The primary purpose of the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA) project is to identify the information that is available concerning releases of radionuclides and chemicals from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Sited in northern New Mexico and owned by the Department of Energy, LANL has been managed by the University of California since 1943, when the laboratory was born as part of the Manhattan Project to create the first atomic weapons. LANL's responsibilities have expanded since then to include thermonuclear weapon design, high explosives and ordnance development and testing, weapons safety, nuclear reactor research, waste disposal or incineration, chemistry, criticality experimentation, tritium handling, biophysics, and radiobiology.
LANL operations have not proceeded without health hazards or environmental impacts. Close to 30 people have been killed in incidents including criticality experiments and accidents with high explosives. Significant quantities of plutonium, uranium, and a wide variety of other toxic substances have been processed and released to the environment in quantities that are not well known. The LAHDRA project team is investigating the materials used throughout LANL's history of operations to identify and prioritize releases in terms of their apparent relative importance from the standpoint of potential off-site health effects. Based on the project's findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will work with stakeholders to determine if more detailed assessments of past releases are warranted. Should additional investigations be warranted, they might be in the form of screening-level evaluations, or could progress to detailed dose reconstruction for those releases of highest priority.
The LAHDRA project's comprehensive study of LANL records is providing useful information to CDC and others who are interested in LANL releases and potential public health effects. Possessing the security clearances and "need to know" associated with this study, the project will bring about public release of relevant documents that, until now, have been kept from public view simply because no one had authorization to locate them and request that they be reviewed for public release.
Documents declassified and released from LANL that the project team considers to contain useful information regarding off-site releases are available to the public at the University of New Mexico:
We are working toward outfit of the following libraries with copies of the LAHDRA project information database and indexed document collection in the near future:
Documents are summarized in a searchable database (username/password required) , which also will be available in the reading rooms.
Important aspects of this project are its ongoing solicitation of public input, its active outreach efforts in public education, and the independence of the group of scientists and engineers that are studying past LANL operations.
The goal of the public outreach program is to present a complete and accurate picture of past operations and releases. The project's Web page and public meetings solicit the public's participation and input. The public is informed about the project's purpose, methods, and progress through publication and distribution of newsletters and fact sheets. The project's responsiveness to the public's input about and awareness of project activities is continuously evaluated and will be summarized at conclusion of the project.
LAHDRA's credentialed and experienced research team is well qualified to recognize and evaluate materials and releases, particularly those that likely led to off-site releases of potential health significance. Over the past 10 years, the project team has independently reviewed historical operations and releases at major DOE facilities at Rocky Flats (Colorado), Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (Idaho), and Oak Ridge (Tennessee).