Hanford Nuclear Reservation Becomes a Health Concern (Great Events from History II: Ecology and the Environment Series)
Article abstract: The first major study on the effects of radiation exposure on workers at Hanford Nuclear Reservation revealed high rates of cancer.
Summary of Event
Hanford Nuclear Reservation was created in 1943 on 5,700 square miles in southeastern Washington State to produce plutonium for the Manhattan Project, which was manufacturing the first U.S. atomic bomb. Although Hanford was promoted by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and its predecessors as a model of safety, area residents began to suspect otherwise by the 1950’s. In 1974 and 1977, studies of Hanford workers were released which showed a high incidence of cancer, but it was not until 1986, with the release of hitherto secret documents, that scientists were able to begin a comprehensive assessment of the extent of the contamination to population and environment.
By 1955, the Hanford facilities included eight nuclear reactors along with reprocessing plants, huge nuclear waste disposal trenches, and more than 150 large tanks for high-level nuclear waste. The AEC has only three major burial grounds and Hanford is one of them, along with sites in North Carolina and Idaho.
The first problems noticed by area residents were caused by the eight reactors, which were of the “single-pass” type: To keep the reactor cores from overheating, water from the Columbia River was diverted to pass over them and, after a period of eight hours or...
(The entire section is 1954 words.)
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