Daughters Of Hanford | KUOW News and Information

Daughters Of Hanford

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is a mammoth, 586-square-mile chunk of desert earth in southeast Washington state. It became a secret site for refining the plutonium needed for nuclear weapons during WWII and the Cold War. Now, Hanford is a boneyard of some of the earth’s nastiest chemicals and radioactive waste. Women have shaped Hanford’s history and they are actively involved with today’s cleanup. But their stories haven’t been told as often, or broadcast as loudly.

In Daughters of Hanford, public radio correspondent Anna King, photographer Kai-Huei Yau and artist Doug Gast highlight the underrepresented women’s perspectives of the nuclear site in twelve radio pieces and complementary portraits. The Daughters project culminates in an interactive art exhibition at The REACH in Richland, Wash.

Daughters Of Hanford Wins History Award

Aug 1, 2016

A woman meets a mysterious stranger as she studies declassified documents about one the most polluted sites on earth.

Three generations of women are part of a family whose lives, health and even high school mascot bear markers of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington state.

The Washington State Historical Society recognizes these stories, and the entire project Daughters of Hanford, with the 2016 David Douglas Award.

In 1944, the U.S. pinned its hope on a secret project to win World War II. The government was counting on the B Reactor at Hanford in southeast Washington state to make enough plutonium in time. One of the physicists working against the clock was a 24-year-old woman: Leona (Woods) Marshall Libby.

About 10,000 people visit southeast Washington state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation every year. And after a few hours on the bus, some are dazed like tourists who’ve seen one Italian cathedral too many.

On those tours, they have guides. But even folks who don’t come to Hanford’s physical site have a "tour guide" -- someone who can translate the language of Hanford and its nuclear legacy: Liz Mattson.

Wherever she was, she stood out for being half white, or half Japanese. Shirley Olinger will only whisper the racist names she was called as a girl.

In 1987, late in the Cold War, in a government reading room in Richland, Washington, a historian was studying newly released documents about the Hanford nuclear reservation. Then, a strange man approached her.

Geochemist Frannie Smith would like to see more girls get into science like she did. Women make up only about 25 percent of geoscientists in the U.S. and only a quarter of all the scientists or engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington state are female.

For the fifth time in 15 years, the state of Washington is fighting the federal government in court over Hanford cleanup. The state’s top cleanup watchdog in Richland -- who grew up just downstream from the nuclear site -- plays a major role in that case

In southeast Washington state, a group of farms has been frozen in time. It’s at Hanford, the area the federal government took over to make plutonium during World War II.

In the West, there aren’t a lot of black woman geologists who specialize in uranium deposits and groundwater. Zelma Maine Jackson landed far from her home state of South Carolina, but drilled into life in the West.

For decades Patty Murray’s image has been the working mom of the U.S. Senate. Agree with it or not, she’s brought home the bacon: Murray’s funneled billions of federal dollars into Washington state and especially to the Hanford nuclear site.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington is one of the most contaminated places on earth. It’s also one of the most sacred landscapes for Northwest tribes.

When Sue Olson started working for the U.S. Army Corps as a young woman, she first heard about Hanford in an urgent message. “Don’t come to Hanford -- it’s rattlesnakes, sagebrush and dust storms.”

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is one of the most contaminated sites on earth. And Susan Leckband is using her natural curiosity to help clean it up.