Tuesday, December 04, 2012

1949 Nuclear Experiment is an Ugly Legacy of Hanford: "Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Southeastern Washington Deliberately Experimented on Residents in the Area"

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1949 Nuclear Experiment is an Ugly Legacy of Hanford:

By Susan Cundiff and Patricia Hoover

     Many of us in the timber-rich Northwest are familiar with such terms as “pulling the green chain” and fresh-cut “green” wood. But how many know the term “Green Run?” Never heard of it? That’s because it was a secret.

On Dec. 2, 1949, officials at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington deliberately experimented on residents in the area by releasing raw, irradiated uranium fuel. It was the largest known single incident of intentional radioactive contamination ever. It’s come to be known as the Green Run; in this case “green” meant “uncured.”

Normally, radiated fuel would be cooled for 83 to 101 days to allow some of the short-lived radioactive materials to decay before releasing those materials into the environment. For this test, officials waited a mere 16 days and did not filter the exhaust.

Over a seven-hour period, 7,780 curies of iodine-131 and 20,000 curies of xenon-133 were released. To put these numbers in perspective, the Three Mile Island accident released between 15 and 24 curies of radioactive iodine. Women and children were evacuated, and milk was impounded.

During the Green Run, Air Force planes measured the deposits of iodine-131 on ground vegetation within a 200- by 40-mile plume that stretched from The Dalles to Spokane. Vegetation samples taken in Kennewick, Wash., revealed nearly 1,000 times the acceptable daily limit of iodine-131.

Citizens in the area routinely accepted unusual practices devised by Hanford officials as natural and patriotic: urine samples were left on porches for pick-up, schoolchildren went through whole-body counter scans, and men in white coats palpated students’ throats around the thyroid gland.

As thyroid disease and cancer rates rose among the populations of Richland, Wash., The Dalles, Hermiston and the surrounding countryside, the public began to question the safety of Hanford’s practices. They were assured that “not one atom” had ever escaped from Hanford and that it was as “safe as mother’s milk.” Of course, if mother is contaminated, her breast milk is, too — as is the milk from dairy cattle in the area, the salmon in the river, and vegetables and fruit from the farms and ranches nearby.

With all their collected data, officials had to know the health consequences. And still the deception continued. . . .

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