Hanford to Fukushima: Part 3

This is part 3 of a 4 part series about the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State.  We hope the series will help those in Japan achieve a better understanding of nuclear releases and be able to benefit from the experiences of the victims of Hanford as they deal with their own current circumstances related to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Part 3: Hanford cover ups and secrecy
At the start of Hanford it was part of the top secret WWII Manhattan Project. The military at Hanford adopted a security system known as compartmentalization. Workers were told only what they needed to know to do their job and purposely did not know anything about other parts of the plant or the work going on.

When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima workers were informed of their involvement in the bomb and rumors began to fly. One food service worker, Harry Petcher upon finding out said “When the bombs were dropped my recollection was, God, is that what we were doing here? Did we get poisoned??” Hanford officials told the workers the amounts of radiation released were totally harmless. 

During World War II the urgency of the Manhattan Project put tremendous pressure on the staff at Hanford, but after the Japanese surrender the levels of secrecy and also the risks the workers and public were exposed to had rather murky reasoning. One possibility has been brought up by some historians that Japan had already prepared to surrender and only surrendered to the US after negotiations with the Soviets broke down. This historical theory makes the bombings more about the beginnings of the cold war and less about ending WWII. This could explain why Hanford continued under heavy secrecy.

Workers were under great pressure to not question or say anything. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) were heavily involved in workplace rumor control and potential information leaks. Asking too many questions or talking too freely about goings on at Hanford could lead to a swift dismissal of the worker. Asking too many questions was socially unacceptable.

Strange things happened in the area over the years. Alligators escaped from the animal lab into the river. One was later caught by a local fisherman who had it taxidermied. Hanford officials found out, found the trophy displayed at a local store and confiscated it. Radioactive flies set off sensors, it took days for security staff to determine it was the flies causing the readings.

After the war ended Hanford was transferred to civilian control but kept the top secret rules and procedures. Rumors about Hanford’s radiation danger began circulating by 1945. In the 1950’s and 1960’s local media began to ask questions and some accidents were exposed.

Officials at Hanford always knew that people would file lawsuits once they knew what Hanford was doing. Hanford did have exposure limits which were often ignored, accidents happened, scientists didn’t fully understand the implications of some of what they were doing only to later learn the danger it posed. Instead of trying to change things at Hanford, more cover up happened. Government and private sector officials at Hanford colluded to cover up the nature and extent of what was going on and the impact on the public. In later years officials would change how or where samples were collected in order to make releases appear to be less than they really were. Scientists that worked for companies hoping to secure contracts with the Atomic Energy Commission would give favorable scientific statements about Hanford.

Hanford officials knew some of the risk, they tracked the weather to assure radioactive emissions would blow away from the plant. Much is still not known about the events at Hanford during the production years. With both WWII and the Cold War over, claims of national security seem less valid. 

Check back tomorrow for part 4, The radioactive releases and exposures at Hanford


Series bibliography and additional reading:
Hanford’s fallout: increased thyroid risks – Hanford Nuclear Site, Washingtonhttp://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_n3_v138/ai_9227959/

Hanford Nuclear Site Wiki

Members of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments November 6, 1994 “An Analysis of the Green Run

Green Run Wikipedia Entry

Hanford Challenge

NYT Radiation Flowed 200 Miles to Sea, Study Finds Published: July 17, 1992http://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/17/us/radiation-flowed-200-miles-to-sea-study-finds.html

Hanford Animal Studies of Radioiodine Radiat Prot Dosimetry (1995) 60(4): 295-305R.O. McClellan

Meeting about beryllium exposure set for Monday By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

The release of radioactive materials at Hanford

US to access the harm from Hanford

Tri Cities Washington Wiki

Physicians for Social Responsibility

US to access harm from Hanford

Fukushima 1 Nuke Plant: 154 Terabecquerels per day, every day

Greg Mitchell, Countdown To Hiroshima – Article Series at The Nationhttp://www.thenation.com/blogs/media-fix

More Reading:

Hanford Downwinders Group

Hanford downwinders

Hanford Challenge:

The Hanford Downwinders Information Site:

Downwinders United:

Hanford environmental reporthttp://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/environmental/2009ar.pdf

Hanford thyroid CDC study

Scientist review of the CDC reporthttp://www.downwinders.com/files/htds_expert_report.pdf

National Acadamies of Science documents on Hanford

Physicians for Social Responsibility on Hanford and underestimated doses

EPA decontaminationhttp://www.epa.gov/osp/presentations/homesec11/hs_Snyder2.pdf

Oxford journal on animal testing at Hanfordhttp://rpd.oxfordjournals.org/content/60/4/295.full.pdf

Animal testing at Hanford, carcasses found

Hanford and Idaho admitted research studieshttp://hss.doe.gov/healthsafety/OHRE/roadmap/experiments/0491docc.html

Hanford article – lots of datahttp://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_n3_v138/ai_9227959/

Data on downwinders, bomb tests data and Hanfordhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downwinders

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists – Making Warheads
Google Books

Hanford cover upshttp://www.hanfordchallenge.org/cmsAdmin/uploads/1992_Atomic_Deception_HEAL.pdf

Radiation releases

Downwind bomb tests Utah – results on lambshttp://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/utah_today/nucleartestingandthedownwinders.html

Nat Cancer Inst on iodine cancers

Iodine uptake into cows milk

Environmental data study – fish – veggies etc

Heart of America Northwest – Hanford Cleanup

Hanford Watch

Community-Based Participatory Health Survey of Hanford, WA, Downwinders: A Model for Citizen Empowerment

FDA iodine guide

Wiki on protective iodine

WHO rad iodine standardshttp://m.zimbio.com/Potassium+Iodide+Pills/articles/WbZrBFWtQM4/Japan+must+distribute+iodine+tablets+now+expert

CRIIRAD – iodine ingestion totals

Thyroid Cancer: a comprehensive guide to clinical management
Google Books

Secret Fallout online by Ernest Sternglass with a section on Hanford:

Killing Our Own online by Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon

Some Hanford incidents:

Hanford environmental testing
http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/rp-publ.htm#envradHealth Safety Security





Photos of Hanford


documents FOIA

Admin records, public info

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