Architect, photographer, and alumnus Harley Cowan photographed Hanford Site as part of a fellowship to document the historic location, now part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
Read more about Cowan and the project.
Photos by Harley Cowan
In the embers of an ancient winter day, a Swedish scout scrambles up the hill of snow-covered boulders, hurrying over the slippery ground between them along a narrow path. His panting breath trails after him until he stumbles through the castle gate gasping, “Vandals on the riverbank! Bandits to the east!”
The heavy palisade slams shut behind him as men rush to position along a glinting rock wall. From 150 feet above the valley floor, they watch as silhouettes begin scaling the boulders below. With a signal, arrows and stones rain down upon them, yet the marauders advance, dragging their weapons or clenching them in … » More …
Growing up in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, Yonas Demissie never suffered from lack of access to clean water, but he knew from a young age that it was a serious problem in most parts of his home country.
He remembers reading news and watching documentaries about the droughts and related famine that still impact Ethiopia.
“Why can’t a three-year-old eat his breakfast?” the young Demissie would ask his parents and teachers. “A society should not have an excuse for a child to go hungry.”
Atomic Geography: A Personal History of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Melvin R. Adams
WSU Press: 2016
One of the first environmental engineers at Hanford recalls his two decades of study of both the toxic soil and water at the nuclear site, and the wildlife and plants that thrive on the 586 square miles of central Washington desert. Adams helped determine the initial scope of the soil cleanup at Hanford, among other projects there. He shares his perspectives on leaking waste storage, the obsession with safety, and the paradoxical nature of a place that’s a sprawling wildlife refuge and one of the most complex environmental … » More …
Sue Olson, 94, came to Richland in 1944 and worked throughout Hanford as an executive secretary. She also worked in the labs at Hanford, calculating the numbers from radioactive samples. Eventually, she landed a job working for the assistant general manager of Hanford, Wilfred “Bill” Johnson. She says back then, “It was all business to win World War II. And afterward, during the Cold War it was that way too.” She had top-secret clearance and locked her filing cabinet each night before going home.
Floating, glowing letters greet a group of high school seniors as the doors slide open: “Welcome to the Hanford History Museum, Class of 2035!” Inside, some students check out relics from 95 years back, such as a long radiation detector nicknamed “Snoopy,” lead-lined glove boxes for handling radioactive material, a soundproofed phone booth with numbers still scrawled in pencil. Others read posters telling stories of people who worked on the Hanford site in World War II or the Cold War.
The entire back wall flickers to life in a giant video, beginning with a wide view of the building at the entrance to the Manhattan … » More …
The silence is unnerving. Not another car in sight as I drive through the desolate Hanford nuclear area. The road unfolds in an eerie lacework of tarred concrete until finally I see it gleaming in the distance—the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO.)
LIGO is home to Earth’s most sensitive optical instrument, uniquely designed to intercept gravity waves. These elusive cosmic waves—or ripples in space-time—are so miniscule that Einstein thought them impossible to view and measure. And so far, he’s been right. Yet if detected, gravitational waves could transform our fundamental understanding of the universe.
They also, incidentally, play a starring role in the hit … » More …
Of all the troubling images evoked by the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, the plume of uranium-tainted groundwater seeping into the Columbia River comes near the top of the list. Millions of gallons of radioactive waste were processed at the site and, starting in the ’40s, government scientists detected it in the area’s groundwater.
One site, called the 300 Area, has a plume of several million gallons affecting a 3,000-foot stretch of the Columbia River shoreline. Monitoring wells and riverbank springs have had uranium levels in excess of drinking-water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The river provides drinking water … » More …
Near Vernita Bridge—where the Columbia River flows eastward on the “Hanford Reach,” and the Department of Energy signs forbid all access—and say:
Arid Lands Ecology Reserve
All Plants and Animals Protected
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Ask the sagebrush now to tell
What the river carried
In its waters to the sea.
Ask the river or the sun
What strange things were here begun,
What they all could well
Reveal, having witnessed what was done.
Here the mighty river’s run
On its westward journey to the sea,
Reaches toward the rising sun…
… » More …