Mass Destruction for the Whole Family

Plutonium was named after Pluto, “god of the underworld,” Hades, or hell. It was created inside faulty reactors, concentrated, and machined by U.S. scientists into the most devastating and horrifying of all weapons. Photos of what the Manhattan Project’s plutonium bomb did to human beings at Nagasaki prove the point. There is radioactive blowback in the fact that the thousands of tons of plutonium created since 1945 are so dangerously hot and long-lived nobody knows how to handle it at all—except maybe to trivialize it.

Hoping perhaps to show that the bomb from hell can be transformed from a vengeful, self-destructive, nightmare demon, into a benign, peace-loving, fairy-tale prince, nuclear propagandists and their friends in Congress are establishing nuclear war theme parks—without the taint of mass destruction—at former bomb factories and nuclear weapons launch pads all across the country.

Tours are being offered at the “B Reactor,” on the Hanford Reservation in Washington State which in 2008 was declared a National Historic Landmark. Plutonium production reactors for the nuclear arsenal were sloppily operated there for decades, releasing large amounts of radioactive fallout and permanently tainting groundwater which threatens the Columbia River—cover it up, make it a destination.

  • A National Wildlife Refuge has been established at Rocky Flats, Colorado, outside Denver, where the machining of plutonium for nuclear bomb cores has poisoned dozens of square miles.
  • Near Fargo, North Dakota, the State Historical Society has acquired a deactivated Minuteman missile launch control center dubbed “Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site,” and it opened to tourism.
  • In South Dakota, a retired launch control center is now the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and is run by the National Park Service.
  • Outside Tucson, Arizona, you can tour the Titan Missile Museum which opened in 1986 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
  • At White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, six hours from Washington, DC, the Greenbrier hideaway was built by the Eisenhower Administration as a nuclear war fallout shelter for 1,000 people. The bunker came with a generator, a 60-day supply of food, a hospital, kitchen, dining room, waste-disposal, and a dental operating room. Of course, a nuclear attack on Washington would have rendered evacuation impossible. Now deactivated and elegantly restored, the site is making money charging visitors for tours.

In 2011, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recommended to Congress that a national historic park be established to honor the Manhattan Project—the secret program whose atom bombs killed 140,000 people at Hiroshima and 70,000 at Nagasaki. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said then in a press release, “Once a tightly guarded secret, the story of the atomic bomb’s creation needs to be shared with future generations.” Jarvis feigns ignorance of the vast literature concerning the development and use of nuclear weapons which is available and that demolishes the official government myth that the Bomb “ended the war” and “saved lives.”

These nuclear war theme parks are part of a deliberate attempt to trivialize nuclear weapons and to dumb down popular understanding of their environmental and human health legacy. After employing hellish mythology to manufacture real massacres so vast that governments might quake, it wasn’t too big a leap for the same scientists to follow Hiroshima and Nagasaki with 16,000 human radiation experiments on U.S. citizens, 100 atmospheric bomb tests, deliberate mass venting of radiation, intentional “test-to-failure” reactor meltdowns, and ocean sinkings of tons of radioactive waste and entire navy propulsion reactors. Enormous radiation releases by commercial reactors and nuclear waste sites—at Windscale, Chelyabinsk, Tomsk, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, etc.—have resulted directly from the nuclear weapons program unveiled in a show of butchery, and later peddled like laundry soap as a “peaceful atom” that would bring “electricity too cheap to meter.”

Last month, thanks largely to Senators from nuclear weapons states—Tennessee and New Mexico—a Manhattan Project National Historical Park was officially authorized. Oddly, three proposed sites for this “park” are secret sections of the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, off limits to the public.

In view of the fact that the Manhattan Project’s atomic bombings of Japanese cities were unnecessary and known in advance not to be necessary, the United States should be making formal apologies to the victims and their survivors, and offering reparations rather than glorifying the planning, preparation, and commission of mass destruction.


John LaForge works for Nukewatch, edits its Quarterly newsletter, and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.