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Grant number: BH-50550-13

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NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101 (Spokane, WA 99223-7738)
Robert McCoy (Project Director: March 2013 to present)

Atomic West, Atomic World

Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers on Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and the Cold War.

Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers on Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and the Cold War. Robert McCoy and Jeffrey Sanders of Washington State University (WSU) lead this project centered on Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the principal site of plutonium production for atomic weapons during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. It is now the largest Superfund site in the United States, containing almost two-thirds of the nation's nuclear waste. McCoy is a public historian with expertise on memory and commemoration; Sanders is an environmental historian of the American West. Four core topics are explored: 1) The Race to Build the Bomb; 2) Making the High Tech "Atomic West"; 3) Living in the "Atomic West"; and 4) Environmental and Social Legacies of the "Atomic West." Visiting scholars include University of Washington's John Findlay and Bruce Hevly, who have co-authored two books on Hanford and the atomic West; public and environmental historian Andy Kirk (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), who connects Hanford and its environmental legacies with larger regional and national contexts; and Kate Brown (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), who provides both national and international perspectives on issues of human health at Hanford and similar sites in the former Soviet Union. Participants visit the historic Hanford B-reactor, which produced plutonium used in the first bomb tested at the Trinity site and in the "Fat Man" atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki; this site will ultimately become part of the larger Manhattan Project National Park. They also explore Hanford's history through "The Secret City Revealed" show at the Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science, and Technology (CREHST) museum. A docent-led boat tour of the Hanford Reach, the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, illuminates the role of the river and nearby Grand Coulee Dam in providing cooling water and abundant electricity to the reactors, as well as the nuclear complex's unintended legacies for this "off-limits" area (site contamination, but also protection from commercial development). Readings from a range of primary and secondary sources include oral histories from Hanford, the Nevada Test site, and the Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Project; Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb; Richard White's Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River; and works by guest faculty Findlay, Hevly, and Brown. With access to archival materials, teachers create individual projects related to their experiences. Resources from the program, such as recorded presentations with accompanying materials, are to be made freely accessible to educators nationwide through WSU's K-12 iTunes U site and the project website.

Project fields:
History, General

Landmarks of American History

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$177,000 (approved)
$169,367 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2013 – 12/31/2014