Hanford Workers Broke Safety Rules For the Most Outrageous Reason
In the 1940s, Secret Scientific Shenanigans Were Quickly Squashed by Hanford Management.
There is a lot of nuclear waste buried in our backyard on the Hanford Site, which sits about 25 miles from Richland, and as most everyone in the Tri-Cities and the surrounding area know, Hanford was constructed to produce plutonium, plutonium that was used to develop the bombs that ended World War II. Post-war plutonium production ramped up in the 1950s during the Cold War and the nuclear arms race with Russia. In the late 1980s, production ceased and the cleanup era began.
Thousands of Items Are Buried on the Hanford Site
Throughout the years of production mode, millions upon millions of gallons of waste were produced and buried in tanks at the site. Hundreds of other known items such as train cars, vehicles, tools, and even contaminated animals are buried (800 Beagles) at Hanford.
Who Knew? Gamma Rays Tint Glass
Another item rumored to be buried includes rough-and-ready, "atomic sunglasses". According to stories from workers in the early days (the 1940s), some employees took it upon themselves to make their own sunglasses by exposing glass to deadly gamma rays. They took the clear glass from various items like bottles and clear ashtrays and exposed them to penetrating electromagnetic radiation in the active tanks.
It doesn't appear the process was very complicated - apparently, it involved lowering the glass down into the top of a storage tank, I'm assuming with a rope or string. The upper portion of the tank had the powerful gamma rays which tinted the glass, and ta-dah, they created "atomic sunglasses".
The Future Wasn't So Bright For Hanford Workers Who Broke the Rules
As the story goes, the unapproved sunglass experiment came to an abrupt end after someone lowered some glass (intended to make sunglasses) too far into a tank which set off the alarms. Supervisors confiscated the sunglasses, reprimanded the workers, and eventually processed the sunglasses as waste. So, I guess the future wasn't so bright for those who tried to secretly make shades at Hanford in the 1940s.
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