Hanford Project brings the Northwest into the Atomic Age


Hanford Nuclear Waste Disposal Site, 1979, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.


During the early 1940s the entire town of Hanford and the surrounding countryside was condemned and purchased by the federal government and placed off limits to the general public. Thousands of workers were brought into the area to work on a secret project which most of them knew almost nothing about. The neighboring farming communities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco became boom towns.


Start with secondary sources 

Use secondary sources to gain basic knowledge of your topic, its significance, and historical context.

Ask a Librarian online at Washington State Library to get expert help in locating useful secondary sources. 


Then use primary sources

Use primary sources to deepen your understanding of the topic, and assemble evidence to support your own analysis and interpretation.

Ask an Archivist online at Washington State Archives to get expert help in locating useful primary sources.


Some key historical research questions:

  • What was the Hanford project producing?
  • How was it used?
  • When did the people working at Hanford finally discover what they were working on?
  • How has the technology developed at Hanford changed the waging of war and the balance of power throughout the world?
  • How has it affected the economy, culture and environment of Hanford and its surrounding communities?
  • How has life changed in Richland, Kennewick and Pasco over the past 60 years?
  • Consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret this topic.


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