Two weeks ago the Tri-City Herald published an update on the "McCluskey Room" at Hanford and recounted the story of the "Atomic Man". Here's another story from the day after the accident, showing what can happen when breaking news goes wild.
Hanford reports devastate media in chain reaction
By Jini Dalen, Herald staff writer
Published on August 31, 1976
Just mention the word "nuclear" -- and boom!
There's a news media chain reaction.
Following announcement Monday of the chemical explosion at Hanford's Z Plant:
-- CBS Television News requested permission to fly a camera crew over the "devastated area."
-- A member of Ralph Nader's staff phoned from Washington, D.C., to ask, "How many were killed?"
-- California radio stations reported "eight fatalities," with Hanford now just a hole in the ground."
Officials can't pin down where the rumors got started.
Normally conscientious newsmen "misunderstood the situation," said an Energy Research and Development Administration spokesman.
"Cross-the-top of page-one headlines in newspapers called attention to 'N-plant' and 'A-plant' blasts."
Actually, the accident happened at a plutonium processing plant eight miles from the N reactor, which has been shut down all summer.
Roger Mudd on CBS-tv referred to nearby Richland as "a city of 70,000." (It's actual population is 30,000.)
In the Wenatchee World, Hanford is described as a "600,000-square-mile nuclear reservation." (It contains 600 square miles.)
Meanwhile, long distance telephone lines into the Tri-Cities were reported to be "extremely busy."
But the tie-up wasn't caused by concerned relatives aroused by erroneous reports of the damage at Hanford.
Gen-Tel had a cable dug up on Union Street in Kennewick.