- Environmental Communication & Public Involvement
Past, present, and future of environmental protection at LANL
In March 1943, during the Second World War, a group of scientists came to Los Alamos as part of the Manhattan Project, a secret mission to develop the world's first nuclear weapon.
Los Alamos was the chosen site for the Laboratory (situated on 36 square miles of finger-like mesas and deep canyons in north-central New Mexico) in part because the area's isolation and sparse population provided safety and security, access to and from the site could be controlled, and the surrounding canyons could be used for tests involving high explosives.
An environmental awakening
In the early stages of operations, activities involving the disposal of hazardous chemical and radioactive wastes were not carefully regulated. While disposal actions met the standards of that time, the science of waste management and environmental stewardship has advanced greatly to the present day.
In the decades since World War II, the Laboratory’s original mission to design, develop, and test nuclear weapons has broadened and evolved as technologies, national priorities, and the world community have changed. The Laboratory's current mission is to develop and apply science to
- ensure safety and reliability of United States’ nuclear deterrent
- reduce global threats
- solve other emerging national security challenges
In support of this mission, more than 5,000 scientists, engineers, and professionals in a wide range of fields work on hundreds of cutting-edge scientific projects.
Continued environmental commitment
Today, the Laboratory manages and remediates the environmental hazards associated with past and present Laboratory operations, thereby allowing the Laboratory to fulfill its national security and science missions.
The goals of the Laboratory's Environmental Programs Directorate are to
- clean up legacy waste sites and contaminated areas for return to the public
- tear down unused facilities that inhibit environmental restoration
- safely manage hazardous, mixed, low-level and transuranic waste for shipment to licensed disposal facilities
- protect and monitor regional aquifer