WTP, DOE, EPA, RCRA, TPA – just some of the hundreds of acronyms the Hanford-savvy employ in conversation. The cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Site has to be one of the most enigmatic and intimidating topics I’ve come across. With a history extending back almost seventy years, and the presence of tribes on the land for thousands of years before that, it’s hard to even know where to begin learning about Hanford. Just understanding which agencies and contractors do what on the site seems to be an enormous challenge, let alone getting a grasp of the complex technical issues of waste storage and treatment on the site.
How are young people supposed to feel empowered to get involved in Hanford when we have so much learning to do on such an infinitely complex topic? We are, as the title of this blog conveys, inheriting a immense project that hugely impacts the future health of our communities and ecosystems. It is imperative that the voices of young people be heard, and that we learn enough about the goings-on at the Hanford site to speak up.
As I become more involved in Hanford issues, I have found a few particularly helpful places to turn to learn about Hanford. The first is a 2007 documentary called Arid Lands, which beautifully examines the ecosystems and communities around the Hanford Site, a land “marked by conflicting perceptions of wilderness and nature.” Information on purchasing the documentary is available here.
A second resource that has been helpful for contextualizing the Hanford cleanup is Hanford Cleanup: The First 20 Years, which was released by the Oregon Department of Energy in 2009. It is a long document, almost 200 pages, but I have found that it is one of the more comprehensive, accessible histories of the Hanford cleanup.
Of course, nothing beats the opportunity to talk to Hanford experts firsthand. The opportunities I’ve had to listen and ask questions from folks who have been around the Hanford Site for a long time have been integral to me understanding the site. If you are a young person interested in learning more about the Hanford cleanup, the Inheriting Hanford Mentorship Network will connect you with some amazing Hanford veterans who have volunteered to pass on the information they have on the Hanford site and answer questions that you may have.
by: Emily Bays