The Seattle Times Web Edition: 50 Years from Trinity

NUCLEAR REACTIONS: Citizens ponder the positives and negatives

IMAGE: View of Jurgensen's back as he holds his daughter and examines a number of framed plaques
Kenn Jurgensen, holding his daughter Stephanie, views a display of anti-nuclear opinions at the Bradbury Science Center in Los Alamos, N.M. Jurgensen, who does not share the views, says "it's democracy in action." He is a computer technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

BY BILL DIETRICH
Seattle Times staff reporter

The Bradbury Science Museum at Los Alamos is an informative mix of exhibits on the benefits and problems of nuclear energy. To encourage balance, the museum provided a display wall for nuclear critics and a notebook for visitors to write their thoughts. Here is a sampling:

"We are free today because of what was done at Los Alamos."

A.S., North Carolina.

"I still cringe from the fact that we dropped the first atomic bomb. A shameful event in our history. Better to have had the ability to do so, but to have used it to achieve an end to the war through the threat of its use."

C.R.G., Connecticut.

"I personally cannot understand how we, the human race, can proceed with production of deadly radio-isotopes of which we have no means for disposal in a nontoxic form."

Dr. A.K., Michigan.

"Dwight Eisenhower had it right, all those years ago. Even were we to ignore the massive loss and destruction to human life and the environment (from the arms race) the true measure of loss is to be found in the theft from human kind -- the unfed, the forgotten, the uncared for."

J.K., Pennsylvania -- 'mother, wife, mathematician.'

"Just remember who started the war -- how many Americans they killed needlessly, and who the liberals would be subject to if we had lost!"

R.B.

"The Cold War is over but nuclear submarines still prowl. Why?"

J.M.

"We as humans are imperfect. What makes us think we can perform to the tolerances needed to safeguard against such perfect instruments of death? Ego? What if we allowed future generations to vote on programs that affect them? They would essentially say, 'To hell with your VCRs, TVs, extravagant cars, homes and garb. We'd rather have clean air, water and earth upon which to merely survive.'"

L.H., Oregon

"As a member of the Jewish faith, I fully support development of the atomic bomb, if it meant that the Nazis could not have developed it first. Had that happened, many religions would have been exterminated and the world would be very different today."

N.C.

"As an engineer I appreciate the enormous technical challenges overcome here at Los Alamos. As a man of God, I recognize the horrors that came about as a result. However, I also know that had this nation not pursued this line of research and then found the resolve to use it, another less conscientious nation would have and this world would today be a different, less friendly place to live."

J.Y.

"Los Alamos: keep up the great work!"

R.D., New Jersey.

"We are just a speck in the universe. We have placed too much importance on ourselves as a species. May we be more humble and not lose our innocence in the face of nature."

C.B., Ontario.

"In August 1945 I was a rifle company commander engaging in exercises on Leyte Island to invade Japan. When the bomb exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, every American in the South Pacific breathed easier. Many -- most? -- survived when they probably would have perished. War is hell, but if one must be a part of it, it is better to survive than die."

S.K.

"In science and technology, we need an emphasis on ethics that are not based in any particular religious tradition. We need to focus more on the cancer-like impact on the planet of human over-population. We'd probably have fewer wars if we we had fewer people -- people who appreciate the earth instead of trying to gouge everything possible from it."

S.S, Massachusetts.

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