CONSEQUENCES OF RADIATION EXPOSURE (CORE):
To found an international museum focusing upon issues relating to the health effects of ionizing radiation.
CORE’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate understanding of the human toll of exposure to ionizing radiation from uranium mining, milling, or transport; nuclear weapons production, testing or use in warfare; nuclear reactor offsite releases and related radiation exposures.
Although there are museums and exhibits dedicated to nuclear weapons production and testing programs, none of them address the health implications of the nuclear era that we will present and examine in this unique museum.
As nuclear reactors continue to age, the probability of further disasters looms, and the numbers of people exposed will continue to increase. There will be in the future an increasing segment of the world attempting to manage nuclear materials, nuclear waste, and the health implications of radiation exposure.
CORE will serve as the means to coalesce radiation exposure health information currently held in disparate, geographically separated communities around the world. Through our collections, we will bring a voice to disenfranchised populations that often find themselves the chosen location of nuclear weapons production and testing sites, and the chosen placement of nuclear reactors. We will put special emphasis on racial and gender issues as they pertain to exposure health outcomes.
Letter - Downwinders’ Stories Must be Presented Prominently Within the Manhattan Project National Historical Park - submitted Aug 27, 2015
August 27, 2015
Downwinders’ Stories Must be Presented Prominently Within the Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Section 3039 of the Carl Levin & Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, Public L. No 113-291, directs the US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Energy to enter into an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) governing their respective roles in administering the facilities and areas under the DOE’s administrative jurisdiction that are included in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MPNHP).
We are fully aware that public feedback is currently directed to the high-level agreement (MoU) between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy that establishes the roles and responsibilities for the two agencies for the management of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park. We are convinced that the substantive issues we address in this letter, however, are of sufficient importance that they must be considered now and remain integrated at every stage as the MoU progresses.
According to Section 3039, a primary purpose of the MPNHP is “to improve public understanding of the Manhattan Project and the legacy of the Manhattan Project through interpretation of the historic resources associated with the Manhattan Project.”
One essential, albeit painful, attribute of the legacy of the Manhattan Project is the fact that the US Government knowingly placed its own citizens in harm’s way. Virtually all Manhattan Project nuclear weapons production and testing facilities, including the Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos sites included within the MPNHP, released radioactive isotopes into the ground, air, and water into unsuspecting neighboring, downwind, and downriver communities, resulting in cancers and other serious radiogenic diseases among many of those exposed.
We the undersigned respectfully request that the history of environmental contamination and resulting health effects, including cancers, fertility problems, genetic illnesses and early deaths among affected populations be included in the interpretive narratives told by the MPNHP. We are greatly concerned that the histories of those whose health has been damaged by the Manhattan Project and subsequent US Cold War nuclear weapons production and testing activities will be excluded from exhibits and materials presented by the Park. The grounds for this concern are self-evident. None of the atomic era museums in the United States, including the National Atomic Testing Museum in Paradise, Nevada; the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Los Alamos Historical Museum and the Bradbury Science Museum in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and the REACH Museum in Richland, Washington, include the health and life histories of radiation exposed communities of these sites.
DOE-sponsored interpretation at Hanford currently avoids all discussion of the human victims of nuclear weapons, and makes no mention of those who were killed or rendered profoundly ill through the Fat Man nuclear weapon dropped on Nagasaki and incorporating plutonium produced at Hanford. It is imperative that NPS interpretive signage engage directly and seriously with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rather than euphemistically refer to “winning the war” or “contributing to the national security mission.”
The stories of US Manhattan Project and Cold War Downwinders are painful to hear. They are the stories of ionizing radiation exposures that were never accurately measured, and of cancers and other serious illnesses that repeat from exposed community to exposed community. These are the stories of those our country has chosen to ignore.
Jeff Bingaman, former US Senator from New Mexico who got the ball rolling in 2004 with a bill to study the possibility of creating the historical park, said, “My view is it’s a very important chapter in the history of our country and the world. It’s hard to think of any initiative the federal government undertook that had more impact, other than going to war. And a lot of people growing up today have little knowledge about it. This national historical park is a way to educate people and keep them informed about what did occur.”
According to the draft MoU between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of Energy, “the National Park Service will have decision-making authority for the content of interpretation of the Manhattan Project for purposes of administering the Park.” Further, the MoU identifies the NPS as the lead on historic interpretation for the park.
It is our concern that, in the newly authorized MPNHP, the Department of Energy may wish to follow its demonstrated practice of emphasizing the scientific and military accomplishments of the Manhattan Project while silencing the histories of US citizens whose lives have been damaged in the process.
Heather McClenahan, director of the Los Alamos Historical Society, said the new park is a “valuable project for the entire world. Its history changed the world. We can always bury our heads in the sand, but it’s better to look at controversial history from as many perspectives as there are, then ask ourselves how we move forward.”
As the nation’s storyteller, the National Park Service “will look at multiple perspectives, broad stories that really aren’t told anywhere,” McClenahan added.
In 2008, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) agreed, at the behest of the NPS chief historian’s office, to undertake a study of “the state of history in the National Park Service.” The study report recommended NPS “emphasize connections of parks with the larger histories beyond their boundaries,” and to “forthrightly address conflict and controversy both in and about the past.”
Further, the authors found that one of the legacies of the NPS is the
“misperception of history as a tightly bounded, single and unchanging ‘accurate’ story, with one true significance, rather than an ongoing discovery process in which narratives change over time as generations develop new questions and concerns, and multiple perspectives are explored.”
We the undersigned are greatly concerned that, without public oversight, the NPS will be led by DOE interpretations of the public significance of the Manhattan Project, thereby straying from its recommended mission to forthrightly address conflict and controversy both in and about the past. We are greatly concerned that the MPNHP will become yet another in a line of DOE-affiliated atomic era museums and interpretative displays that abandons the very citizens put in harm’s way by the science and politics of the Manhattan Project.
We therefore recommend the following:
- That the NPS and DOE should ensure that its consultations on the MPNHP include Downwinder advocates, nuclear workers who were injured or exposed on the job, and the historians, anthropologists, and others who have studied the situation of these exposed populations. They should also include organizations throughout the region involved in the Hanford cleanup, as well as indigenous nations with a historical relationship with the site.
- That the NPS and DOE should actively solicit the views of exposed populations and workers (of both production and cleanup eras) during public comment periods and for all public involvement meetings about the MPNHP.
- That remote participation be made available for all future public comment meeting and other public involvement events, and that some of the events take place throughout the region affected by Hanford’s radioactive emissions.
- That these populations be included in any relevant oral history projects funded by DOE and NPS.
- That the history of social movements engaging in the consequences of the production and use of nuclear weapons– including anti-nuclear, anti-war, environmental, and Downwinder movements–be included in the NPS’s interpretation of the site.
- That at least one exhibit–using maps and other visualizations–on the historical radiation releases from Hanford be included in the MPNHP.