Black market nuke network had sophisticated info


The Associated Press
Friday, September 12, 2008; 7:06 AM

VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. nuclear monitoring agency says a black market nuclear network operating from Pakistan had substantial and up-to-date information on how to make an atomic bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says much of the sensitive information was passed on to customers in electronic form.

The use of e-mail attachments or CD-ROMs to spread information about how to make nuclear weapons is alarming because it gives a potentially unlimited number of customers access to the material, whether they are governments or individuals.

The IAEA’s information was contained in a restricted report on Libya and based on information collected since that country renounced its efforts to make nuclear weapons in 2003. The report was made available to the AP Friday.

Spanish Town Struggles to Forget Its Moment on the Brink of a Nuclear Cataclysm

Spanish Town Struggles to Forget Its Moment on the Brink of a Nuclear Cataclysm

Published: September 11, 2008

PALOMARES, Spain — The rest of the world has mostly forgotten, but a brush with nuclear Armageddon is seared in the minds of residents here and still festers, 42 years later.

Paul Geitner/International Herald Tribune

In 1966, one of four unarmed hydrogen bombs from a damaged American plane dropped into the Mediterranean, off the beach near Palomares, Spain. Three others fell around the town.

Associated Press

Later that year, a Spanish official, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, center, and the American ambassador, Angier Biddle Duke, left, swam in the sea to demonstrate that the waters were safe.

The New York Times

On the morning of Jan. 17, 1966, a United States Air Force B-52 bomber returning from a routine mission exploded during airborne refueling, sending its cargo of hydrogen bombs plummeting toward land. One went into the azure waters of the Mediterranean, and three others fell around this poor farming village, about 125 miles east of Granada.

Seven crew members died in the fireball, while four parachuted to safety. No one on the ground was killed. The nuclear warheads, many times more powerful than those that fell on Hiroshima, did not go off.

But parachutes failed to deploy on two of the bombs, resulting in high-explosive detonations that, although nonnuclear, spread radioactive material across a wide area of steep and rugged terrain.

A huge retrieval and cleanup effort ensued, with hundreds of American military personnel and Spanish civil guards swarming over the area for months. Tens of millions of dollars was spent. Eventually, the job done, they went home and attention drifted elsewhere.

The roughly 1,200 residents of Palomares would like to put the accident behind them as well. Livelihoods these days have moved beyond farming and depend more on attracting sun-starved northerners to vast stretches of beachfront apartments and manicured golf oases.

But the past has resurfaced with findings of unusually radioactive snails and the confiscation of fresh tracts of land for additional testing and cleanup. Not exactly a selling point for the melons and tomatoes still grown in large-scale, plastic-covered greenhouses nearby, much less a carefree life by the sea.

“This is damaging the village,” said a retired farmer, 74-year-old Antonio, smoking outside the Palomares senior center one recent afternoon. “It’s been going on for 40 years. We want this to be over forever.”

Much of the uncertainty today goes back to the secrecy imposed at the time by the repressive Franco regime and by the Pentagon.

It started just after 10 a.m. on a clear winter’s day.

“There was a big explosion,” Antonio, who declined to give his last name, grudgingly recounted. “There was a big explosion. Things were flying all over. Everybody rushed outside.”

No one knew what had happened, but the first American soldiers arrived within hours. Only after the Soviets accused Washington of violating a nuclear test ban treaty did the United States concede, more than a month later, that the detonators on two of the three bombs that landed here had exploded on impact.

The bomb that hit land more or less intact was quickly recovered, while the one that landed in the Mediterranean took months to locate. An estimated 1,400 tons of contaminated soil and vegetation was scooped up and shipped to South Carolina for disposal.

Officials tried hard to calm public fears. At one point, the Spanish information and tourism minister, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, joined the American ambassador, Angier Biddle Duke, for a “swimming party” in the sea to demonstrate that the waters were safe. The photos were published around the world (including on the front page of The New York Times).

