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Billie Silvey
An eclectic website about Women, Christianity, History, Culture
and the Arts--and anything else that comes to mind.
Manhattan Project
Peaceful Purposes
Popular Culture
Radiation
There are parts of this country that are empty and bleak--not
many people, no natural beauty to speak of, not very productive
land.  These are the parts the government takes for things most
people don't want--test sites, waste disposal, prisons, ordnance
plants.

I grew up in one of those places.  
Happy, Texas, is just 40 miles
south of Amarillo.  That's 40 miles of tabletop flat plains known
as the High Plains (large photo above).  At night, we could see
the lights of
Amarillo.  Canyon was closer, but it was lower, so
we couldn't see it.

But we could see lights between us and our big-city
neighbor--golden lights laid out in straight lines.  That was
Pantex
Village, a place we talked about only in whispers.  It was some
sort of secret government facility.

Later, when I attended
West Texas State College (now West
Texas A&M University) in
Canyon, I got to know a group of
science majors who hung out at a cafe near the campus.  They
were older and two of the couples were married.  Being just a
freshman, I was flattered to be included in their conversations.  
One of them had been hired to work in a laboratory at
White
Sands, New Mexico, (above right) when he graduated.

As a budding newspaper reporter, I was interested in almost
everything but science.  To me, the world was divided into two
very different kinds of people:  readers, writers and historians on
the one hand, and mathematicians and scientists on the other.  I
was too involved with my own plans to become a prize-winning
journalist and a distinguished novelist to be especially interested
in science.

Oh, I knew how important it was.  The Russians had beaten us
into space with their
Sputnik satellite, and President Kennedy
challenged us all to land a man on the moon.  Our parents had
been a part of the World War II generation that had unlocked
the power of the
atomic age and demonstrated how little we
knew about its potential for destruction.

It wasn't until after I left West Texas State for Abilene Christian
College, and finally, Pepperdine in Los Angeles, that I began to
hear about people in Happy who had died of cancer--an
unusually large number of people compared with the town's
population.

And I only recently learned that Pantex, which had been abruptly
deactivated after World War II, had been reclaimed as a nuclear
weapons production facility by the
Atomic Energy Commission
in 1951.  Then, in 1989, Pantex was used for short-term storage
of
plutonium.  Finally, in 1994, it was listed as a Superfund site
for the cleanup of groundwater contamination.

How could I have been so interested in becoming a reporter
while failing to be curious about the threat in my own backyard?  
How can we protect the people who live and raise their
families--and our food --in the bleak and empty places of our
land?  How many other threats to ourselves and each other are
we unaware of?

While it may be important to keep secrets from other countries
when we're at war, I see very little justification for keeping
secrets from our own citizens in peacetime--especially secrets
that can threaten their health and safety and that of their families.

Other articles in this website include the
Manhattan Project to
develop the atomic bomb during World War II,
nuclear energy
for peaceful purposes, and references to radiation in
popular
culture.

I hope you find this website interesting and informative, and that
you'll write me at
b.silvey@sbcglobal.net with your thoughts and
feelings about radiation and other hazards where you live or have
lived.
September 2011