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.”
According to Water.org, which works to improve access to safe water and sanitation, just 43 percent have access … » More …
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.
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 …
Kathleen Flenniken ’83 describes and reads from her second collection of poetry Plume, published by the University of Washington Press in 2012, in this video produced by her son Alexander Flenniken ’11.
Set off by images of the Atomic City, Flenniken’s hometown of Richland, Washington, she documents her coming of age and eventually her work at Hanford in the heart of the nuclear age.
Recently Flenniken was named Washington’s poet laureate for 2012-14. She teaches poetry and is a co-editor and president of Floating Bridge Press. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
“When President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the go-ahead for the Manhattan Project, he set in motion an extraordinary collaboration amongst scientists and the military to develop an atomic bomb, driven by fears of Hitler’s creating one first. Whether or not the eventual dropping of the bombs on Japan was necessary to end the war in the Pacific will probably never be resolved. But the bomb undoubtedly changed the world, as well as the cultural, historical, and physical landscape of southeastern Washington.”