In Palomares today, there is no memorial or museum, just a short side street named “January 17, 1966,” no explanation provided. At the library, a modest, plastic-bound folder contains photocopied news clippings in Spanish, French, German and English. Maybe once a month someone asks to see it, according to the librarian, but nothing has been added since 1985.

“They don’t actually tell you about it before you get here,” said Barbara Newman, 65, as she sipped a drink at La Dulce Casa, one of a handful of businesses in town catering to new arrivals, sun-seeking northern Europeans. She and her husband, Larry, 73, moved to Palomares last year from Stoke-on-Trent, England.

“You get a lot of gibes and jokes when people find out you live in Palomares,” said Denise Angus, formerly of south Wales, who opened a beauty salon here four years ago. “Things like, ‘You’re going to glow in the dark.’ ”

Most new residents shrug off any health concerns, though, taking their lead from longtime residents and their reputed longevity.

In fact, health monitoring financed by the United States for decades has found nothing out of the ordinary.

“The good thing is they find cases of diabetes or high cholesterol” that might have gone undetected, said Antonia Navarro, who owns the hardware store. At 37, she was born after the bombs fell, but has made three trips to Madrid for checkups with her grandmother.

The Department of Energy’s cost-sharing arrangement with Spain, which began in 1966, was scheduled to end in 2008. But in October 2006, officials at Spain’s energy research agency, Ciemat, reported the discovery of radioactive snails, necessitating more work.

A year ago, the United States agreed to pay $2 million for two more years of “technical assistance,” according to the Spanish newspaper El País. In April, Ciemat identified two trenches containing about 1,300 cubic yards each of radioactive material that had been left behind, Teresa Mendizábal, Ciemat’s director of environmental studies, told the newspaper.

María, 48, who owns the Bar Tomás on Constitution Square, said: “They came and they cleaned and now 42 years later, they are cleaning again. The national nuclear agency needs justification to keep working.”

New fences, marked with warning signs, have gone up around the land, near the town cemetery. Close by are the agricultural companies. Just beyond are the apartments for the sun-seekers, and the glittering sea.

“There are already holes in the fences, and goats slip in to graze,” María, who declined to give her last name, noted dismissively.

She was 6 when the bombs fell, and she has fond memories of American servicemen bringing cookies and candy. “We thought it was like chocolate that came from the sky,” María said.

She said she believed that the town should have some kind of memorial, for posterity’s sake. But no more headlines. “We would like this to be over and to resume normal life,” she said.

Thank you for helping this blog reach the 10,000 hit plus mark

I appreciate the readers, who help this blog reach the 10,000 plus mark. I hope that you will contine to vist this site for the latest in Nuclear and Indigenous Issues.

I put in information about Sarah, so that I could know of this person’s background. We all need to be informed voters. I am nor picking on her, but attempting to let the US population have some background information. By just pointing out flaws that I see it gives us a chance to see her true qualities. The job she is running for is only a heart beat away, from what Paris Hilton calls the wrinkly, white hair guy, our possible next president. All of the voter and others need to know about her record, “Such exactly what does a Vice-President do” and other statements and decisions that she has made before be chosen as a Hillary-type opponent. Coverage on Sarah and her lipstick, will stop on election day. Was it Teddy Resovelt who said “Talk softly and carry a big lipstick” LOL?h

But thanks for helping this blog reach 10,000 viewers so quickly,

Kind, Regards, gregor

TMI poll: 20 more years

TMI poll: 20 more years

The TMI-initiated survey won’t affect the plant’s bid for license renewal.

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A Three Mile Island-commissioned public-opinion poll that favors the continued operation of the plant will not influence a pending federal decision to renew the site’s operating license for 20 more years.

“The poll means nothing to (the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission),” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said. “We don’t base our decisions on polls that are put out by companies that operate plants.”

