George Warren Reed (1920-2015) was a chemist at the Chicago Met Lab during World War II. He primarily researched fission yields of uranium and thorium to determine their viability for a nuclear chain reaction. Reed was one of the few African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Reed talks with his son Mark Morrison-Reed about family life, sabbatical, the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., work on the Manhattan Project, retirement, and his positions at Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory.
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.
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.
Richard Rhodes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” “The Twilight of the Bombs,” “Dark Sun,” and “Energy: A Human History,” as well as more than twenty other books. In this interview, Rhodes expounds on the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inevitability of discovering nuclear fission, the development of the hydrogen bomb, nuclear proliferation and the Cold War arms race, and the relationship between the Soviet Union and United States. He also discusses his play “Reykjavik,” based on the 1986 meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
Gary Petersen is the former vice president of federal programs for TRIDEC, the Tri-City Development Council, which works to promote economic growth for Washington State’s Tri-Cities (Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland) area. Before TRIDEC, he worked at the Hanford site for Battelle, serving as news manager, and in the International Nuclear Safety Program at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In this interview, Petersen discusses the studies Hanford conducted in biology and health physics, the continuing cleanup of the Hanford site, and the future of radioactive waste disposal. Additionally, he discusses his involvement in producing the book Nuclear Legacy: Students of Two Atomic Cities, that looked at the connections between Richland, WA and Slavutych, Ukraine through the perspectives of American and Ukrainian students.
Bill Ginkel served as the Manager of the Idaho Operations Office for the Atomic Energy Commission. In this interview, he describes his experience working at the facility beginning in 1950. He recalls the pioneering work conducted at the laboratory and the occasional methodological divide between the scientists and engineers. He also explains the transformative effects the influx of nuclear scientists had upon the local community and the state, and why the area was referred to as “The Site.”
Roger Cloutier was born in North Attleborough, Massachusetts in 1930. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, he pursued a career in health physics. In 1959, he moved to Oak Ridge to work for ORINS, the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (now Oak Ridge Associated Universities, or ORAU), and went on to serve as director of ORAU’s Professional Training Programs. In this interview, Cloutier recalls his career at ORAU and describes the medical innovations he was a part of, including advances in the use of radioisotopes to treat disease. He gives a history of other programs at ORAU, and explains how ORINS was started at the suggestion of Manhattan Project physicist Katharine Way.
Charles Yulish has devoted his career to nuclear and environmental science. From an early age, Yulish fell in love with nuclear energy and set up a lab that received radioisotopes from the Atomic Energy Commission—who did not initially realize their samples were being sent to a high school student and his classroom lab. In this interview, Yulish remembers his teacher, who instilled in him a curiosity towards all things nuclear. He talks about his career in nuclear research—both public and private—throughout his 50 year career. He worked for many years for the United States Enrichment Corporation and its “Megatons to Megawatts” program. He also consulted with the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico, who wanted to set up a nuclear storage waste site on its land in the 1990s when the US government was considering such a program.
Frank Settle is an analytical chemist and professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University. He is the author of “General George C. Marshall and the Atomic Bomb.” In this interview, Settle discusses General Marshall’s life before, during, and after World War II. Settle also highlights Marshall’s leadership, his involvement with the Manhattan Project, and his lack of confidence in the atomic bomb. As a chemist, Settle also talks about the importance of chemistry in the Manhattan Project and his latest work on an atomic road map, part of the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues.
Martin J. Sherwin is a historian and professor at George Mason University, specializing in the development of atomic weapons and nuclear policy. With Kai Bird, Sherwin co-authored “American Prometheus,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this interview, Sherwin discusses Oppenheimer’s childhood, family life, and personality, including his love of the mountains of New Mexico, and his leadership at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He also discusses why Oppenheimer did not support building the hydrogen bomb. Sherwin reflects on the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, arguing that the atomic bombs were not necessary to end the war with Japan.