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Advocacy group runs ad ahead of “Oppenheimer” screenings

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There’s a lot of buzz around the new movie “Oppenheimer,” which tells the story of the physicist at the center of the Manhattan Project and starts its run in theaters this week. For some in New Mexico, that story hits close to home.

An advocacy group has purchased ad spaceat five theaters in Santa Fe and Albuquerque to run a reminder of the damage caused by nuclear testing in the Southwest.

“Oppenheimer” shows a recreation of the world's first nuclear blast at the Trinity site in southern New Mexico. What it likely doesn’t show is the effect that had on people living in the vicinity, the Downwinders. Lilly Adams, who is with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, which is running the ad, said that’s an issue, as people are still feeling the impact on their health in the communities surrounding this and other testing sites.

“We have to reckon with this human cost to really fully understand Oppenheimer’s legacy and the harm caused by nuclear weapons,” she said.

Adams added that uranium mining was also a legacy of this work, and that many people in the Southwest, especially in Indigenous communities, still deal with health issues and contamination to water and land associated with it.

She said the ad is meant to draw attention to these ongoing stories not included in the film. A similar ad will also air in Maine.

“In developing and testing nuclear weapons, the US government poisoned its own people and many of those people, like we said, are still waiting for recognition and justice,” Adams said.

The 78th anniversary of the Trinity test was this past Sunday, July 16th. It was also the anniversary of the uranium spill in Church Rock, New Mexico in 1979, which was the largest release of radioactive material in U.S. history. Both of New Mexico’s Senators have signed on to sponsor a billthat would expand compensation for Downwinders.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the first nuclear bomb was built, is slated to receive record funding this year to expand production of plutonium pits.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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