Texas Matters: Too Much Plutonium At Pantex & The Great Depression, Deportation

Apr 20, 2018

Credit Texas Department of HHS

On This episode of "Texas Matters":

  • There's too much plutonium in Texas. The Pantex facility near Amarillo has so much of the nuclear material that it has exceeded storage capacity. 
  • We look at the forgotten episode in the Great Depression when 500,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americas were forced out of the nation. We'll revisit how the story was covered at the time by three newspapers in San Antonio (09:30).


The Pantex Plant is a U.S. Department of Energy facility in the Texas panhandle. It’s the primary location for the building, maintenance and disassembly of nuclear bombs in America. Pantex sits on 16,000 acres, which is 17 miles northeast of Amarillo. It is a major national security site and the plant is tightly secured and strictly controlled.

But a report from the Reuters news agency tells the story of what’s at risk with the vast amount of plutonium stored at Pantex and why terrorists would want to get some of it.

Scot J. Paltrow, of Reuters, wrote the story, “America's nuclear headache: old plutonium with nowhere to go.”

'They Came To Toil'

In the 1930’s, the Great Depression caused America's unemployment rate to soar to 25 percent. And at that time, about 500,000 Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans were deported in order to preserve the jobs for white Americans.

The story is told in the book, “They Came to Toil – Newspaper representation of Mexican and Immigrants in the Great Depression.” It’s written by Melita M. Garza, a professor of media studies at Texas Christian University’s Bob Schieffer College of Communications.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org or on Twitter @DavidMartinDavi