Atomic Frontier Days

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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 in eastern Washington 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 the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. 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 is a distortion of 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, the story of Hanford and the Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick illuminates 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