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Atomic Days
The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America

Once home to the United States's largest plutonium production site, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is laced with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. The threat of an explosive accident at Hanford is all too real—an event that could be more catastrophic than Chernobyl. 

The EPA designated Hanford the most toxic place in America; it is also the most expensive environmental clean-up job the world has ever seen, with a $677 billion price tag that keeps growing. Huge underground tanks, well past their life expectancy and full of boiling radioactive gunk, are leaking, infecting groundwater supplies and threatening the Columbia River.

Whistleblowers, worried that the worst is ahead, are now speaking out, begging to be heard and hoping their pleas help bring attention to the dire situation at Hanford. Aside from a few feisty community groups and handful of Indigenous activists, there is very little public scrutiny of the clean-up process, which is managed by the Department of Energy and carried out by contractors with shoddy track records, like Bechtel. In the context of renewed support for atomic power as a means of combating climate change, Atomic Days provides a much-needed refutation of the myths of nuclear technology—from weapons to electricity—and shines a spotlight on the ravages of Hanford and its threat to communities, workers and the global environment.

Reviews
  • "The masterfulness of Frank’s work is Pulitzer Prize award-worthy." New York Journal of Books

    "Joshua Frank blows the lid off 'the U.S. government’s gargantuan plutonium operation' that 'churned out nearly all of the radioactive fuel used in the country’s nuclear arsenal.....'  The award-winning journalist makes a compelling case that Hanford has become “the costliest environmental remediation project the world has ever seen, and arguably the most contaminated place on the entire planet.” He warns of a potential apocalyptic atomic catastrophe....  As some turn to nuclear power as a supposed solution to the climate emergency, Atomic Days, published in October 2022, reminds readers of the perils of nuclear waste and its difficult disposal." The Progressive, Best Books of 2022

    "Joshua Frank’s brilliant Atomic Days, from Haymarket Books, takes us deep into the horrific clogged bowels of the failed technology that is nuclear power....Indeed, for readers truly interested in the future of atomic energy, take a good look at how it plays in Atomic Days. Then ask how soon we can cover the whole damn place with solar panels." Truthout

    "The strong cast of characters, impassioned narrator and animated prose make for compelling reading from start to finish. Whatever you thought you knew about the United States’ nuclear past, Atomic Days promises new food for thought. It’s a timely and cogent primer on the ongoing but underreported struggle over the nation’s most toxic site." High Country News

    “The Hanford Site haunts the future of the Columbia River Basin, its land, people, plants, and animals. It’s a nuclear crime scene that once made atomic weaponry. Joshua Frank dissects that historical crime scene, tracing it back to the colonization of this land while also pointing to the future crimes that may have been unleashed by perpetual radioactive pollution—a silent killer that cannot be seen or smelled and takes thousands of lifetimes to fully neutralize. Frank issues an urgent call to action.” —Nick Estes (Lakota), author of
    Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance

    “Joshua Frank’s
    Atomic Days is a brilliantly written, explosive exposé of the most toxic site in the Western hemisphere and most expensive environmental cleanup in world history. He has given us a terrifying look at the radioactive nuclear materials produced at Hanford for four decades, the environmental catastrophe left behind, and the disastrous cleanup efforts that generate huge profits for companies like Bechtel despite lies, fraud and deadly accidents that only generate more corporate profits. But Frank also lifts up the courageous actions of whistleblowers, community watchdogs and Indigenous leaders who can lead the way out of this morass. Read the book and take action to end the nuclear insanity.” —Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink


    "The vast federal Hanford (Washington state) nuclear waste site is revealed here in gripping detail as a dark corner of the continuing toxic, budget-busting, legacy of the military-industrial complex. In Atomic Days, Joshua Frank applies an investigative X-Ray to this deadly, vast, leaking nuclear waste dump near the great Columbia River. Owned by our 'open check' government and operated lucratively by corporate contractors, the Hanford reservation is the nightmare civilian peril produced by the nuclear arms race. Gift a copy to your local library." —Ralph Nader

    "With the environment at a tipping point, Atomic Days is a vital contribution to the urgent conversation about proposed solutions and the calamitous risks they carry.” Abby Martin, creator of Empire Files


    "Get this book! Joshua Frank is a terrific journalist who tells a great story and Atomic Days is the story of America." —Arun Gupta, journalist, author of the forthcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

    “Nuclear power's significant carbon footprint is generated by carbon-intensive uranium mining. And what is overlooked by nuclear power boosters is the neocolonial impact of mining and refining nuclear fuel on Indigenous communities ... All of this makes reading Joshua Frank’s Atomic Days more crucial than ever.” —Jacqueline Keeler, author of Standoff: Standing Rock, the Bundy Movement, and the American Story of Sacred Lands

    "Joshua Frank takes us on a dangerous ride through Hanford, our most toxic site, where sewage waste from plutonium generation is actively chewing away at storage units full of the most poisonous stew on Earth. Frank peels back the layers of government secrecy that engulf the clean-up; the manipulations of the unions, the utter waste of clean-up contracts, and the Chernobyl-like disaster that awaits us all. Atomic Days is a crucial, timely book." —Doug Peacock, author of Was It Worth It?

    "This convinced me nuclear is bonkers." —Dean Wareham, musician, author of Black Postcards