In July, TMI in Dauphin County hired Susquehanna Polling and Research to ask 800 area residents their opinions about topics such as whether they believed the plant produced electricity in a safe manner and whether people supported the station operating for an extra 20 years.

But the poll didn’t simply focus on the future of TMI.

One question asked residents if they had lived in the area at the time of the partial meltdown of TMI Unit 2 on March 28, 1979. A majority of the respondents had, according to the survey.

In the survey’s sampling of 400 residents in the eight counties that surround TMI, including York County, 87 percent said they supported

the plant’s operation past its current 40-year license.

The operating license for TMI Unit 1 is to expire April 19, 2014.

Of the remaining 400 respondents, or those who live within 10 miles of the plant, 84 percent supported running the reactor for 20 more years.

Plant employees and members of the media were excluded from the survey.

“The survey just confirms our belief that the vast majority of

people support the continued operation of TMI,” said Ralph DeSantis, a TMI spokesman. “We wanted to get a better sense of public attitudes and sentiments about Three Mile Island. Many people say that they support us, but we wanted to do something a little more scientific.”

On Jan. 8, AmerGen Energy submitted an application to the NRC in a bid to have its operating license extended to 2034.

“At this time,” Sheehan said, “we are in the thick of our review.”

In particular, the NRC staff is working on a safety review of TMI that looks at the plant’s aging management program, he said.

That program looks into how the plant will maintain key safety systems, structures and components during 20 more years of operation, Sheehan said.

In December, the commission will issue a draft of its environmental impact statement that will examine the affect that continued plant operation would have on air quality, aquatic life and vegetation, he said.

Along with those findings, the NRC will hold a public meeting to hear comments from residents.

And that’s where a public opinion poll can most help the company.

“If I was TMI, I’d want to know the public sentiment of how people feel about them operating for the next 20 years so that the company is not caught off-guard at public meetings,” said David Polk of the Polk-Lepson Research Group in York Township. “It makes great sense.”

A poll can tell a company what, if any, areas of public relations it would need to focus on, he said.

Eric Epstein, chairman of Three Mile Island Alert, a watchdog group in Harrisburg, said TMI’s recent poll has limited value.

“It’s a political push poll,” he said. “Polls are based on bias questions in general.”


Three Mile Island in Dauphin County commissioned Susquehanna Polling and Research to conduct a poll to look at, among other topics, how residents felt about the plant’s bid to operate for 20 more years.

To view the survey, go to http://www.threemileislandinfo .com.

Here is a sampling of the questions from the survey:

— Would you rate the quality of the your drinking water in your area as excellent, good, fair or poor?

— When you think about alternative energy sources in the nation’s energy mix, how important is the role of nuclear energy in meeting the country’s electricity needs now and in the future –very important, somewhat important, or not at all important?

— Generally speaking, do you have a favorable opinion of TMI, an unfavorable opinion, no opinion of TMI or have you never before heard of Three Mile Island?

— Like all other nuclear energy plants, Three Mile Island is licensed to operate for 40 years and could have its license renewed when the 40 years is up as long as it continues to meet federal safety standards. Provided it continues to meet federal safety standards, do you support or oppose allowing Three Mile Island to extend its license so that it can continue to meet the region’s electricity needs in the future?


On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island Unit 2 in Dauphin County suffered a partial meltdown.

The accident can be traced back to a pressure-operated relief valve that had opened and failed to close, spilling thousands of gallons of coolant from around the reactor’s core.

Today, Unit 2 remains “mothballed” in what is called long-term monitored storage.

As a result of the partial meltdown, people near the plant were exposed to a miniscule amount of radioactive material, about 1 millirem.

A set of chest X-rays exposes a person to 6 millirems of radiation.


Talk about whether TMI should have its contract to operate extended 20 more years on our online forum, The Exchange, at exchange. Click on “Countywide and statewide discussion” and then click on “TMI survey.

