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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Tom Foulds’s Interview

Tom Foulds is an attorney who represented plaintiffs, or Downwinders, in the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Litigation. In this interview, Foulds recalls how he became involved in the litigation and describes how it unfolded over nearly 25 years. He discusses how Hanford area residents were exposed to radiation and the health impacts caused by such exposure. Foulds provides his perspective on the conclusion of the litigation.

Richard Eymann’s Interview

Richard Eymann is a founding partner and lead litigator for the Eymann Allison Hunter Jones Law Firm. He has been a plaintiffs’ attorney for nearly 35 years. In this interview, Eymann discusses his work with the Hanford Downwinder litigation, beginning in the 1980s. In total, Eymann represented 707 downwinders, over the course of 23 years of litigation. He explains how populations were exposed to radiation, and the health complications that occurred as a result to this exposure, primarily thyroid cancer. He describes the litigation, including the bellwether trials and the role of the Price-Anderson Act. Eymann explains the challenges the plaintiffs’ counsel faced in the litigation, and why he believes the compensation award was far too low.

Bob Cook’s Interview

Bob Cook is a nuclear engineer. In this interview, Cook discusses his long career with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and his work as a consultant for the Yakama Nation. He describes the problems he identified with the Basalt Waste Isolation Project. He also shares his opinions on the ethics of governmental decision making and risk assessments related to the health of Hanford-area residents.

Alexander Klementiev’s Interview

Alexander Klementiev was born in Moscow in 1942 and grew up in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As a student, he attended the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, where he studied radio physics and earned his Ph.D. He also served as a research fellow for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. In 1992, Klementiev immigrated to the United States. In this interview, Klementiev describes his work analyzing the mortality of those people who lived in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl reactor accident. He also describes his work estimating radioactive releases from the Hanford Site facilities and the lifetime risk of radiation-induced thyroid disease for the Hanford downwinders. Klementiev also discusses differences between the atmosphere of the United States and Russia.

Karen Dorn Steele’s Interview

Karen Dorn Steele is a journalist. As a reporter for the Spokesman-Review, she broke the story about the Green Run test, in which the U.S. government released radioactive gases in 1949 over areas surrounding the Hanford Site. Subsequently, she covered the Hanford Downwinder litigation, in which residents living around the Hanford Site sued the federal government over the health complications they suffered from as a result of radiation exposure. In this interview, she discusses how she discovered the Green Run through FOIA document requests. She describes covering the Downwinder litigation and her thoughts on how the trial was managed. Dorn Steele remembers meeting and interviewing some of the plaintiffs, and how their lives were impacted by the Hanford Site.

John Price’s Interview

John Price is an environmental manager who has been working on radioactive waste cleanup projects for more than 35 years. Currently, he is the Tri-Party Agreement Section Manager for the Washington Department of Ecology Nuclear Waste Program. In this interview, he discusses the Tri- Party Agreement and the role it plays in ensuring the cleanup of Hanford site. He also talks about the political and the technical problems the Department of Ecology, the US Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency face when trying to clean up the area.

Masao Tomonaga’s Interview

Masao Tomonaga is the honorary director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital and a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor. He studied internal medicine and hematology at the Nagasaki University Medical School. Currently, he runs a retirement home for older hibakusha. In this interview, Dr. Tomonaga discusses his experience surviving the bombing of Nagasaki. He outlines the immediate physical impacts the bomb had on people’s bodies, the long-term physical impacts, such as cancer, and the psychological harm. He also discusses the simulation Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted to see what a one-megaton nuclear detonation would look like in a modern city today.

Keith Klein’s Interview

Keith Klein has worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy since graduating from college. In this interview, he recounts the timeline of his tenure with the AEC and DOE. He held positions on their Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor program, nuclear waste disposal, and with Tritium production. Klein was active in the efforts to clean up the Rocky Flats plant site after the FBI raid in 1989 and coordinated the opening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He oversaw the DOE’s cleanup effort at Hanford, and was fundamental in establishing DOE’s Office of River Protection. Klein speaks to the current debate and myths surrounding nuclear waste cleanup, the challenges that remain and the progress that has been made, and his vision for the future.

John Fox’s Interview

John Fox is a mechanical engineer who worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Battelle. He later served as mayor of Richland, WA and president of the B Reactor Museum Association. In this interview, Fox recounts his experiences working at Hanford during the Cold War and the Korean War in the 1950s. He discusses the reprocessing ban instituted by the Carter Administration and the challenges that have caused delays in building the Vitrification Plant. He also describes the worker protections established at Hanford during the Manhattan Project, and his interest in environmental activities.

Tom Carpenter’s Interview

Tom Carpenter is a lawyer and the executive director of Hanford Challenge, a nonprofit watchdog and advocacy organization focused on the Hanford Nuclear Site. In this interview, Carpenter discusses founding the Hanford Challenge, and the struggle to enforce safety and environmental protocols at reprocessing plants in Cincinnati and Hanford. He describes the challenges of the cleanup effort at Hanford, including the waste tanks and the problems that have plagued the construction of the Vitrification Plant. Carpenter also shares his experiences of visiting contaminated areas in Russia between the late 1990s and 2005.