On this edition of Parallax Views, Joshua Frank, muckraking journalist extraordinaire and editor at Counterpunch, joins us to discuss his new book Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.
Joshua tells the story of the Hanford, Washington’s struggles with radioactive waste (which has led it to be dubbed “the most toxic place in America” by the EPA) and how, at a cost of $677 billion, became the most expensive environmental clean-up job in the in the entire world. Waste from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has led to contamination of the Columbia River and the land surrounding the reservation as well. Fish were found with radioactivity. The soil has been contaminated. And a single accident at Hanford could lead to explosive problems that, arguably, would amount to an American Chernobyl.
How did this all happen? We delve into how capitalism, imperialism, militarism, and racism fit into this tragic story and the ways in which contractors like Bechtel have perpetrated what Joshua refers to as a “profit-driven fraud”. Additionally, Joshua and I discuss the wrecking of Native American cultures and lands in relation to this story; the courageous whistleblowers who spoke about Hanford radioactive waste; the role of militarism, the Cold War, and big business in the story of Hanford; the left-wing anti-nuclear movement, criticisms of it from climate change/environmentalist activists/authors like George Monbiot, and Frank’s response to those criticisms; the connection between nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, and the weapons industry; why the late actress Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeves-starring Superman movies) received a special thanks at the end of the book; the poisoning of Hanford workers like Abe Garza; Hanford whistleblower Ed Bricker and the attempt to silence him through monitoring, harassment, and intimidation (including what Bricker’s lawyer Tom Carpenter referred to as an attempt to kill Bricker); Donald Alexander, a chemist (specifically) a chemist who worked at Hanford and had concern about the site’s waste treatment plan; the whistleblowing of Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, former Deputy Chief Process Engineer and Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation; the politics of the Hanford whistleblowers (they were not left-wing radicals; some were even rather conservative); Frank Russo, one of the villains of the story, and the Department of Energy; the secrecy of Bechtel; why the issues with Bechtel were not just a result of “a few bad apples” but something more systemic and structural; the “Green Run” covert military experiment in 1949 which involved the intentional release of radioactive material into the atmosphere (and thus onto the unsuspecting public); “The Quiet Warrior” Russell Jim, the Yakama Nation, and resistance to American militarism’s role in Hanford; Hanford within the context of the Cold War and the importance of that in light of the potential new Cold War between the U.S. and China; the U.S. military machine as the biggest polluter in the world; and more!
In the shorter second segment of the show, Yint Hmu of Win Without War joins us to discuss his article in The Hill entitled “A new nuclear weapons delivery system is the last thing the US needs”. Yint explains the potential problems with the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N) and its origins. Additionally, Yint discusses the mission and purpose of Win Without War, which seeks to promote a progressive vision of U.S. foreign policy, and it’s importance in an age of conflicts like the Russia/Ukraine war and the possibility of nuclear weapons being used in 21st century conflicts. All that and much more with guest Yint Hmu of Win Without War.