cover image Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal

Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal

Michael D'Antonio, Michael Dantionio. Crown Publishers, $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58981-6

Built in WW II to supply plutonium for the Manhattan Project, the federal nuclear installation in rural Hanford, Wash., is now undergoing a cleanup of more than 440 billion gallons of chemical and radioactive waste that is expected to cost some $1 billion a year for the indefinite future. No less staggering is Pulitzer Prize-winning News day reporter D'Antonio's sobering report on the ``four decades of pollution, secrecy and deceit'' at the nine-reactor, 570-square-mile site, whose officials allegedly put production needs over the safety of local populations. Focusing on several tireless activists, whistle-blowers and journalists, the author reveals how radiation-related health problems among animals and people prompted disclosures of plant mishaps and safety violations and how Hanford authorities deliberately failed to issue warnings when radioactive releases threatened public safety and the environment. The story has been covered in national media, but D'Antonio puts it into the context of the Cold War and such deceptions as the ``missile gap'' of the early '60s which defense secretary Robert McNamara later admitted was fabricated. The irony is that the local economy, once robust because of plutonium production, is booming again as the Hanford complex becomes a pioneer in developing the nuclear-waste cleanup technology needed here and in the former Soviet Union. (Nov.)