Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA) Project
- Challenge: This project, initiated in 1999 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), involved reviewing the historical records at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to determine whether there was sufficient information available to characterize off-site releases of chemicals and radionuclides since 1943.
- Approach: Cardno ChemRisk reviewed over eight million current and historical records, and identified and catalogued any documents that could be used to estimate off-site releases. Relevant records were selected and prepared for inclusion in a publicly available database. Because the LAHDRA project activities largely focused on information gathering, Cardno ChemRisk involved all key stakeholders and held public meetings at various locations in the Los Alamos-Espanola-Taos-Pojoaque-Santa Fe region to ensure transparency and engagement, and to gain important insights.
- Findings and Outreach: It was found that airborne plutonium releases from LANL before the 1970s were significantly higher than what has been historically reported and may have had the greatest potential for impacting the residents of Los Alamos. The effect of the Trinity Test on local communities, which were not warned prior to the detonation, was also considered a high priority for future dose reconstruction activities. Other radionuclides and chemicals were identified for further study. In total, 17 meetings and several workshops were held to keep the public informed about project activities and findings. In addition, Cardno ChemRisk briefed representatives of the Eight Northern Pueblo Council and other individual pueblos in Northern New Mexico.
- Value: The LAHDRA project was perhaps the most comprehensive review for a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear weapons production site conducted to date. It included a significant public involvement and risk communication component, including a project website, publicly available reports and annual meetings for the surrounding community, local and regional politicians, and other interested parties. Stakeholder understanding was significantly improved.
See LAHDRA.org for details.