“Fat Man” was the codename for the atomic bomb detonated over Nagasaki by the United States on August 9th, 1945. The plutonium for the bomb was created at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington which is a little more than 200 miles from Portland. As a result of decades of producing materials for nuclear weapons, Hanford is one of the most polluted areas on earth. Engineers have been working to decommission nine nuclear reactors that were in operation from 1944 to 1987, carrying out weapons production. Hanford has had to deal with a sizeable amount of nuclear waste, 56 million gallons – enough to fill an American football field. Recently it has been revealed that there are six underground tanks leaking radioactive waste, which are among 177 other tanks buried at the facility. The U.S. Department of Energy has spent more than $16 billion since 1989 to clean up Hanford with the total cost reaching $130 billion dollars.
August 6th commemorates the anniversary of dropping of nuclear weapons on human populations. Oregon Physician’s for Social Responsibility a non-profit organization which works to protect human life from threats to health has partnered with local Nikkei and peace and justice organizations to remember these tragic events. Keynote speaker was, Kayla Godowa-Tufti, a member of the Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs, who talked about the effect Hanford had on native lands. Chuck Johnson, Director of PSR’s Joint Nuclear Power Task Force discussed the efforts to close the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant at Hanford which is the same model of plant that is experiencing a nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan. Twyla Malcho-Hay, winner of the 2013 Greenfield Peace Writing Scholarship, read her poem. Moderator for the event was Jeff Selby, former Portland JACL president who is working for the Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights. Invocation was given by Rev. Myosho Obata of Nichiren Buddhist Temple. Portland Taiko added its powerful drumming to open and close the event. Satori Men’s Chorus sang songs of peace and forgiveness. The evening concluded with a parade led by Rev. Obata and members of Portland Taiko to the nearby Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center to view Yukiyo Kawano’s Black Rain: Memories, Histories, Places, Bodies and Anna Daedalus and Kerry Davis’s Shadows which were their artistic responses to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The effects of the secret “Manhattan Project” are with us today. The U.S. Department of Energy released more than 19,000 pages of previously classified documents revealing that huge releases of radioactive materials from Hanford had contaminated much of the surrounding area and entered the Columbia River. This risk to our health is in our own backyard.
Article by: Portland JACL Board Member, Marleen Wallingford