Atomic Days



By Joshua Frank


The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America






Once home to the United States’ 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 a 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.


Published by Haymarket Books, 2022.  Paperback – 258 pages.




“The masterfulness of Frank’s work is Pulitzer Prize award-worthy.” —New York Journal of Books


“In writing Atomic Days, author Joshua Frank has done a great public service. The fact that he has done so in a narrative style that is both accessible and instructive makes one hope his story will be read by many.“ —The Progressive


“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


“Frank issues an urgent call to action.” —Nick Estes


“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


“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


“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

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