los alamos

Preservation at Los Alamos

Brief History

The stunning Pajarito PlateauLos Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was the location of the secret research and design efforts for the development of the first atomic weapons, known as Project Y of the Manhattan Project. Working on the frontiers of nuclear physics, some of the world’s most brilliant scientists spent the war years at Los Alamos, NM working exclusively on the design of the first atomic bomb.

Despite an enormous investment of resources, the Manhattan Project had not found success in August 1944. There was little enriched uranium or plutonium, bomb designs were faulty, and time was running short. To resolve the problem, Los Alamos brought the best and the brightest engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and explosive experts to an area. This elite group worked round the clock to make the new implosion bomb. On July 16, 1945 their efforts came to fruition with the successful Trinity test in the New Mexico desert at Alamogordo, NM.


Preservation Efforts

The GadgetOf the hundreds of buildings constructed during the war (1943-1945), only 65 buildings and structures remain from temporary wooden buildings to concrete structures like the periscope bunker used in the design of the uranium gun device and the water-boiler reactor. Most of these buildings were abandoned after the war and some are set for demolition. However, some of the buildings, such as the V Site which housed the design efforts of the plutonium implosion device commonly known as the “Gadget,” played key roles in the development of the first atomic weapons and will be preserved.


The V-Site after its restoration

Initially slated for demolition, the V-Site (right) was restored after the Atomic Heritage Foundation urged key stakeholders to be involved and garnered financial support for its preservation. LANL management subsequently took off the V-Site from the demolition list and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation recommended that restoration and preservation activities commence on the property. These efforts were completed after DOE secured a “Save America’s Treasures” grant.

Currently, AHF is partnering with communities and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on preservation and restoration efforts.


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