Unfortunately, there are few movies that focus specifically on the Hanford Site. The Hanford Story, available online, is a documentary about Hanford produced by the Department of Energy and its contractors. It focuses on groundwater, tank waste, the Hanford workforce, and the future of the Hanford Site. Though very helpful for background information, I found The Hanford Story to represent primarily DOE’s perspective, bringing little nuance to conversation about cleanup. Though lacking in critical discourse, the film does feature some wonderful shots of the wild areas around Hanford and the site itself.
Arid Lands is a documentary that focuses particularly on environmental issues around Hanford and the Tri-Cities, the cities adjacent to the Hanford Site. The filmmakers did a good job of exploring the intersections of agriculture, conservation, and economic development in the region. It is a thoughtful and captivating documentary that brings forth issues that see little discussion outside the Tri-Cities about the future of the site, surrounding communities, and the Hanford Reach.
In 2013, Oregon Public Broadcasting aired an hour-long special on Hanford. The documentary focuses primarily on the production era, when Hanford was still producing plutonium for nuclear weapons. One highlight of the documentary is the testimony from former workers about the culture of secrecy on site, which resulted in most workers not understanding exactly what they were doing at work each day. The end of the documentary does lightly touch upon the transition to cleanup, but would have benefited from more exploration of Hanford’s present and future.
A number of films also explore nuclear issues relevant to the Hanford. One of my favorites is Silkwood, an Academy Award-nominated film starring Meryl Streep and based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, a whistleblower at a nuclear fuel fabrication site in Oklahoma in the 70s. Silkwood was a labor organizer and worker’s health advocate who herself became contaminated with plutonium at work and later died under suspicious circumstances. Meryl Streep does an amazing job portraying such a dynamic, powerful character, with great accompaniment by Cher, who plays Silkwood’s best friend. The film does feature a mention of Hanford, and it is a good way to learn about an important, high-profile nuclear whistleblower case.
The Washington State Department of Ecology also has a comprehensive Hanford movie bibliography.
What are your favorite movies about or relevant to Hanford? Feel free to share in the comments.
by: Emily Bays