According to documents of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Hanford nuclear reservation routinely
released radioactive iodine wastes during the 1940s that gave major radiation doses to thousands of
civilians in the Pacific Northwest. The discharges were on a scale that today would be considered a major
nuclear accident, but the DOE said it cannot calculate the amount of exposure. Exposure is figured in part
on how much milk and leafy vegetables were raised and consumed in the area. Radioactive iodine is
absorbed by the body from air, food or drink, especially cows' milk. Radioactive iodine concentrates in the
thyroid gland, where the radiation can cause cancer or other problems. The previously secret information
was made public in response to questions from news organizations of the maximum possible exposure to a
hypothetical citizen of Hanford, Washington.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: doe; wa; hanford nuclear reservation; cancer; radiation; radioactive waste; iodine;