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A New Study Finds the True Fallout of the Trinity Nuclear Test

By: Andy Gao

In July of 1945, Manhattan Project researchers tested a new atomic bomb in a New Mexico desert. Nobody was able to document the effects of the test, nobody was told to evacuate the area, and nobody was compensated for the impact of radiation exposure.

A new study, released on June 20shows the true fallout of the Trinity Nuclear Test in New Mexico. The study, done by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Colorado Boulder, aims to help many people across the United States, and specifically New Mexico, get compensated for potential radiation exposure.

At this time, scientists lacked a full understanding of the fallout of a nuclear test on the nearby communities and the environment. “They were aware that there were radioactive hazards, but they were thinking about acute risk in the areas around the immediate detonation site,” Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, stated. (New York Times, 2023).

Furthermore, there were no national monitoring stations to track the fallout of the nuclear test. In fact, “essential historical weather and atmospheric data was available only from 1948 onward.” (New York Times, 2023)

Because of the limited information available at the time, Dr. Philippe and his team started this study to grasp the true effects of the Trinity Nuclear Test. A breakthrough came in March when the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts released important historical weather data. That meant, “For the first time, we had the most accurate hourly reconstruction of the weather back to 1940, around the world.” (New York Times 2023)

With this breakthrough, researchers reanalyzed the fallout of Trinity. The results of this breakthrough show that the main state affected was New Mexico. To put this into perspective, “locations in New Mexico where radionuclide deposition reached levels on par with Nevada.” (New York Times 2023)

The people living near the test site have not been eligible for the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Many people are fed up, including Senator Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat, who said,“Despite the Trinity test taking place in New Mexico, many New Mexicans were left out of the original RECA legislation and nobody has ever been able to explain why.” (New York Times 2023)

Much remains to be known about the fallout of the Trinity Nuclear Test, and this new study hopes to shed some light on the true effects of this test on the people of New Mexico and the entire country.

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