Even Before VP Nomination, Palin’s E-mail Use Questioned

Even Before VP Nomination, Palin’s E-mail Use Questioned

by Lisa Demer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Moments after Gov. Sarah Palin’s first speech as Republican John McCain’s running mate, she sat with her kids backstage, thumbing one of the two BlackBerrys that are always with her. You can see them in photographs from that day on the campaign blog of one of McCain’s daughters.

[US vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin listens to remarks during a campaign stop in Fairfax, Virginia. Palin routinely uses a private Yahoo e-mail account to conduct state business. (AFP/Paul J. Richards)]US vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin listens to remarks during a campaign stop in Fairfax, Virginia. Palin routinely uses a private Yahoo e-mail account to conduct state business. (AFP/Paul J. Richards)

The tech-savvy governor has one of the devices (which allow users to read and send e-mails) for state business and another for personal matters, but those worlds intertwine.Palin routinely uses a private Yahoo e-mail account to conduct state business. Others in the governor’s office sometimes use personal e-mail accounts, too.

The practice raises questions about backdoor secrecy in an administration that vowed during the 2006 campaign to be “open and transparent.”

Even before the McCain campaign plucked Palin from Alaska, a controversy was brewing over e-mails in the governor’s office. Was the administration trying to get around the public records law through broad exemptions or private e-mail accounts?

Activists, still fighting to obtain hundreds of e-mails that were withheld from public records requests earlier this year, say that’s what it looks like.

The governor’s Yahoo account is “the most nonsensical, inane thing I’ve ever heard of,” said Andree McLeod, who is appealing the administration’s decision to withhold e-mails.

“The governor sets the tone and the tone that has been set by this governor is beyond the pale,” McLeod said. “Common sense tells you to use an official state e-mail account for official state business.”

Palin, busy with the vice presidential campaign, did not respond to requests for comment or answer an e-mail sent to her Yahoo account. The Washington Post included Palin’s Yahoo e-mail address in a recent story, so she may not be using that one anymore.

Her staff says the governor is open – within reason and within the law.

She is allowed to keep e-mails confidential if they fall into certain categories, such as “deliberative process,” said her press secretary, Bill McAllister.

And, he said later, she appropriately uses her personal Yahoo account for political activities.

“I don’t hear any public clamor for access to internal communications of the governor’s office,” McAllister said. “I know there are some people out there blogging and talking who would like to embarrass the governor by taking an internal communication and spinning it in some fashion.”

State lawyers say that the governor’s e-mails about public business should be treated like any other public record, even if she’s sent them through a private account such as Yahoo.

Some of her aides also routinely use Yahoo, but even messages sent from one private account to another should be public, if they concern public business, said Dave Jones, an assistant attorney general.

“The difficulty is finding out they exist,” Jones said.

It’s a new twist on an old problem: How to keep an eye on the government. And Palin’s expected absences from Alaska for the presidential campaign add urgency to the debate. Is she going to be running the state long-distance on her BlackBerry?

Some experts on open government say officials around the country escape scrutiny by either quickly deleting e-mails or using private accounts, as Palin has done.

“Where you’ve got a governor apparently using a Yahoo account for state business, that’s kind of a complete inversion of what ought to be happening in terms of public records,” said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and a Missouri journalism associate professor.

“E-mail that’s public business ought to be done on public accounts that can become public record,” he said.

The Bush administration has drawn heat over revelations that more than 80 White House aides, including senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, used private GOP e-mail servers for government business. The controversy surfaced during congressional investigations into White House contacts with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and into the firings of U.S. attorneys.

The Bush administration couldn’t provide uncounted numbers of e-mails needed for evidence because they weren’t on a government server, according to a 2007 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry’s office routinely deletes all e-mail after seven days, Davis said. After controversy about the practice, aides were told to print out and file business-related e-mails, but open government advocates questioned whether that would always happen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt has been embroiled in litigation over access to e-mails in his office.

