America's Chernobyl

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America’s Chernobyl

Richland, Washington is a company town that sprang up almost overnight in the desert of southeastern Washington. Its employer is the federal government, and its product is plutonium. The Hanford nuclear site was one of the Manhattan Project sites, and it made the plutonium for the bomb that devastated Nagasaki. Here, the official history is one of scientific achievement, comfortable houses, and good-paying jobs. But it doesn’t include the story of what happened after the bomb was dropped -- neither in Japan, nor right there in Washington State. On part one of our two-part season finale, we tell the largely-forgotten story of the most toxic place in America.


  • Tom Bailie is a farmer who lives in Mesa, Washington and a Hanford Downwinder.
  • Karen Dorn Steele is an investigative journalist who has been covering Hanford for 35 years.
  • Casey Ruud is a former safety auditor and whistleblower at the Hanford plant.


Yes, Cited has an album. Our brilliant composer Mike Barber put it together, and you can find it on his website and on Bandcamp. Check it out.

Plus, we have branded mugs. And we're doing a very simple giveaway. Write a review of Cited on Stitcher or Apple Podcasts, and then email me us a photo to I'll randomly pick three of the people who email me, and send you a free mug.

Key References

A State Dept. of Health. “Hanford Health Information Network.” Hanford and Public Health. Accessed July 26, 2020.

Alvarez, Robert. “The Legacy of Hanford.” The Nation, July 31, 2003.

Brown, Kate. “Downwinders: The Noxious Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site | Aeon Essays,” December 3, 2012.

———. Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Cannan, S. D. “History of the Plutonium Production Facilities at the Hanford Site Historic District - 1943 - 1990.” Technical Report. USDOE Office of Environmental Management, June 2002.

D’Antonio, Michael. Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America’s Nuclear Arsenal. Crown Pub, 1993.

Dorn Steele, Karen. “Hanford: America’s Nuclear Graveyard.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 45, no. 8 (October 1989): 15–23.

———. “Hanford’s Bitter Legacy.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 44, no. 1 (January 1988): 17–23.

Edelstein, Michael R. “Hanford: The Closed City and Its Downwind Victims.” Cultures of Contamination 14 (2007): 253–303.

“Fact Sheet: The Green Run.” Technical Steering Panel of the Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project, March 1992.

Fox, Sarah. “Rooting for the Bombers: Commemoration, Forgetting, and Ways of Knowing in Richland, Washington.” Manuscript, n.d.

Gerber, Michele Stenehjem. On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site. University of Nebraska, 1992.

Hacker, Barton C. The Dragon’s Tail: Radiation Safety in the Manhattan Project, 1942-1946. University of California, 1987.

Hanford: An Overview. UWTV, 2011.

Hanford Education Action League. Sordid Secrecy: The History of Hanford’s Deception. HEAL, 1992.

Investigations, United States Congress House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and. Safety at DOE Nuclear Weapons Facilities: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, October 22, 1987, and May 11, 1988. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988.

Japanese Sign Final Surrender | 1945 | World War 2 Newsreel, 2016.

Jenne, D.E., and J. W. Healy. “Dissolving of Twenty Day Metal at Hanford.” HANFORD WORKS, May 1, 1950.

Johansen, Bruce E. Resource Exploitation in Native North America: A Plague upon the Peoples. ABC-CLIO, 2016.

Kleinman, Daniel Lee. Science, Technology, and Democracy. SUNY Press, 2000.

Making The First Nuke - Hanford Site: Manhattan Project. OPB, 2017.

Nagasaki Bomb - 1945 | Movietone Moments | 9 Aug 19. AP Archive, 2019.

Nalder, Eric “HANFORD AUDITOR BREAKS HIS SILENCE -- RUUD BACKS UP REPORTS, EXPECTS REPRISAL:” Seattle Times, October 8, 1986, Third edition, sec. News.

——— “PORTRAIT OF A RELUCTANT WHISTLEBLOWER.” Seattle Times, October 12, 1986, Suday edition, sec. News.

Nelson, I.C. “Ringold (Farms)- A Hanford Environmental Study,” April 3, 1964.

Paas, H. J., and W Singlevich. “Radioactive Contamination in the Environs of the Hanford Works for the Period October, November, December, 1949.” Hanford Works, March 2, 1950.

Quigley, Dianne, Amy Lowman, and Steve Wing. Tortured Science: Health Studies, Ethics and Nuclear Weapons in the United States. Routledge, 2017.

“Safe As Mother’s Milk: The Hanford Project | Timeline.” Accessed July 26, 2020.

Sanger, S. L. Colonel Franklin Matthias’s Interview (1986). Accessed July 26, 2020.

Stammer, Larry B. “Safety Breach Closes A-Plant at Hanford - Los Angeles Times.” 19 1986.

The Manhattan Project Atomic Weapons Development, 2011.

Times, Special to the New York. “U.s. Affirms Errors at Hanford Nuclear Plant.” The New York Times, November 26, 1986, sec. A.

Accessed July 26, 2020. 


This episode was produced Gordon Katic and Polly Leger. With editing support from Acey Rowe. Nicole Yakashiro was our research assistant, and Aurora Tejeida was our fact-checker.

Our theme song and original music is by our composer, Mike Barber. Dakota Koop is our graphic designer. Our production manager is David Tobiasz, and executive producers are Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.

We’d like to thank historians Sarah Fox, author of "Downwind: A People's History of the Nuclear West," as well as Kate Brown, author of “Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters.” Check those out, and also check out Michael D’Antonio’sAtomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America’s Nuclear Arsenal.” These books were indispensable to us. You can find links to those and others things at But don’t read anything until you hear next week’s episode, because you might read some spoilers.

Thanks to the many others we talked to along the way-- including historians Linda M. Richards and Robert Franklin. As well as, Pat Hoover, Trisha Pritikin, Tom Carpenter, John Fox, and Maynard Plahuta.

This episode was funded in part by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. It’s part of a larger project on the politics of historical commemoration. Professor Eagle Glassheim at the University of British Columbia is the academic lead on that project.

Cited is produced out of the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. Cited is also produced out of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia -- that’s on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.