Atomic Frontier Days

Hanford and the American West

John M. Findlay and Bruce W. Hevly

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Environmental Studies; Pacific Northwest
  • Bibliographic information: 384 pp., 34 illus., 2 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Published with: Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest
  • Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
  • Contents

Outstanding Title by Choice Magazine

On the banks of the Pacific Northwest's greatest river lies the Hanford nuclear reservation, an industrial site that appears to be at odds with the surrounding vineyards and desert. The 586-square-mile compound on the Columbia River is known both for its origins as part of the Manhattan Project, which made the first atomic bombs, and for the monumental effort now under way to clean up forty-five years of waste from manufacturing plutonium for nuclear weapons. Hanford routinely makes the news, as scientists, litigants, administrators, and politicians argue over its past and its future.

It is easy to think about Hanford as an expression of federal power, a place apart from humanity and nature, but that view distorts its history. Atomic Frontier Days looks through a wider lens, telling a complex story of production, community building, politics, and environmental sensibilities. In brilliantly structured parallel stories, the authors bridge the divisions that accompany Hanford's headlines and offer perspective on today's controversies. Influenced as much by regional culture, economics, and politics as by war, diplomacy, and environmentalism, Hanford and the Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick illuminate the history of the modern American West.
John M. Findlay is professor of history at the University of Washington. His focus is social and urban history. Bruce Hevly is associate professor of history at the University of Washington. His focus is history of science and technology.

"Atomic Frontier Days captures one of the most interesting and controversial places in the American West in all its surprising particularity. Technologically sophisticated, shrewd, at once analytically unflinching and generous, it belongs on the short list of books necessary to understand the West and its complicated relation to the nation."
-Richard White, author of The Organic Machine

"This richly detailed study takes us beyond big government programs and corporate contracts to show people coping with the intricate dance of science and technology, warfare and welfare, the mess of making bombs and the business of cleaning up."
-Virginia Scharff, Center for the Southwest, University of New Mexico

"Professors Findlay and Hevly have written an important and compelling book. It is a must-read for anyone interested in and concerned about this nation's nuclear legacy, with many lessons applicable to future uses of nuclear energy."
-Keith Benson, University of British Columbia

Plutonium, Production, and Pollution
Hanford's Career as Federal Enclave

The Atomic City of the West
Richland and the Tri-Cities

The Politics of Hanford
Warfare and Welfare

Hanford and the Columbia River Basin
Economy and Ecology

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Note on Sources
Abbreviations Used in Notes
Bibliographic Essay

"An outstanding contribution to our knowledge of the Atomic West and its role in the nation's history. Equally important, the authors provide an important corrective to recent historical accounts of the topic."
-George E. Webb, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Fall 2011

"Their coauthored work effectively blends the history of the nuclear complex with the histories of environmentalism, community identity, regionalism, and politics . . . Atomic Frontier Days pushes the boundaries of atomic bomb history into new, exciting directions."
-Jason Krupar, Technology and Culture, Vol. 53 July 2012

"Atomic Frontier Days goes beyond simplistic narratives of a triumph or tragedy. . . . Unlike many histories of the American nuclear weapons programs, which tend to focus on the secret and isolated nature of the enterprise, this book situates Hanford firmly in a regional, political, social, and economic context."
-Andrew Jenks, Southern California Quarterly, Spring 2012

"The book is richly informed by primary sources. It may well be the definitive treatment of Hanford and its ongoing controversies."
-Michael L. Johnson, Journal of American History, June 2012

"[Findlay and Hevly] chronicle the legacy of the atom and how the citizens of this unique region coped with war, economic and ecological challenges, and dependence on federal largesse and corporate power."
-Robin Lindley, Pacific Northwest Inlander, April 2012

"The account is well organized and written, and the scholarship is superb and well documented. . . . An excellent resource for those interested in or studying the influence of technology on urban communities. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
-Choice, December 2011

"It's an informative, detailed view of the complicated forces that created and shaped Hanford, and how that is not entirely atypical of how the West was won and sometimes lost."
-Knute Berger, Crosscut, September 2011

"It lays out the roller-coaster of boom and bust cycles as Hanford struggled to stay relevant and the community attempted to maintain a solid economic footing-a process that continues today . . ."
-Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald, July 2011