Just how much of the state’s business does Palin conduct through her BlackBerrys? Her chief of staff didn’t respond to that question. But she often is glued to her devices.

Her Yahoo e-mails got the attention of political activists Zane Henning, a Wasilla resident and North Slope worker, and McLeod, a former legislative staffer and Republican who has run for state House and mayor.

In response to similar but separate public records requests, McLeod and Henning this summer received four banker boxes of e-mail and telephone records for two Palin aides: Frank Bailey and Ivy Frye. Henning was operating on behalf of the Valley group Last Frontier Foundation, which lists property rights and public records as among its core issues on its Web site.

“I think that it’s total hypocrisy from what she stood for at the beginning of her campaign,” Henning said. “Because she campaigned on open government, and she knew that using a private e-mail account would take it and basically hide stuff that people couldn’t see.”

As far as McLeod can tell, all but one of the e-mails to the governor used her private e-mail address. The one time an aide e-mailed the governor’s state account, he was reminded not to.

“Frank, This is not the Governor’s personal e-mail account,” an assistant to Palin wrote to Bailey in February.

“Whoops~!” Bailey responded in an e-mail.

The state withheld about 1,100 e-mails, citing exemptions for deliberative process, executive privilege, attorney/client privilege, privacy, and personnel. If McLeod’s appeal fails, Henning said he’s going to take the matter to court.

In one e-mail string among the volumes turned over, Frye wanted to know if she would be audited or “dinged in any way” if her personal and state e-mails all routed to the same device.

“I would gladly buy my own blackberry if it and its contents were truely mine. Any thoughts here?” Frye wrote on March 17 at 10:56 a.m. Administrators were waiting for guidance on confidentiality issues from the state Department of Law, Kim Garnero, state Division of Finance director, wrote back at 11:06 a.m. But using a personal device made an audit much less likely, she wrote.

Frye later forwarded strings about the personal e-mail issue to Palin and her husband, Todd.

In April, Frye asked the state’s information technology office for help in getting her BlackBerry to default to her Yahoo account. Frye did not respond to requests for comment.

In an interview with the Daily News, Garnero said concerns about an audit were related to IRS tax implications for employees with state cell phones or BlackBerrys that are used at times for personal business.

The state would like employees to buy their own. The state then will pay $75 a month toward a BlackBerry or similar device or $40 toward a cell phone, if needed for the job.

Employees aren’t trying to get around public records law, but just don’t want to carry two cell phones or BlackBerrys, Annette Kreitzer, commissioner of the state Department of Administration, wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News.

“They want to know what the law is, where the boundaries are, so they can use as few communications devices as possible and still be able to do their jobs and communicate with their families when they are going to be late for dinner,” Kreitzer wrote.

Last month, the state Attorney General’s Office issued a 13-page opinion about how much personal use of state cell phones, laptops and other devices is appropriate. The bottom line: no more than 30 minutes or 5 percent of the monthly allowance should go for personal use, and employees shouldn’t use state equipment at all for political purposes.

The opinion, by assistant Attorney General Julia Bockmon, also addressed personal e-mail and cell phone accounts. Personal communications are not public records, but state business records on personal devices are, she wrote. Personal call records and e-mails could be reviewed by a state official or court to locate any that concern public business, she wrote.

No one in the Palin administration could say if the governor is saving her Yahoo e-mails. If she’s emptying her e-mail trash, they are zapped from Yahoo’s storage system within days or at the longest, months, according to the company.

“If you are asking do we have those e-mails, then the answer is no,” said Anand Dubey, director of the state’s Enterprise Technology Services. “We don’t control Yahoo or Gmail or Hotmail or anything like that.”

Dean Dawson, state records manager, is working on an e-mail archive system for state employees, who tend to want to hang onto e-mail forever, he said. E-mail records should be kept as long as paper records of the same type – for instance, three years for general correspondence, he said. Top executives such as commissioners and the governor often must keep records longer, under state schedules.

