Kim Stringfellow

Safe As Mother’s Milk: The Hanford Project

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is located on 565-square-miles of desert in southeastern Washington State near the Tri-Cities area of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. For more than forty years, Hanford released radioactive materials into the environment on an uninformed public while producing plutonium for the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War era. Although the majority of the releases were due to activities related to production, some were also planned and intentional. Hanford workers, their families and other downwind residents became literal guinea pigs for radiation experiments that were carried out at the facility by the former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense, and civilian sub-contractors including DuPont and General Electric from 1944 to 1972. Although civilians were informed of Hanford’s plutonium-production activities by the end of World War II, officials in charge kept secret the growing number of radioactive releases, experiments and other environmental safety hazards resulting at the facility. During the mid-1980s, increasing public suspicion over Hanford activities forced government agencies and their civilian sub-contractors to release formally classified documents through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. With the release of these documents in 1986, the public has been able to piece together a devastating chronicle of atomic weaponry production that consequently poisoned the people it was ironically meant to protect. Thousands of area residents from towns and farms surrounding the Hanford Site and beyond have suffered an array of health problems including thyroid cancers, autoimmune diseases and reproductive disorders that they feel are the direct result of these releases and experiments. Safe as Mother’s Milk examines these important events through declassified historical photographs, media and documents available online at various government archives, including the Hanford Declassified Document Retrieval System and Human Radiation Experiments Information Management System (HREX).

Kim Stringfellow is an artist and educator living in San Diego, California. She teaches multimedia at San Diego State University. Her work addresses ecological, historical and activist issues related to land use and the built environment through hybrid documentary forms involving, but not limited to digital media, photography and installation. Project grants include the by Creative Work Fund, Seattle Arts Commission, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Exhibitions include ISEA-04, SIGGRAPH, and SF Camerawork.