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Los Alamos prepares for its largest mission since the legendary Manhattan Project
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Los Alamos prepares for its largest mission since the legendary Manhattan Project

Famed for the top-secret Manhattan Project, Los Alamos is set to play host to the most ambitious nuclear weapons effort since the end of WWII.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has apparently hired 3,300 workers over the past two years in its effort to produce plutonium cores — a key component of nuclear weapons, per the Associated Press.

The workforce at the Los Alamos lab has now exceeded 17,270. More than half of them commute to work from other locations in northern New Mexico. The small community of Los Alamos nearly doubles during the work week, when all of the lab's employees are there.

Though various advancements in technology have changed the way work is done within the walls of Los Alamos National Laboratory, there are fundamental elements that have remained the same since WWII, such as the secrecy and sense of national duty.

James Owen — the associate director for weapons engineering — has been at work on the nuclear weapons program for more than 25 years, per the report.

“What we do is meaningful. This isn’t a job, it’s a vocation, and there’s a sense of contribution that comes with that,” Owen said. "The downside is we can't tell people about all the cool things we do here."

Though the primary focus of the lab is to maintain the nation's nuclear stockpile, that is not the only thing it does. The lab also carries out research and work in the diverse fields of space exploration and supercomputing and tries to mitigate threats from disease and cyberattacks.

There are watchdogs, though, who claim that there may not be a need for nuclear proliferation, especially considering the expensive price tag that comes with the weapons.

Greg Mello, the director of the Los Alamos Study Group, reportedly said in an email that "for some time Los Alamosans have seemed numbed out, very involved in superficial activities but there is a very big hole in the middle where thoughtful discourse might live."

The small community has apparently been grappling with the top-secret lab that is right in the middle of it.

Los Alamos became an open city in 1957, when the security gates of the area came down. However, there are many parts related to the Manhattan Project that still remain off-limits to those who do not have the appropriate clearance.

Conversations around Los Alamos were reignited with the release of Christopher Nolan's three-hour masterpiece "Oppenheimer," which chronicles the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who kicked off the Manhattan Project during WWII.

The fallout of the film resulted in many people visiting the small New Mexican town over the summer.

However, Los Alamos was previously shoved into the spotlight in the late 1980s when Bob Lazar, an alleged former contractor connected with Los Alamos, claimed that he was hired by the U.S. government to work at S-4, a speculative location around Area 51 in Nevada. Lazar claimed that he was hired to reverse-engineer extraterrestrial technology.

Though there has been no evidence to confirm Lazar's story, several individuals within the U.S. military have claimed to see what they described as UFOs.

Since then, rumors, speculations, conspiracy theories, and urban legends have grown out of the top-secret location.

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