What has happened to the survivors of the early Los Alamos nuclear accidents Page: 4 of 35
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Ten persons were exposed to the radiation bursts
which were largely composed of neutrons. The doses
ranged from fatal in the case of the two operators, to
small in the case of some survivors.
The two operators died within weeks as a result of
acute radiation injury. Only six of the eight
survivors were available for follow-up study ten or
more years after the accident. Four of these six
survivors are now dead, but the two living survivors
are in excellent health with no clinical or laboratory
evidence of late radiation injury. Two of the deceased
died of acute myelogenous leukemia, another died at age
83 of refractory anemia, and the fourth of myocardial
infarction. The heart attack could have been
precipitated by the myxedema assumed to have been the
result of the radiation exposure.
Within ten months of the end of World War II, two serious nuclear
criticality accidents occurred at the Los Alamos Laboratory (Site Y) of the
then Manhattan Project. Each accident resulted in the death of the
operator and in the overexposure to ionizing radiations of eight other
participants. Both accidents were the result of uncontrolled nuclear chain
reactions in so-calied critical assembly experiments using metallic
plutonium. Because of the nature of the times at the end of World War II,
the early published accounts gave little detailed information of the nature
of the accidents or of how they occurred. In the present report, we
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Hempelman, L.H.; Lushbaugh, C.C. & Voelz, G.L. What has happened to the survivors of the early Los Alamos nuclear accidents, article, January 1, 1979; New Mexico. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1093988/m1/4/: accessed April 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.