Half-Lives are a measure of time and indicator of hazard.  A half-life is the amount of time required for a radioactive substance to lose 50% of its radioactivity through decay.  The energy given off during decay creates the hazard.  The reactors at Hanford created radioactive materials with long half-lives and high hazard with no plan for safe storage.



Air Releases


FFTF Factoid


Hot Spots

Ionizing Radiation


Reference Man



Geiger Counters

Little Flashes


Coming back from Canada, we were stopped

by apologetic border guards. It seemed

the scintillation counter had gone off. Little flashes

of radiation, could we explain? Sure,

my husband said, pointing to the scar

then new and red, stretching from ear to ear.

Thyroid cancer. Iodine 131. They sighed,

shuffled paper, waved us on.


I'd waited outside the double steel doors

while they tweezed away malignant flesh

that colonized two parathyroids, embraced his esophagus,

twined his vocal cords, left little flashes of black on his lungs.

They sent I-131 molecules, atomic bloodhounds

racing through his bloodstream, baying

on the trail of aberrant cells. They talked all round the cause--

epidemiological anomalies, unusual clusters of cancer--

the cause, same as the cure: I-131.


Hanford's Green Run: intentional release,

thousands of curies. Radioactive iodine plumed on the west wind,

little flashes of lightning striking every living cell

in every town. My husband calls himself a downwinder.

Downstreamers, we call ourselves in Portland,

joking about two-headed salmon.


I ponder the genetics of cancer

and the mutation that makes salmon into trout.

Smolt sliding under bridges,

little flashes of silver, misshapen, bloated,

cancer cells riding a river of blood. Cutthroat trout,

their necks naked and bloody as my husband's was

when they cut the cancer out.

I wake in the dark

and touch his throat.


-- Tiel Aisha Ansari

Eric LoPresti. Flashhouse. 2012


Lynda K. Rockwood. Vitrification Kit, A Little Alchemy, Humor and Truth 1996

Photo by T. Harris

Seattle City Light 1% for Art Portable Works Collection, administered by Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs



*The long-term plan for Hanford’s 53 million gallons of radioactive and chemical liquid waste is to turn it into glass logs through a process known as vitrification. Although these logs would still be radioactive, they would be more stable than liquid waste.