Investigative reporter Paul DeRienzo files the second installment of a series on an ecological disaster caused by massive contamination from the Hanford Site, a sprawling nuclear-reactor complex on the Columbia River in south-central Washington state.
The still-partially-functioning site, built in 1943, was where two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium was manufactured during World War II and the Cold War. It housed the world’s first plutonium-production reactor that produced much of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, including the nuclear bombs used against Japan. But the operation of its nine reactors, phased out between 1968 and 1987, has created the largest ecological disaster in the United States.
During those 40-plus years, DeRienzo says, a steady stream of industrial and radioactive waste created by the production of the element was dumped directly into the air, river and ground of the 586-square-mile reservation. “Now, the United States is faced with the largest cleanup in history, and little hope that it will totally succeed,” he says.
DeRienzo, working under a Polk Awards journalism grant, presents exclusively for Leid Stories Part 2 of his investigation: “The Hanford Site: America’s Fukushima.”