The AEC maintained programs for nuclear weapons research, development, production, and
testing; production of plutonium and weapons grade uranium; milling andrefining of uranium ore;
biomedical researchinto the effects of radiation and nuclear weapons; basic nuclear research in
fields such as chemistry, physics, and metallurgy; development ofnuclear reactors; promotion of a
civilian nuclear powerindustry; and conduct of international Atoms-for-Peace activities. It was
unique amongfederal agencies in combining responsibilities to both promote and regulate a
In 1947 the AEC assumed control of research and productionfacilities created by the Manhattan
Engineer District (MED) during World War I. Thefacilities were scattered from coast to coast,
with the primary ones being located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los
Alamos, New Mexico. At Oak Ridge the Manhattan Project established facilities for the
production ofbomb grade uranium. It also had intended to build muclear reactors for plutonium
production there as well. When research showed that production reactors would generate far
moreheat and radioactivity than scientists had previously believed, the Manhattan Project located
plutonium production facilities near Hanford, Washington. During the war the E. I. DuPont de
Nemours Company built and operated Hanford plutonium production facilities for the Manhattan
Engineer District.
To operateits facilities, the MED had used contractors while retaining government ownership of
plants, laboratories, and buildings: The AEC continued this system of government-owned,
contractor-operated (GOCO)facilities. At Hanford, DuPont pulled out as the operating
contractorafter the end of the war. In 1946 General Electric acquired the managing and
operating contract and assumed responsibility for producing plutonium.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Shortly after the MED began building plutonium
production facilities at Hanford, it formed a research laboratory to support productionactivities.
The laboratory, eventually called the Hanford Laboratories, launched programs to study radiation
damage to reactor materials, to investigate fuel processing techniques, to develop processes for
the removal of useful fission products from reactor wastes, and to study the biological and
environmental effects ofproduction reactor operation. Because the MED intended to place huge
production reactors on the Columbia River, there was special interest in studying reactor
environmental impact and effects on aquatic life, particularly since the Columbia provided
drinking water and food for millions of people in the Pacific Northwest.
To investigate the biological and environmental effects of production reactors, for example, the

Hanford Laboratories launched several programs. One examined the effect of the reactors on
river fish and aquatic biology and another the effects on the environment of radioisotopes released
routinely during reactor operation. This effort focused onthe effects ofiodine, tritium,
radioactive particles, and plutonium on the environment and man. The Hanford Laboratories also
initiated programs to study the absorption ofradioisotopesthrough the human gastrointestinal
tract and methodsoftreating radiation injury. Until the middle 1960s the Hanford Laboratories
focused on nuclear technology and the environmental and health effects of radiation.

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