I moved to Richland in middle-school I am a proud Richland Bomber class of ’82. Using the mushroom cloud for our mascot is tacky, I’ll admit. But the real reason we’re Bombers is because the Hanford workers each donated a day’s pay to build a B-17 because the U.S. air fleet was breaking or being shot down. My class ring actually has a plane on it and the school has a stunning mural of the bomber christened by the Day’s Pay.
My grandpa was a doctor for people who escaped Nazi Germany. My mom attended college with Corazon Aquino (who survived the Japanese invasion of the Philippians, and later became its President.) Unlike most people in my generation the third-hand accounts I got growing up help me understand our nation’s belief we needed to win WWII at any cost. So I give Hanford workers a pass for environmental transgressions during the war. However I’m offended that our government continued polluting well into the 1980’s, failing to obey the most obvious environmental safeguards.
I choose to call Richland home after living many other places, and am amused by those who give me a horrified look and ask how I can live near Hanford? The wind sucks, but the climate is decent. The schools are good, cost of living is exceptional. We have no traffic problems or smog. Honestly, I feel safer here than Los Angeles (where I went to school) or Seattle. I grew up in hurricane country, but earthquakes scare the heck out of me. The insurance industry rates the Tri-Cities one of the safest places in the county where natural disasters are concerned. I know our emergency services people are better trained and drilled than many others precisely because of Hanford. I’ll take my chances with potential risk at Hanford any day over earthquakes or the proven stress and chronic health threats of living in a big city.
I have a B.A. in Advertising and M.S. in Environmental Studies, both from California State University Fullerton. I’m interested in risk and risk communications issues, and want to help people better understand real v. perceived risk. Too often people mix messages about nuclear energy and Hanford cleanup problems. There’s no doubt that we need a long term storage solution for our nation’s nuclear waste – regardless of the source.
But I remain cautiously pro-nuclear energy (BTW that’s nuke lee er… NOT nuke U lar.) Much as I wish we’d develop wind, solar or geothermal to its full potential, nuclear is vastly safer than any fossil fuels – whether talking extraction, pollution, or climate impacts. Fukushima did not cause any immediate deaths, but we lost 29 miners two years ago in W. VA. That doesn’t count the hundreds who die each year from emphysema or black lung in coal country. There are also people affected downwind of coal fired plants or oil refineries who are ignored in the energy conversation. And the resulting bad air quality kills thousands upon thousands worldwide.
One of the most important things people should know about Hanford is that of 586 square miles, only about 10% of the land area is contaminated. The serendipitous result of Hanford’s security buffer is that we still have a lot of fabulous native habitat, and an undammed Hanford Reach of the Columbia.
When I’m not educating people about Hanford cleanup, I work on sustainability and water resource issues, and promoting access to local food through the Tri-City’s new Atomic Cooperative Market.
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