Although I was born and raised in Walla Walla, just an hour southeast of Hanford, I did not hear many stories about this nuclear site as a child. It was not until my junior year at Walla Walla University that I began to really delve into the story of Hanford. This research culminated in my undergraduate senior thesis—The U.S. Department of Energy and Washingtonians: A Toxic Dose of Mistrust—which analyzed Washingtonian response to the involuntary release of over nineteen thousand pages of previously classified documents in the 1980s pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request.

These pages revealed, among many things, that the level of nuclear and chemical waste released into the air was much greater than the government had previously told the public. For example, the U.S. government intentionally released radioactive fission products from Hanford on December 2-3, 1949, in what is referred to as The Green Run.

This tension between government agencies and the public over environmental safety and public health, so close to my hometown, drove me to attend Seattle University School of Law to gain the tools necessary to become an effective advocate for Hanford issues. During law school, I interned at Hanford Challenge as the Matthew Henson Environmental Law Fellow.

After obtaining my law degree last year, I returned to Hanford Challenge as Staff Attorney to continue advocating for transparency, worker health and safety, and environmental justice.  Hanford presents the next generation with complex problems that require nuanced solutions.  I have hope that with the input of the next generation, lasting solutions will be reached.

In my free time I enjoy playing pickup soccer games at Cal Andersen Park, playing baseball, canoeing Lake Washington, water skiing, gardening, traveling, cooking, playing bass guitar, and spending time with my family.

To connect with Nikolas Peterson or another mentor, please click here.

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