Gail Little’s recent letter to the Los Alamos Daily Post describing her encounter with LANL security reminded me of a similar incident in which I was involved last year. Several of us went over to the area on LANL property where the (last?) sale of discarded Lab equipment and furniture was going to be held the following morning so we could take a look (through the fence) at what was going to be up for sale.
Unbeknownst to us, this was a violation of LANL security and a truck drove up to us and a security guard got out carrying an AK47-type weapon. Like Ms. Little, we explained what we were doing, and were told to wait until a supervisor could come. About 10 minutes later a security supervisor came, again with body armor and AK-47 weapon slung over his shoulder, and asked us a few questions. He then took our driver’s licenses and asked us to wait while he photocopied them and wrote up the incident, after which we were free to go. Definitely a scary scenario, although I don’t think I ever felt seriously threatened.
I don’t doubt that we were in violation of LANL rules, but it is also true that the security guard at the drive-through does not hand you any paperwork informing you as to what you can and cannot do after driving through the gate, and there are no signs specifying any rules or what is off limits. In this particular incident, we told the security guard at the gate where we were planning to go and why, but did not receive any warning that this was not permitted.
With the coming of traffic associated with the opening of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, the frequency of these kind of incidents is likely to increase dramatically, which will be an enormous waste of time for LANL security guards, and increase stress for a large number of tourists, the exact opposite of the goal of the MPNHP, and presumably DOE.
The solution, already being considered by the MPNHP Transportation subcommittee, is to build a short bypass ~1000 yards long just south of the Omega Bridge, going behind the Fire Station and the former Motorola Building, connecting up to Hwy 501 where West Rd comes up out of the canyon at the intersection where West Road and Camp May Road meet, i.e., where the gate blocking that road is currently set up. Such a bypass will allow residents and tourists to bypass the security drive-through without having to drive in and out of the canyon, as well as avoiding having to drive past all the Lab facilities along West Jemez Road, which is currently a security concern. The security drive-through can then be restricted only to badge holders and escorted visitors.
I believe that the cost to DOE to build such a bypass will be a small price to pay for avoiding these kind of uncomfortable incidents in the future and will allow LANL security forces to focus on real threats to Lab security, not to mention that it will be a great improvement to visitor access to and from Los Alamos via Hwy 501 for everyone who wants to use the recreational facilities at Pajarito and in the Jemez.