The American Caliban (substitute) wrote,
The American Caliban

The Atomic Man Room

There's a room at Hanford that no one has entered since 1976. They went in today. The AP story about it is excerpted below. Hanford is the worst place in the U.S., a gigantic nuclear environmental disaster. It was our plutonium factory for many, many years. An acquaintance of mine worked there a long time ago, and a long time after that she turned bright yellow and spent a couple of years in bed with an unknown liver disease. Then she got better. Who knows why? When I drove through Washington state I passed Hanford's fence, which is some distance from where the real wasteland starts. The idea of "cleaning up" Hanford is humorous.

Let's salute Harold McCluskey for making it to 75, though. Tough bastard he must have been.

Workers in protective gear Thursday entered a long-sealed room at the Hanford nuclear reservation where the complex's worst contamination accident occurred nearly 29 years ago.

The August 1976 explosion contaminated several workers and resulted in one man being dubbed the Atomic Man. Radioactivity levels in the room were so high that Hanford workers only briefly entered a few times after the blast, and the room was sealed in 1989.

Thursday's entry began the process of evaluating the room's hazards and marked the next step in cleaning up the nation's most contaminated nuclear site.


The explosion blew out the quarter-inch-thick lead glass shielding workers, showering Harold McCluskey, a 64-year-old chemical operator, with nitric acid and radioactive shards of glass.

Within minutes, McCluskey inhaled the largest dose of americium-241 ever recorded, about 500 times the occupational standards for the element. Doctors isolated him for five months and injected an experimental drug to flush the isotope from his system. By 1977, his radiation count had fallen by about 80 percent.

When McCluskey returned home, friends avoided him and church members shunned him until his minister told people it was safe to sit with him, according to newspaper accounts. He died of natural causes in 1987 at age 75.
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