ATOMIC HARVEST by Michael D’Antonio


Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal
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 Downwind might be great for hunting, says Pulitzer-winning journalist D'Antonio (Heaven On Earth, 1991, etc.), but it's definitely not the place to be if you happen to live near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. In 1942, the US government chose a sere plain in eastern Washington to locate its principal nuclear-experimentation facility. Once the feds had secured the land from its residents (a nasty enough story in its own right, as D'Antonio makes clear), the scientists at Hanford managed, in less than two years, to put together the first atomic bomb. Shrouded in secrecy and exempt from outside monitoring, Hanford went its plutonium-enriching way with the advent of the cold war. But with a soaring cancer rate, infant mortality on a mean upswing, and the appearance of deformed sheep, a small number of locals demanded an accounting. Though stonewalled by the government and menaced by strangers, they kept digging, and it's their story that D'Antonio handles in thrilling fashion: how they secured secret documents, convinced the wary to speak out, and subverted the system from within (one of the principals was an inspector at the facility), all while under the watchful eye of the military establishment. What these citizens exposed was appalling: huge pools containing highly radioactive sludge; poisoned soil; vast airborne emissions of toxic gases (``in 1959, Hanford had released more radioactive iodine during every day of operation than the Three Mile Island accident had in total'')--and many of those living downwind will end up paying the highest price. Even in the notorious company of Love Canal, Three Mile Island, and Savannah River, Hanford can lay claim to the ugliest legacy of all--and D'Antonio chronicles it with such force that his pages fairly buzz with his outrage. (Eight-page b&w photo insert- -not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-58981-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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