So what about archiving Yahoo e-mails that concern public business?

“That’s kind of the gray fuzzy area right now,” Dawson said. “I think they would be transferring that data to another medium and then retaining it as a public record.”

They could download it onto a state computer, for instance.

“Because if that couldn’t be done, then they should not be conducting state business on personal devices or even on state portable devices,” Dawson said.

McAllister, the governor’s press secretary, says not all the governor’s e-mails should become public.

“Open and transparent does not mean that you lose all common sense and conduct everything out in the open,” he said. “I mean, obviously, you have to have people be able to think out loud, have discussions and debates, you know, and resolve things.

“And I don’t think the public expects us to inundate them, flood them, with all kinds of communications that they don’t need, when in fact, the final decisions will be public, will be documented, will be substantiated, and they always have been.”

AIM Slaying Prosecutors Turn Over Evidence

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Federal prosecutors wrote in a response filed with the court that they’ve complied with a judge’s order to turn over more information on government witnesses in the case against John Graham.

He’s scheduled to stand trial starting Oct. 6 in Rapid City on a charge he killed fellow Canadian citizen and American Indian Movement member Annie Mae Aquash in December 1975 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Others Charged

Two other AIM members have been charged. Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to a mandatory life prison term for his role. Dick Marshall was indicted last month on charges he aided and abetted the killing.

Witnesses at Looking Cloud’s trial said he, Graham and another AIM member, Theda Clark, drove Aquash from Denver and that Graham shot Aquash in the Badlands as she begged for her life.

According to a notice of compliance, federal prosecutors Marty Jackley and Bob Mandel wrote that they have done what was asked of them by federal Magistrate Veronica Duffy in an order stemming from a motion filed by Graham’s lawyer, John Murphy.


Duffy gave lawyers on both sides until last Monday to show her more details of an unnamed informant who reported seeing Aquash alive days before her body was found. The prosecutors did not expound in their filing.

Regarding another matter, the magistrate said that if the government has the envelope from a letter written by the wife of Serle Chapman, a federal witness, that prosecutors were to turn it over. Jackley and Mandel wrote the government does not have it.

Finally, the prosecutors responded to a request from Graham for details of “expense reimbursements” to Chapman and Darlene “Kamook” Nichols.

The government has provided the defense with amounts and dates of the payments, as well as receipts received by the cooperating witnesses, Jackley and Mandel wrote. More details are kept by the FBI in Minneapolis but are legally outside the court order, they wrote.

The prosecutors earlier indicated that Chapman and Nichols were not paid informants but cooperating witnesses who were reimbursed for having to relocate because of “harassment, retribution and retaliation” stemming from their cooperation.

A rancher found Aquash’s body north of Wanblee. Prosecutors have said they believe she was killed there around Dec. 12, 1975.

Carson Walker is an Associated Press Staff Writer

Chinese tourists in Kyrgyzstan buy nuclear waste as souvenir

Chinese tourists in Kyrgyzstan buy nuclear waste as souvenir

BEIJING, September 15 (RIA Novosti) – Three Chinese tourists have bought a 274-kg (604-lb) piece of depleted uranium and brought it home from Kyrgyzstan as a souvenir, the China Daily newspaper reported Monday.

The three tourists from the city of Aksu in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region bought “the glittering treasure” for $2,000 at a flea market in Kyrgyzstan, hoping to make money by reselling it in China.

Not knowing what they had actually bought, the tourists sliced off a piece of the stone and took it to experts from Beijing’s Tsinghua University. After identifying the souvenir as a piece of depleted uranium, the scientists called the police.

Local prosecutors decided against filing charges of nuclear trafficking as the men obviously had no idea what they had bought.

The three men were taken to a local clinic for medical examination, but doctors found no signs of radiation poisoning.

Kyrgyzstan has a number of uranium disposal sites left from Soviet-era uranium mining.

