Outside magazine, June 1996
Kudos to Outside and Alex Shoumatoff for taking on the Los Alamos National Laboratory ("Bomb City, USA," April). The nuclear weapons money machine keeps rolling along while cleanup programs are being cut. One LANL document states that the lab's continuing nuclear weapons mission is already programmed for the next 20 to 30 years. The lab has proposed $4.85 billion in future facilities through the year 2015, and another $540 million in facility upgrades. There are more nuclear weapons now than when the Nonproliferation Treaty, in which the United States pledged insubstantive steps toward disarmament, was signed in 1970. Contrary to the treaty and the end of the Cold War, LANL seeks the indefinite preservation of nuclear weapons and the accompanying flow of tax dollars attached to that mission. Don't expect "peace dividends" from Los Alamos anytime soon. Do expect further nuclear waste generation.
As a longtime resident of Los Alamos, I salute (ahem) your wonderfully imaginative article on our fair town. How charitable of Shoumatoff to base much of his tale on someone widely known as Crazy Ed! It is true that Los Alamos is stuck in the 1950s--low crime, no gangs, good schools, friendly residents--but we are trying to catch up to our New Age neighbors in Santa Fe. The laboratory now has a center for nonlinear studies to help us get out of our linear-thinking rut. Some scientists are even playing with crystals these days.
I can attest that Los Alamosans think of the bomb a little differently than the rest of us. Recently, while driving between Taos and Santa Fe, I tuned into a radio station licensed in Los Alamos playing "Yesterday," by The Beatles. When the song ended, the disc jockey said, "Now there's a blast from the past!" I didn't realize the sad irony until he added, "This is K Bomb, KBOM, Los Alamos."
Barth's article kept me laughing and was by itself worth the year's subscription. My wife may start reading your magazine just so I quit nudging her and saying, "You gotta hear this..." The writing is so good I even enjoy reading about things I never thought I had any interest in. Keep it up.
God, Boston, Cosmas
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