Letter to the Editor: Open Letter from a Son of Los Alamos

My name is Chris Balibrera and I am a son of Los Alamos.

I’m writing because I started a hunger strike July 16 in Los Alamos, the intention of which is to open a conversation about the possibility of transforming LANL into a beacon of hope and inspiration for the rest of the world.

I grew up here, from ’67 to ’81. My father, Mario, was then a film documentarian for the Lab and we had famous physicists over for dinner quite regularly. (Teller once said to me in his thick Hungarian accent, “Ze only prohblem wit soccer iz, zere iz only one ball.”)

By the age of 8, I knew what the Atomic Age was and knew Los Alamos had started it.

I knew the kids at school were deadly smart. I knew not to play with discarded ordnance, or play in Acid Canyon.

And I knew exactly what the bomb was. Long before cable TV or video, I had seen the mushroom cloud explode hundreds of times on my own living room wall.  

Fast-forward 40 years. LANL is no longer managed by fellow scientists from UC Berkeley, removing with one blow both cross-pollination and mutual understanding.

Instead, we give control of our premier nuclear weapons research and development facility to a private corporation with a long history of mismanagement and incompetence.

“We are not in the business of engineering or construction,” says Steve Bechtel, Jr. “We are in the business of making money.”

There’s little doubt that Bechtel will choose, as they consistently have for decades, profit over science, and profit over safety.

Los Alamos is the symbolic center of the global nuclear complex.

Vis-à-vis the state of multiple and self-inflicted crises in which humanity now finds itself, now is the time for leaders like LANL to help the rest of the world uplift our vision to see the emerging possibilities.

Science was once a beacon of hope and light to humankind. The minds gathered in Los Alamos are capable of creating inspired solutions to outsmart most pressing problems: clean energy, sustainable resources, environmental degradation, freedom from want and perpetual conflict … in short, for helping to create the world we want our children to live in.

My hunger strike is a call for LANL scientists to lead this transformation.

We cannot do it without you. There is, as there was in 1943, an opportunity for Los Alamos science to lead the world, this time with science that sustains and enriches all life.

I love Los Alamos, and I love science, and that is why I am hunger striking.


Chris Balibrera


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