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.
Collene Dunbar first arrived the Tri-Cities in 1950. She spent her childhood there while her father worked in construction at the Hanford Site. In this interview, she recalls her experiences growing up, and describes local perceptions of Hanford. She details discrimination faced by African Americans, local agriculture, and how the area has changed over the years. Dunbar also recounts her time working in construction and maintenance in the 200 East Area at Hanford, and shares her impressions of how secrecy and security were maintained at the site.
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.
Michele Gerber is the author of “On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site” and served as the official Hanford Site historian. In this interview, she discusses her role as a local consultant on the Center for Disease Control’s research about the potential health effects of emissions from Hanford on residents. Gerber also describes her efforts to declassify the Hanford site documents. Additionally, she talks about how the United States learned the USSR acquired the bomb and explains the negative health implications of the Green Run test. She also discusses other sources of environmental pollution at Hanford, including in the soil and the Columbia River, and the health impacts on Downwinders.
Thomas E. Marceau is an archaeologist and cultural resources specialist at the Hanford site. In this interview, he discusses the geological history of the Hanford area and the Native American tribes that have lived in the area for thousands of years. He also highlights how the displacement of Native Americans has resulted in a cultural and historical crisis for these tribes, because their identities, lives, and communities revolve around the lands their ancestors inhabited. He emphasizes the importance of risk assessments of the Hanford land that include the perspective and concerns of Native American tribes.
John Attanas worked as a chemical engineer and supervisor for the E.I. DuPont Company during World War II. In his interview, he describes living and working on the Manhattan Project at both the Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA sites. He recalls witnessing the Trinity Test and DuPont’s attention to radiation safety, as well as working for the Air Force and General Electric after the war. He shares anecdotes about his parents, family, childhood and interests in chemical engineering. He also reflects on his interactions with Jewish refugees in Manhattan, the Bataan Death March, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This program was recorded at the 25th anniversary of the construction of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, in Hanford, WA. Leading Manhattan Project scientists, including Glenn Seaborg, John Wheeler, Lombard Squires, and Norman Hilberry, as well as its military leaders, General Leslie R. Groves and Colonel Franklin Matthias, participated in the ceremony. They discussed the start of the Manhattan Project, how the reactor’s site was chosen, the challenges of building the reactor and the chemical separations plant, and the different processes that were considered to separate plutonium. They also recalled the relationship between the military and civilian scientists and why they became involved in the Manhattan Project to help win World War II. They philosophized on the significance of nuclear power and its potential for future projects, from agriculture to space exploration.
Colonel Franklin Matthias was the officer-in-charge at the Hanford site. In the second part of his interview with Stephane Groueff, Matthias describes the personalities of the men he worked with, including Enrico Fermi and DuPont’s Granville Read. He recalls a visit by Fermi and Eugene Wigner to Hanford, and explains why Read got along well with General Leslie Groves. Matthias discusses the safety measures at Hanford, and recounts how a Japanese fire balloon temporarily knocked out power to the plant. He also explains how scientists conducted tests on salmon to assess levels of radioactive contamination in the Columbia River.
Walt Grisham grew up on a farm at Hanford in the 1930s. He was serving in the Air Force in England during World War II when his parents were informed that they would need to leave the farm – the site was being requisitioned for the Manhattan Project. Grisham recalls what life was like growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. He remembers picking fruit at the orchards, how neighbor helped neighbor, and the challenges of getting the fruit and produce to market. He talks about what the area and the Columbia River continues to mean to the people who were kicked off the land. He explains the history of Hanford and White Bluffs, and recalls walking across the Columbia River one winter when it was frozen solid.
Gabriel Bohnee is a Nez Perce tribal member and an environmental specialist at the Nez Perce Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Office. Bohnee became involved with the effort to clean up the Hanford site after learning about the site as an intern in 1993. Bohnee discusses his tribe’s connection with the land surrounding the Hanford site and the importance of the Columbia River and its resources for the Native Americans indigenous to the area. Bohnee also explains the importance of cleaning up the Hanford area so that future generations of Nez Perce can use the land and resources like they had in the past.