Pritikin: Hanford park history must include Downwinders via The Spokesman Review

The suffering of Hanford Downwinders exposed to airborne radiation must not be omitted from the stories told in the new Manhattan Project Historic National Park.

Admittedly, the stories of cancers, other serious disease, and death in those of us who were children in the path of Hanford’s radiation aren’t part of the picture of scientific triumph and national pride those in the Tri-Cities may wish to portray in the new park. Yet we are part of the truth of the human toll of the Manhattan Project, and of Cold War nuclear weapons production and testing.

The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wrote to the National Park Service arguing that the exhibits within the new park must reveal the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, and the fact that the bombings have continued to cause physical and psychological suffering to the survivors due to the aftereffects of radiation.

The production of those weapons at Hanford also created victims downwind. The 1945 Trinity test site at Alamagordo, New Mexico, where the first nuclear explosion occurred, also caused illnesses, and residents of the area around the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site were exposed to radiation, too. These are the three sites of the Manhattan Project park.

The new park should expand understanding of the specific harms to Japanese survivors (Hibakusha), American Downwinders and indigenous communities. Future generations can learn important lessons about environmental justice from exhibits at the proposed park.

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