be, literally, on top of an earthquake fault – not the best place for a nuclear facility. A reminder of that is to look what’s happening in Japan.”

– Bryant Jordan


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