Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Greetings from Ground Zero

Mercury, Nevada, sits 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, next to nowhere in the broad Nye County desert. For decades, it was a booming “company town,” with some 10,000 people, a first-run movie theater, a lending library, a dry cleaner, a health center, and an interfaith chapel. Its eight-lane bowling alley was busy on most weeknights and packed them in on weekends. The cafeteria seated 800; the Mercury Steakhouse offered more elegant dining for special occasions. And the Olympic-size community swimming pool drew big crowds when temps frequently topped a hundred degrees.

But today, a lot of that’s been bulldozed in Mercury. The place turned ghost town after October 1992, when the U.S. government ended 41 years of nuclear testing at the adjacent Nevada Test Site (NTS).

Oh, there’s still some activity at the test site. Just not enough to sustain a bustling settlement like Mercury once was. The Department of Energy (DOE) now markets NTS resources to private sector customers for hazardous chemical testing, environmental remediation development, and continued defense-related support.

And one day a month, the site opens its gate to nosey visitors like me who wonder what an expanse the size of Rhode Island looks like after a hammering by 928 nukes.

“What in blazes do you expect to see out there — giant ants?” a drinking buddy asked me.

“Not sure,” I confessed. But a childhood of “duck and cover” civil defense films and an eccentric interest in historic awfulness had me primed for a daytrip to America’s former atomic proving ground.

So one morning last week, I was “badged” in Las Vegas by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office. Then I joined two friends and several dozen other tourists on a long, hot bus ride up dusty Highway 95 to what’s left of Mercury, the gateway to The Most Bombed Place on Earth.

[Full story here]


At 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel so sorry for all of the atomic veterans, who I am sure must have been treated like shit long after being used as guinea pigs. Why, the government can't admit to its wrongdoing, taking on such a liability, nor can the government argue its case based upon the facts. So, what does the government ALWAYS, ALWAYS resort to in its refrain? CHARACTER ASSASSINATION, by saying how "crazy" and "paranoid" the even-physically-ill truth-tellers are.

I am well aware of this process, as I was made ill by the experimental anthrax vaccine. I can honestly say that the VA isn't just unproductive, it is DESTRUCTIVE. I have never been made to feel more horrible in my life than while at the VA. In fact, come to think of it, I am now BANNED from the VA for talking about the anthrax vaccine. The moment I set foot on VA property, and the VA becomes aware of my presence, security promptly removes me.

The government is so criminal that I would have to question my morality if I was WELCOME at the VA.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Warren Bluhm said...

I already alerted you to this in an e-mail, but the world needs to know: Of course you didn't see the giant ants - why do you think they roped off the Smoky area?

An extremely nifty story, Wally, thanks for checking that place out for us.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I used to work in a VA, so I heard some horror stories from the vets. They tried stonewalling for years before they were forced to admit any problems with Agent Orange. Now they're doing the same thing with Gulf War Syndrome. And the party line on depleted uranium is that you could swallow it with no ill effects, because it's supposed to be chemically non-reactive; never mind the fact that it's actually inhaled in a vaporized state.

But this is the same government that injected unknowing people with syphilis, so what do you expect?

At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your essay, “Greetings from Ground Zero” on I despair to think that NTS can ever be fully cleaned up. Technically, it could be done: Johnston Atoll was finally remediated after several decades’ worth of effort, but it’s a much smaller land area. I am glad the testing has stopped, even if the land may not be habitable again for a very long time. (People are, after all, moving back into the Chernobyl area, with certain restrictions.)

Before my political views were fully formed (mostly by reading Murray Rothbard), I worked at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, the final assembly point and initial disassembly point for all US nuclear weapons. At the time, I thought nuclear weapons were about as close as you could come to an evil object, and I still do. While I was there in the early 1990s, however, the only work was disassembly, and I considered my assistance in the process, in some small way, a noble contribution. Sadly, the plutonium from these weapons was not re-formed into fuel pellets or anything useful, but rather stored in bunkers waiting for a decision about what to do with it all. That decision has not yet been made to the best of my knowledge.

NTS has been looking for missions to justify their existence, like all the national laboratories after the Cold War. I hope they fail in their quest, because nothing good can come of it.

Ike Hall

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting essay.

They should designate this site as the National Monument to American Statism and require every civics teacher to visit (and politician).

This is the supreme testament to what the State is really all about.

Mike Holmes


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