Los Alamos street in the early days of the Manhattan Project.

Environmental Protection

In March 1943, during the Second World War, a group of scientists came to Los Alamos as part of the Manhattan Project, a secret mission to develop the world's first nuclear weapon.

Los Alamos was the chosen site for the Laboratory (situated on 36 square miles of finger-like mesas and deep canyons in north-central New Mexico) in part because the area's isolation provided safety and security, access to and from the site could be controlled, and the surrounding canyons could be used for tests involving high explosives.

Solid Waste Disposal, 1968

An Environmental Awakening

In the early stages of operations, activities involving the disposal of hazardous chemical and radioactive wastes were not carefully regulated. While disposal actions met the standards of that time, the science of waste management and environmental stewardship has advanced greatly to the present day.

In the decades since World War II, the Laboratory’s original mission to design, develop, and test nuclear weapons has broadened and evolved as technologies, national priorities, and the world community have changed.

The Laboratory's current mission is to develop and apply science to:

  • ensure safety and reliability of United States’ nuclear deterrent
  • reduce global threats
  • solve other emerging national security challenges

In support of this mission, thousands of scientists, engineers, and professionals in a wide range of fields work on hundreds of cutting-edge scientific projects.

Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office

Continued Environmental Commitment

Today, the Laboratory controls the environmental risks, thereby allowing the Laboratory to fulfill its national security and science missions.

The Laboratory is committed to achieving its environmental stewardship mission by:

  • Protecting resources—such as water, air, plants, animals, and cultural assets—on shared land
  • Reducing impact through pollution prevention
  • Securing the future through sustainable practices and long-term planning
  • The Laboratory values cleanup from legacy operations, which is now mainly managed by N3B Los Alamos by the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management.