Fallout: Reflections on the 60th Anniversary of the Trinity Test

It’s been 60 years since the Trinity atomic-bomb test started
the nuclear age, and the world is still haunted by ghosts from
far-off tragedies in Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
Witherup tells the story
of the lesser-known nuclear demons in
his hometown of Richland, Washington.

A former farming town along the Columbia River plateau, Richland
was sheltered by Manhattan Project secrecy and built by workers who
wanted to be a part of the war effort. Military officials had
farmers moved off their land and usurped part of the Yakama tribe’s
reservation for the creation of what today is the Hanford Nuclear

Witherup’s father moved his family to Richland and worked at
Hanford manufacturing the plutonium used in the Trinity A-bomb test
at White Sands, New Mexico, and later in Fat Man dropped on

Despite the toxic work environment and irregular hours, Hanford
workers believed that the government and various contractors like
DuPont, GE, and United Nuclear had employees’ ‘health in mind.’
They also held close the belief that the A-bombs were essential to
ending the war.

After 36 years at Hanford, Witherup’s father died of cancer, a
fate met by countless other workers, Native Americans who ate
salmon from the Columbia River, and those downwind from

Years after his father’s death and the end of the Cold War,
Witherup questions the current maintenance of nuclear weaponry and
what it means for his hometown. On a tour of Hanford’s B-reactor,
he reflects that the natural beauty of the Columbia plateau can’t
hide its legacy as a graveyard.
Grace Hanson

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Reflections on the 60th Anniversary of the Trinity Test

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