A COMPLEX ARRAY OF ISSUES resulted from Hanford's historical legacy of plutonium production. Many people who worked in or lived "downwind" from the Hanford facility strongly argue that the region's overwhelming number of thyroid diseases and terminal illnesses including a variety of cancers were most likely the direct result of Hanford's plutonium production activities. To date, the few individuals who have successfully litigated against the Federal Government have yet to receive any monetary compensation for their illnesses caused by Hanford's historical plutonium production activities. Although the highly anticipated Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS) released in 2002 did not actually deny that the downwinders' illnesses were caused by Hanford, it did suggest that it was "highly unlikely."

Native Americans in Hanford's shadow are now considered one of the hardest hit communities healthwise. Due to the traditional Native American subsistence diet, largely based on locally caught salmon and other species, many of the region's Indians were exposed to dangerous contamination levels from foods that have traditionally sustained them over hundreds of years.

Sites across the Hanford Reservation continue to exhibit newly found contamination; radioactive plumes inch closer to the Columbia River; a variety of wildlife are found to be radioactive—it is obvious that the environment will never be restored to its pre-atomic era state. Decisions made by a former generation determine the atomic legacy and future of Hanford.

This chapter focuses on the aftermath and long-term implications arising from Hanford's plutonium production activities on area Downwinders, Native Americans, and the surrounding environment.