BY RICK NEBEL
Tibbar Plasma Technologies, Inc.
Starting in January 2022 Los Alamos county is planning to replace/extend utilities along DP Road down to the old TA-21 site. The county owns 10 acres of property along the South side of DP road that it received from LANL for development. This is primarily an old nuclear waste dump dating back to WW2 that the lab cleaned up at a cost of $250,000,000.
My understanding is that this property is zoned C-3 (heavy industrial) and that the cleanup is not sufficient for it to be used for housing. Lately the county has been using it to store fill, like that being removed for the new tunnel on the Rim Trail. In short, this is not exactly pristine, desirable property. It seems to me that some developers might be hesitant to invest in this property given its usage history. The fact that radioactive material has been found on adjacent property where it wasn’t supposed to be just exacerbates this situation.
The purpose of this letter is to suggest that the county should consider using part of this property to put in a low-cost research park. This park would primarily serve two groups of people: retired scientists and postdocs. Many retired scientists come back to LANL as guest scientists. This suggests to me that they still want to do some science in their retirement. As for the postdocs, my understanding is that LANL brings in about 300 postdocs every year. LANL converts about 100 of these people to staff positions, leaving about 200 postdocs per year looking for positions. The idea is to mix these people with retired scientists. This would mix a group of highly motivated young people who are in the prime of their careers with a group of experienced scientists who have a lot of connections and financial resources. The outcome of that pairing might yield pretty remarkable results for both science and economic development in the county.
In Los Alamos County we have parks and hiking trails for families. We have tennis courts for tennis players. We have an upgraded golf course for golfers. We have a ski hill for skiers. We have a skating rink for skaters, ball diamonds for ball players, soccer fields for soccer players, and horse stables for horses. We have skate parks for skateboarders and we have senior centers for seniors. The list goes on and on. Ironically, the only people we don’t do anything for are the scientists, and they are the ones who built Los Alamos.
So, how would this work and why should the county get involved? The county can do things that private enterprise cannot do. Every year government agencies (like FEMA) salvage out a lot of transportable buildings. Governmental entities like the county can acquire these used buildings free of charge. LANL, LAPS and other local agencies probably have buildings as well. Since the county is already investing in the utilities, this research park could be built for only the cost of installing the transportable buildings. A modest amount of rent could be charged for upkeep of the buildings.
I would view this concept as a “Retro Research Park”. As you can see from the 1946 picture below, the original nuclear weapons were developed in very rudimentary buildings. Obviously, the work that was done in these buildings changed the course of human history. Many of us who worked at LANL spent most if not all of our careers in transportable buildings. They are not fancy, but they are adequate.
Is this a good idea? It’s only a good idea if retired scientists and post-docs want to do it. In order to determine how much interest there is we have installed a survey on the Tibbar Tech web site. It can be accessed at:
Please tell us what you think. We have also included a comments section where you can list ideas that you may have. We are not asking people to identify themselves and all input is anonymous.