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.
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.
Carol Roberts moved to Hanford with her family in 1944 after her father was hired by DuPont to work as an electrician on the B Reactor. In this interview, she vividly describes life in Richland during the Manhattan Project. Roberts mentions local segregation, dust storms, the housing, social opportunities, and the challenges women faced in raising a family. Roberts champions the role of women in local history, including Leona Marshall Libby’s work on the B Reactor. She also details the founding of the local hospital and library, and recounts the takeoff of the “Day’s Pay,” the bomber funded by Hanford workers as part of their contributions to the war effort.
Virginia Ballard was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Her parents immigrated to the US from Scotland. In 1944, Ballard’s family moved to Richland, Washington where her father worked for DuPont. After attending college, Ballard went to work for GE and Exxon Nuclear. Her last job before retirement was as executive secretary to the manager for Siemens. Ballard had two children – Bruce and Diane – with her husband Del. In this interview, Ballard discusses her family’s relocation to Richland and her experience living there as a teenager. In particular, she talks about the high school she attended and recreational activities for teenagers at the time. Ballard also describes the town of Richland and its economy. She explains social and economic changes that occurred before, during, and after the war. Commenting on the secrecy of the scientific activity going on at Richland, Ballard shares that the dropping of the bomb came as a surprise to residents of Richland, but their reactions were positive and they expressed great pride in the work of their fellow residents. She hopes that the Hanford area and B Reactor will be preserved as an important historical site.
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.
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.
Jackie Peterson is an independent curator and exhibit developer in Seattle, Washington. She curated an exhibition called “The Atomic Frontier: Black Life at Hanford” at the Northwest African American Museum from October 2015-March 2016. In this interview, Peterson describes the exhibition and what she learned about African American experiences at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. She explains how African Americans came to the Tri-Cities, the kinds of work they were able to obtain, and the (largely informal) segregation they faced. She also contrasts how African Americans and Japanese Americans were treated by the federal government during World War II.
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.
Dr. Henry Frisch is a professor of physics at the University of Chicago. He is the son of David Frisch, who worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. In this interview, Frisch discusses the University of Chicago’s role in the Manhattan Project and how leading figures at UChicago advocated for civilian control of atomic energy. He also shares some of his father’s stories from Los Alamos, and reflects on the challenges of addressing nuclear weapons today.