Monday, February 22, 2016

Atomic City Hyperbole

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at the amount of stupid that I stumble into on the Internet – but as this little pile of stupid is so close to home, I feel like I need to say something about it.

Atomic City had a population in the “hundreds”? Really? What census information I can find showed a top population of 141 in 1960. That’s “hundred,” not “hundreds.”

And I have to look at Google maps of the place and wonder if even that 141 population number is accurate. This place doesn’t look like it was ever home to more than a hundred people, unless they were housed in temporary structures that are no longer there (a good possibility, given the amazing mobile home technology popular in the 1960s and before.

But to use this city as a symbol for the decline of the nuclear industry? That hardly works in my book.

If I were a new worker at the Idaho National Laboratory, even in the 1950s or 1960s, and had the choice of living this close to work but not having services such as grocery stores, schools, etc., or living further away – between 20 to 60 miles – and having access to much more in the way of services, schools, libraries, greenery, etc., I’d skip right over Atomic City and settle further afield in Arco, Blackfoot, Idaho Falls, or the like. Calling Atomic City a boomtown is to give far too much credit to the overzealous real estate speculators who figured a town right on the edge of the laboratory perimeter sans anything resembling commercial or civic development would be a magnet to workers.
The story of Atomic City is much more a story of a real estate boondoggle gone bad than anything else, given the prosperity of other towns in the area that play home to workers at the Idaho National Laboratory – myself included. Riding the bus to and from work every day, an hour and a half each way, isn’t all that fun, but it makes more sense than living in Atomic City.

Hundreds. Yup. Right there.

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