I worked on various DoE Nevada Test Site (since renamed the Nevada National Security Site) projects while working at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) from July 1976 through June 1989. Yeah, I had the whole enchilada - Q clearance (DoE's equivalent of DoD's 'Top Secret') and all. Here are some previous posts recounting my experiences and perspectives: Part 1 - 29 October 2011; 10 March 2009 (Yucca Mountain); and 26 December 2007 (Yucca Mountain).
This post describes one of my experiences with DoE's Community Monitoring Program (CMP), part of which involved a traveling 'road show' that visited communities around the NTS to discuss DoE programs and answer questions about airborne and waterborne radiation (among other things) resulting from the nuclear weapons testing. A key aspect of the program was the installation of montoring stations in various communities, maintained by a paid local, often times a teacher. These people were paid ($200/month, I think) by DRI, via its DoE contract. I participated in some of these road shows as the water expert, and visited the following communities: Cedar City, Parowan, Milford, and St. George, UT; Bishop, CA; and (I think) Amargosa Valley, NV. There were a few others (Alamo? Pioche?) in Nevada but I can't recall.
The locales west of the NTS (Bishop and Amargosa Valley) were interested in groundwater contamination from the tests (especially the underground testing) as well as airborne contamination. The Utah communities seemed more interested in the airborne contamination, since they were downwind from the NTS.
Utah - Mid-1980s
This post has little to do with water, but it was my water expertise that involved me in the post's subject: atmospheric nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site and the effects of the fallout on those in eastern Nevada and southwestern Utah - the Downwinders.
The movie, which hasn't been completed, looks at the lives of residents of Enterprise, Utah, and the film crew of John Wayne's 1956 film "The Conquerer," which was filmed in the same part of the state.
Of the 220 crew members who worked on the movie, more than 90 contracted cancer and 46 died from it, including Wayne, fellow actor Pedro Armendáriz, actresses Agnes Moorehead and Susan Hayward and director Dick Powell.
Four Idaho counties, including Gem County where Emmett is located, were among the top five nationally for fallout.
From 1951 to 1962, the U.S. government set off 90 above-ground nuclear bomb tests in the Nevada desert. Radioactive clouds of iodine-131 blew through Utah and Idaho.
The contamination fell on pastures and alfalfa fields with the contaminated feed eaten by dairy cows and goats. People were exposed again when they drank milk from those farm animals. Children under 5, who drank more milk than older people and who had much small thyroid glands, were hit hard.
Our team was led by DoE's Bruce Church, a likeable, serious, dedicated civil servant who was born in St. George and grew up in the area - La Verkin, UT, I believe. I did not know him very well. I recall that he was a Mormon like many of the people in southern Utah. In short, he was 'one of them'. That was important.
When I returned to Reno after that trip I asked to be excused from future CMP trips to Utah. My request was granted.
I look forward to seeing it.
"No, because it's a violation of Federal law for a radionuclide to cross state lines." - My smart-ass answer to a reporter's question if radiation from underground nuclear weapons testing in Nevada could show up in California's groundwater (Bishop, CA, c. 1984)