Our hot legacy

  • Hanford's B Reactor was first plutonium-production reactor in world

    R. Del Tredici
  • Plutonium kept under negative pressure and handled through glovebox

    R. Del Tredici
  • Duplicate outer casing of Nagasaki bomb in desert of Alamagordo, N.M.

    R. Del Tredi

"Where and how will we treat and dispose of the backlog of wastes from nuclear weapons production? How clean is clean? Should we exhume large volumes of contaminated soil in order to allow for unlimited use of the land in the future? To foster a sustained and informed public debate on these and other critical questions, we created this book. In it we use photographs as well as facts and figures, because only this combination can begin to convey the scale, the complexity, and the reality of the legacy we face ..."

* From the introduction to the Department of Energy's Closing the

Circle on the Splitting of the Atom

The story might be told with photos alone; there is the oddly graceful starburst of a plutonium particle embedded in lung tissue, seemingly endless rows of toxic waste drums, and workers, dressed like spacemen, hands encased in clumsy gloves. But the story is also told in clear prose. From the Manhattan Project to the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons production has taken from the United States a staggering environmental toll. As part of an ongoing attempt to earn trust and include the public in its decision-making, the Department of Energy has published a 105-page book, Closing the Circle on the Splitting of the Atom. It examines, as the subtitle says, "The environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production in the United States and what the Department of Energy is doing about it." The book should interest residents of the 32 states near the 137 contaminated facilities, and it should be of particular interest to people in the Intermountain West, where most of the nuclear weapons facilities are located. Many of the storage facilities spread over 3,000 square miles are aging and inadequate, and records of what is buried where are incomplete. This chastening history, authored by Jim Werner, Jenny Craig and Peter Gray, includes a glossary, photos by Robert Del Tredici, and suggestions for further reading. For a free copy, call the DOE at 1-800/736-3282.
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