Depleted uranium is a weakly radioactive by-product of uranium enrichment. A radiation dose from it would be about 60% of those of natural uranium with the same mass and because of its long half-life it has no significant detrimental health effects.

Depleted uranium is used for radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy, industrial radiography equipment, and containers for transporting radioactive materials.

Trinity test site will be open to the public on Oct. 4 (4 a.m.)

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Trinity test site will be open to the public on Oct. 4 (4 a.m.)

By White Sands Staff

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On July 16, 1945 the world changed. At 5:30 a.m. at an isolated spot on the north end of what is now White Sands Missile Range, the first atomic bomb was exploded.This successful test at Trinity Site made it possible for the United States to quickly end World War II. It also altered how mankind has viewed and debated war for the past 50 years.

The story of Trinity Site begins with the formation of the Manhattan Project in June 1942. The project’s goal was to design and build an atomic bomb. At the time, it was a race to beat the Germans who, according to intelligence reports, were building their own atomic bomb.

Under the Manhattan Project, three large facilities were constructed. At Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., the nuclear fuels, uranium and plutonium, were developed.

Los Alamos was established in northern New Mexico to design and build the bomb. At Los Alamos, many of the greatest scientific minds of the day labored over the theory and actual construction of the device. The group was led by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is credited with being the driving force behind building a workable bomb by the end of the war.

Los Alamos scientists devised two designs for an atomic bomb — one using uranium 235 and

another using plutonium. The uranium bomb was a simple design and scientists were confident it would work without testing. The plutonium bomb was more complex and worked by compressing the plutonium into a critical mass which sustains a chain reaction.

Project leaders decided a test of the plutonium bomb was essential before it could be used as a weapon of war. From a list of eight sites in California, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, Trinity Site was chosen. The area was already controlled by the government because it was part of the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range which was established in 1942. The secluded Jornada del Muerto was perfect as it provided isolation for secrecy and safety, but was still close to Los Alamos.

Because of the possibility of a dud, a huge steel container called Jumbo was designed and built in Ohio. Originally it was 25 feet long, 10 feet in diameter and weighed 214 tons. Scientists were planning to put the bomb in this steel “jug” to contain the plutonium if the nuclear chain reaction failed to materialize. If the explosion occurred as planned, Jumbo would be vaporized.

Jumbo was brought to Pope, N.M., by rail and unloaded. A specially-built trailer with 64 wheels was used to move Jumbo the 25 miles to Trinity Site.

As confidence in the plutonium bomb design grew, it was decided not to use Jumbo. Instead, it was placed under a steel tower about 800 yards from ground zero. The blast destroyed the tower, but Jumbo survived intact.

Today it rests at the entrance to ground zero so all can see it. The ends are missing because, in 1946, the Army placed eight 500-pound bombs inside it and detonated them.

The missile range opens Trinity Site to the public twice a year, the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. The next Trinity Site Open House will be held on Oct. 4.

There are two ways to get into Trinity Site on Oct. 4. The most flexible is to enter the range through the Stallion Range Center gate located five miles south of U.S. Highway 380. The turnoff is 12 miles east of San Antonio, N.M., and 53 miles west of Carrizozo, N.M. The Stallion gate is open during each open house from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The other way to attend the open house is to drive in with the caravan organized by the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce. The caravan forms at the Tularosa High School parking lot in Tularosa, starting at 7 a.m. and leaves at 8 a.m. It is an 85-mile drive to the site from Tularosa and there are no services on the route or at the site. The caravan is led by White Sands personnel once it gets onto the missile range. It is scheduled to leave for the return trip between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

All adults must show a photo ID when entering the missile range. All vehicles are subject to search and should be carrying proof of insurance and current registration papers.

There are no ceremonies or speakers at the site. Food and souvenirs are sold at the site. For more information, call the White Sands Missile Range public affairs office at (575) 678-1134.

What’s Up at White Sands is a weekly feature written for the Sun-News by White Sands Missile Range Staff.


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