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Environment and Planning
00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Seattle Author's Downwinder Book Tackles Nuclear Contamination

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University of Nebraska Press

You might have heard of “Hanford Downwinders.” Now, a new book penned by a Northwest author tackles the stories of nuclear “downwinders” in the broader West.

“Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West” hits the shelves in November.

Sarah Alisabeth Fox found that radioactive contamination came from unexpected places. It would get onto workers’ clothes, it got in the air and it settled on crops hundreds of miles away. Crops that were served up on America’s dinner tables.

Her first book mashes-up the family folklore she collected over 10 years with the accounts in old government records.

Fox said one of the surprises in her research was how expert the families could be with little to no formal scientific training.

“We as ordinary citizens, we can look around us and see the impacts on our communities and talk coherently with our neighbors and point to things that concern us,” she said.

Fox’s book largely homes in on places impacted by the Nevada Test Site. Her latest research is taking her to Emmett, Idaho.

Sarah Alisabeth Fox will read from her book "Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West" at 7 p.m. on November 7, at Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 Tenth Avenue in Seattle. You can hear her read a page from the book below.