I became involved with Hanford by accident, about seven years ago. I had recently moved back to the U.S. from eastern Europe and was in Seattle visiting a friend. On a whim, I decided to stay in Seattle instead of moving home to California, on the condition that I find a job in the next two days. As luck would have it, a job materialized right away, and I found myself working as a Field Manager for the I-297 campaign. It was there that I learned about Hanford.
After a summer of campaigning, I moved to Oregon to do a masters degree on ecotourism development in Costa Rica. However, as my first year of grad school progressed, I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about Hanford.
In 2005, I drove up to Richland and toured the B Reactor. Standing in front of the reactor face, I was overcome by Hanford’s intensely emotional history, by the series of environmental and cultural transformations that were born in the very room where I stood. Painful as it was to trade fieldwork in the Costa Rican rainforest for nuclear industrial eastern Washington (though I actually find shrub-steppe quite beautiful), I switched my Masters thesis to the Hanford cleanup, and have been studying it ever since. I am currently in the fourth year of a Ph.D. program at UC Berkeley, writing my dissertation about the politics of remediation at Hanford.
What I find most interesting/compelling: Hanford is many things at once, and it is partly this complexity that compels me most. I am fascinated by the politics of impossibility in the Hanford cleanup: the legal mandate to imagine and make concrete plans for a future tens of thousands of years from now, the need to design and enact containment procedures for toxic materials yet to be characterized or, in some cases, located. The ways that certainty and uncertainty entwine in Hanford’s scientific, legal, and sociopolitical structures is endlessly interesting to me.
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