Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” which dramatizes the Trinity nuclear test nearly eight decades ago, prompts reflection on a part of the story not covered in his hit film: the experiment’s enduring impact on US soil.
New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján (D) drew attention to the implications for his home state in a series of tweets Thursday, just ahead of the triumphant opening weekend that “Oppenheimer” shared with the “Barbie” film.
“It’s important to note that 78 years after the nuclear testing this film is about, New Mexico continues to face collateral damage from the Trinity test site,” says Luján wrote.
“New Mexico was chosen because of its uninhabited area, but almost half a million people were horribly affected,” he added an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Generations of New Mexicans later, thousands of victims and their family members continue to face serious, sometimes fatal, health complications.”
Census figures show that 40,000 people lived within 60 miles of the test site. according to the Alamogordo Daily Newsa local newspaper.
A 1990 bill, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, compensated Many communities have been affected by US military nuclear explosions – however, Trinity test survivors have not been included.
Luján, again citing the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, pointed out the deadly variety of cancers that afflicted the people who lived in the area for decades afterwards. For years, the senator has tried unsuccessfully to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include people in the Trinity fallout zone.
The plans for the explosion were kept secret because of the enormous consequences a nuclear weapon would have in World War II. The effects of the radiation were not exactly known at the time.
As a result, those living in the surrounding region—including many Native Americans and other people of color—were roused from their sleep at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945.a significant amount of explosives and pyrotechnics‘ which had exploded at an air force base.
Young campers sleeping about 50 miles from the blast site thought something had exploded in their camp.
“We were all just shocked… and then all of a sudden there was this big cloud over us and lights in the sky,” one of them, Barbara Kent, said National Geographic in 2021. That summer she was 13 years old.
“It even hurt our eyes when we looked up. The whole sky went strange. It was like the sun came out mightily,” Kent said.
She and other girls played in nuclear fallout – white flakes falling from the sky like desert snow. Ten of the twelve campers died before their 40th year. Vice reported in 2016, with Kent telling the outlet that this is “no coincidence”. She herself had battled cancer.
Much of the precipitation headed north, impacting people as far away as Colorado, Idaho, and Montana.
Small animals such as chickens reportedly died as a result of the nuclear blast, and infant mortality rose sharply in the months that followed. according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Later, people reported that they continued to consume meat and dairy products from cows from the radioactive zone.
But no government agency was tracking the broader implications. A 2020 report from the National Cancer Institute suggested that the Trinity test probably contributed to the cancer rate in the fallout zone, but that it is very difficult to estimate the exact number of extra cases given how long ago it was.
As Lujan wrote“The sad truth is that too many have died from the radioactive effects of these decades-old tests.”