Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Plutonium and the Rio Grande: Environmental Change and Contamination in the Nuclear Age



Plutonium and the Rio Grande begins with an evocative description of the tranquility that prevailed along the Rio Grande in the halcyon days before the Manhattan Project changed the environment of this corner of New Mexico forever. Graf presents a methodology for studying the environmental impacts of the plutonium releases from facilities at Los Alamos. Specifically, he quantifies releases of various isotopes of plutonium and tracks their fate in the sediments and water bodies of the Rio Grande. Despite access to ample reliable data, his task is challenging: it requires regional-scale analysis and applications of techniques from disciplines including geomorphology, hydrology, environmental chemistry, plant physiology, and historical research.