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Top 10 books on Hanford – Week 10


With this we come to an end of our 10 week journey. The last one from the list is ‘Made in Hanford: The Bomb that Changed the World’


Author: Hill Williams

Originally published: 2011

Hill Williams traces the amazing but also tragic story from the dawn of nuclear science through World War II and Cold War testing in the Marshall Islands.

On the eve of World War II, news of an astonishing breakthrough filtered out of Germany. Scientists there had split uranium atoms. Physicists in the United States scrambled to verify results and further investigate this new science. Ominously, they soon recognized its potential to fuel the ultimate weapon, one able to release the energy of an uncontrolled chain reaction. With growing fears that the Nazis were on the verge of harnessing nuclear power, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gambled on a project to research and produce uranium for military use. By 1941, experiments led to the identification of plutonium, but laboratory work generated the new element in amounts far too small to be useful. Large-scale manufacture would be required., in 1945, and others tested on the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, profoundly altering many lives.

In 1942, a small plane carrying Lt. Col. Franklin T. Matthias and two DuPont engineers flew over three farming communities in eastern Washington. The passengers agreed. Isolated and near the powerful Columbia River, the region was the ideal site for the world’s first plutonium factory. Two years later, built with a speed and secrecy unheard of today, the facility was operational. The plutonium it produced fueled the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Hill Williams traces the amazing but also tragic story from the dawn of nuclear science through World War II and Cold War testing in the Marshall Islands.

Top 10 books on Hanford – Week 9


We highly recommend you to ‘Life and death of A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia: Blaine Harden’. Though the focus is on the mighty Columbia river, Hanford is still an interesting part of the book. If you want some quick read for the week, don’t miss this one.


Author: Blain Harden

Originally published: 1996

A River Lost is superbly reported and written with clarity, insight, and great skill.”―Washington Post Book World

After a two-decade absence, Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden returned to his small-town birthplace in the Pacific Northwest to follow the rise and fall of the West’s most thoroughly conquered river.

Harden’s hometown, Moses Lake, Washington, could not have existed without massive irrigation schemes. His father, a Depression migrant trained as a welder, helped build dams and later worked at the secret Hanford plutonium plant. Now he and his neighbors, once considered patriots, stand accused of killing the river.

As Blaine Harden traveled the Columbia-by barge, car, and sometimes on foot-his past seemed both foreign and familiar. A personal narrative of rediscovery joined a narrative of exploitation: of Native Americans, of endangered salmon, of nuclear waste, and of a once-wild river now tamed to puddled remains.

This book is Part history, part memoir, part lament, “this is a brave and precise book,” according to the New York Times Book Review. “It must not have been easy for Blaine Harden to find himself turning his journalistic weapons against his own heritage, but he has done the conscience of his homeland a great service.”



Top 10 books on Hanford – Week 4


Coming to week 4, ‘The Manhattan Project at Hanford Site’ is definitely the next on the list. This book provides a greater depth on the story of “Site W” and the surrounding region’s World War II efforts.


Author: Elizabeth Toomey

Originally published: 2015

‘The Manhattan Project at Hanford Site’ describes the top-secret effort undertaken during World War II to develop a weapon never imagined at “Site W” or “Hanford Engineer Works,” one of three sites selected in the United States (plus Los Alamos and Oak Ridge) to research and produce weapons that were ultimately used to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and end World War II. It was a research and engineering feat of unimaginable proportion, and the total project cost for all three sites was $2.1 billion–an unthinkable amount for a country that was coming out of the Great Depression. It is a story of gumption, resolve, tenacity, patriotism, pride, and selflessness for the thousands of people who worked multiple shifts, seven days a week, in a hot, dry, and desolate desert, never knowing what they were working on. It is a tribute to American resolve in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Is Hanford on your list?


By Sarita Hemmady

What are the most pressing public health issues for our state to tackle? Is Hanford on your list?  It wasn’t on mine, but it is now. I’m a Master of Public Health (MPH) student at the University of Washington in the Health Services Department. Though I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, I hadn’t heard of Hanford until I was assigned to complete a practicum project for my program with Hanford Challenge. I was blown away when I learned about what Hanford is, the recent plutonium releases that contaminated 42 workers, and the impacts exposures to radioactive particles have on individuals’ health.

Before learning about Hanford, I didn’t have a strong interest in environmental health. I got into public health because of my interest in population health, health equity, chronic disease management and prevention, and health policy. Now though, I see clear connections between my initial public health interests and Hanford, that I didn’t see before.

First, attending a union meeting with former and current employees at the site helped to illuminate the issues with health equity and education, and the broken safety culture at Hanford. Some former employees who have been exposed to varying doses of radiation and chemicals overtime now suffer from severe chronic conditions now, while others have died prematurely. Exacerbating these health problems are (1) the difficult process to gain coverage for injuries and illnesses acquired on the job (2) the lack of epidemiological studies linking exposures to chemicals and/or radioactive particles to the adverse health outcomes experienced by employees (3) and the shortage of physicians in the areas around Hanford who are experienced with environmental hazards and toxicology. Sometimes individuals have to travel three hours to Seattle just to be seen by a qualified specialist. In addition to the health problems former and current workers face, there is a need for improved literature given to employees to fully educate them on the potential hazards associated with working at Hanford and strategies to prevent exposures on-site.

Second, throughout the past three months, it has become apparent to me that many people in my age group aren’t familiar with Hanford, and that the general public isn’t fully aware of the issues present at Hanford. It will be difficult to see government enact any sweeping reforms to the occupational health and safety problems at Hanford until they receive enough public pressure. It is crucial that we all talk about Hanford, whether it be with congressional representatives or friends and family. After the recent 2017 accidents that exposed 42 workers, it is more urgent than ever that high level policy changes be passed to better protect occupational health and safety, as well as population health. These issues don’t just affect the workers, they impact whole communities.

Though Hanford is a beast of a problem, the challenges it presents are not insurmountable if various sectors and individuals join forces. Public health professionals have a unique expertise they can contribute to the efforts.

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