Tanks in Trouble

Mike GeffreWhat happens when you combine free Indian Food, cakes shaped like Hanford reactors and waste drums, a dynamic line-up of speakers, Hanford trivia, and an audience of 140 people filled with equal proportions of college students and members of the public?  You get an AWESOME public meeting.

For the past two months I teamed up with Danny Noonan from WA Physicians for Social Responsibility and Professor Holly Barker’s Anthropology 40 person class focused on Hanford to design and produce Hanford: Tanks in Trouble, a public meeting about cleaning up Hanford’s tank waste.  Students broke into committees and picked class liaisons to coordinate with myself and Danny to make sure promotional and educational materials were being produced, the venue was set, food donations were secured, presenters were invited, and a set-up and tear-down crew was ready to be put to work the night of the event.

Students wanted a range of voices present at the meeting, so they asked Hanford Challenge to invite Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), DOE, the Yakama Nation, and a Hanford tank farm worker, to share their perspectives on Hanford’s tank farm cleanup effort.  The result was an exciting, energizing and interactive public meeting that performed double duty – generating discussion about critical issues in Washington State, and getting the next generation involved.

Students were motivated to get the word out about Hanford.  Tre Watson shared that, “As a student learning about Hanford, it is troubling that the most contaminated nuclear waste site in the western hemisphere is located in our state, but is unknown to the general public.”

Tre Watson and Thomas Tutogi emceed the event, inviting the Raging Grannies to kick off the evening with songs about Hanford’s leaking tanks, followed by a Hanford trivia game introducing participants to Hanford.  Tom Carpenter gave an overview of Hanford’s tank farms and was followed by Mike Geffre, a Hanford Instrument Technician and whistleblower; Russell Jimof the Yakama Indian Nation; Erika Holmes and Jeff Lyon from Ecology; Amy Fowler and James Chiang, UW Anthropology students; and Daniel Noonan of WPSR.  The presentations were followed by small breakout group discussions facilitated by students, and a Q and A with the panel of speakers.

Sad that you missed out?  Dry your tears and grab a bowl of popcorn! You can see Mike Geffre’s presentation about his work discovering the leaking double-shell tank AY-102, Russell Jim’s presentation about the Yakama Nation’s perspective, and the dynamic Q and A with all of the presenters, all kindly filmed and posted by Mike McCormick’s TalkingStick TV on YouTube.  You can also click through Erika Holmes’s PowerPoint presentation posted in pdf here and an FAQ website focused on Hanford’s leaking tanks.  Pictures from the event can be found here.

Big thanks to Shalimar Restaurant for the incredibly generous donation of an Indian buffet dinner, Tutta Bella for the delicious donation of Tiramisu, Sand Point Grill for the creative Hanford reactor cake and leaking waste tank cake, and the students in Anth 479B for donating pizza.  Great food makes everything more fun!

By: Liz Mattson

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