REPERCUSSIONS: Conclusions

THE ERA'S PAST PLUTONIUM PRODUCTION at Hanford continues to present grave consequences for current and future generations. The Cold War mentality stressed production at all costs and allowed acting political leaders, the military, scientists, and trusted health professionals to make poor decisions in regards to worker, public, and environmental health and safety at every nuclear research and production facility across the country involved with the project. An utter disregard for all living things was evident which created a mindset where institutional deception was fostered so radiation experiments and production could be carried out without public discourse or disclosure. Ultimately, attitudes like these threatened and continue to threaten fundamental issues of American democracy.

Although it is easy to criticize those involved in hindsight, it should be stressed that health repercussions resulting from radiation contamination were known and the precautions to counter their health effects were disregarded because "Production, not health and safety, was the first priority." As Michelle Gerber points out in On the Home Front, workers' families and area residents should have been located further away from the reservation. More importantly, could decisions regarding human and environmental safety at Hanford been made in a more and public and inclusive manner without threatening National Security?

In regards to the uncanny and overwhelming incident of illness and disease in the Hanford Downwinder population, I personally find it difficult to accept the uncommitted results of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study. Epistemological studies like these fail to take into account the inherent complexities of radiation exposure and illness, which differ from individual to individual according to a complex array of varying factors. In any case, class action lawsuits will continue to build and may take years to be heard while more people become ill or die waiting for answers and retribution.

Will we brush aside the issues at hand and let our government and corporate officials continue with reckless abandon when it comes to making decisions on the future of nuclear energy, atomic weaponry, and other long-term environmentally destructive industries? Or will we take charge and demand research and development of sustainable forms of energy that have the possibility to render nuclear energy and fossil fuels obsolete? With the previous Bush and now current Obama administration promoting nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster it is increasingly important that we become active, informed citizens that involve ourselves in government affairs and decision-making concerning nuclear weaponry and energy development while keeping in mind the past generation's nuclear follies.

— Kim Stringfellow 2012