Friday, October 23, 2009

Clean up--with stimulus dollars--stimulates Los Alamos economy

Michael Cooper reports in today's New York Times about clean-up efforts at so-called Technical Area 21 at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Technical Area 21 is the Manhattan Project-era dump, so the clean up is proceeding with "even greater care, since some of the things they unearth are likely to be radioactive, while others may be explosive."

Cooper reports that $212 million in federal stimulus dollars are financing the clean up, and he notes the impact that the project is having on the local economy: 156 people have been given jobs on the project, many "from small businesses in the area," and ultimately about 300 will be employed. These jobs are presumably having a significant impact on the local economy because Los Alamos, a Census Designated Place, has only 11,909 residents. Los Alamos County, which borders Santa Fe County, has a population of just 18,343. Further, skills are being enhanced. The director of decontamination and decommissioning says of the "basically common laborers" who have been hired: "We’re teaching them to do something at a little higher level, and we’re creating a cadre of people that can do other jobs later.”

Cooper's story also puts Technical Area 21 in spatial context:
It was an isolated mesa in 1945 when the laboratory moved its plutonium processing operations there after a fire broke out uncomfortably close to its original plant near the center of town. But the town has grown since then, and now several businesses — including a hardware store, an auto repair shop and the local newspaper — are right across the street from the old dump.
He also quotes a local who works across the street from the clean-up site.
You wonder what’s going on. ... One day we looked across the street and there was a guy in a full-body white suit, and he was just 100 yards away from us.
Maybe where the feds are involved, information doesn't trickle down so well, in spite of (or because of) the small-town gossip mill.


Spec said...

This is actually great to hear. The project is probably being cleaned up under CERCLA. CERCLA's super fund used to be funded through a tax on the petroleum and chemical industry but that tax sunset in 1995. Since then, the amount of money in the fund has been essentially zero and the Bush administration (never known for their environmentalism) did nothing to remedy that. The Obama administration has commented they would like to see the tax reinstated but this is a good first step.

decontamination and decommissioning said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.