Bob Ferguson

OUR HANFORD HISTORY

Bob Ferguson

Northwest Public Television and the Hanford History Partnership produced a series of stories from people who lived and worked in the Richland area during the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s operational years. In this episode we speak to Bob Ferguson, a reactor physicist who started his career at Hanford. Ferguson went on to become very influential in the safety of private nuclear plants.

Full Transcript

[Announcer] Stories from Our Hanford History are produced by Northwest Pubic Broadcasting. A member of the Hanford History Partnership.

A lot of work has been done with respect to why people fear nuclear, which is really very safe statistically. The probability of being hurt by a nuclear accident is essentially zero, yet people will get in their car and they’ll drive their car. So there’s a lot of psychological fear, and a lot of that fear, we think, comes from the use of nuclear technology for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In other words, the notion of equating weapons with nuclear power, and that has continued to this day because many people don’t understand, here at Hanford, the difference between commercial waste and waste from the Second World War and the Cold War. And it’s a very different issue, but people think of it all as one, and one of the problems is that the weapons program is still in the Department of Energy. I’m a big advocate of removing it, because… And removing the waste from the commercial to create a separation. As long as they’re managed together, how do you expect the average person to believe that they’re not one and the same thing? So, the fear of nuclear is real, and there’s been a lot of work done about why people fear it when it is not really unsafe. Generally you find that the people that work with nuclear are very comfortable with it, and the farther away you get, the more fear there is. For instance, here at Hanford, people are very used to working with it. We have clean water. You go over to Seattle, they want to tell us how to… Why to be afraid here at Hanford. Well, we live here. We drink the water, we eat the fish. We’re not fearful of it, ’cause we lived with it. We know it. So it’s… a lot of that is proximity.

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