I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, home to Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, which refined uranium for the first atomic bombs developed during World War II. The radioactive waste was later dumped at the West Lake Landfill, 20 miles away from my childhood home. I became aware of these facts only recently, when I began doing work related to a more notorious waste site: the Hanford Nuclear Site. As an outsider, it is challenging to understand Hanford. It is large, complicated and presents its own extensive list of acronyms and indecipherable technical waste terms and processes. Despite the steep learning curve, it is essential that we gain a basic understanding of Hanford.
Many in the younger generations, myself included, did not grow up learning about the legacy of nuclear waste. This oversight of the education system is unfortunate, because Hanford cleanup is an intergenerational issue. Newer generations are burdened and tasked with the cleanup, like a family heirloom being passed down from generation to generation. We did not ask for it, but the consequences of doing nothing are too dire. Therefore, younger generations must invest time in learning about Hanford, because it will soon demand a new wave of cleanup champions.
Miya Burke, Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper Hanford Cleanup Intern