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Pueblo tribes lived in the rugged Los Alamos area for well over 1,000 years, and an exclusive boys' school operated atop the 7,300-foot plateau from 1918 to 1943. Then, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was established here in secrecy, code-named Site Y of the Manhattan Project, the hush-hush wartime program that developed the world's first atomic bombs.

Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer, later succeeded by Norris E. Bradbury, worked along with thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians in research, development, and production of those early weapons. Today, more than 10,000 people work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, making it the largest employer in northern New Mexico. Operated by Los Alamos National Security, currently under a contract through the U.S. Department of Energy, its 2,800 individual facilities and 42 separate technical areas occupy 36 square miles of mesa-top land.

The laboratory is one of the world's foremost scientific institutions. It primarily focuses on nuclear weapons research -- the Trident and Minuteman strategic warheads were designed here, for example -- and has many other interdisciplinary research programs, including international nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation, space, and atmospheric studies; supercomputing; theoretical physics; biomedical and materials science; and environmental restoration.

Currently Los Alamos National Laboratory is building a limited number of replacement plutonium pits for use in the enduring U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The lab has the only plutonium-processing facility in the United States that is capable of producing those components.