Monday, June 21, 2010

From HANFORD CHALLENGE re: Gators experimented on by nuclear scientists in Washington State

Atomic Alligators on the Loose!

This is a story so bizarre it has to be true.

Between 1961 and 1964 an animal laboratory near the F Reactor was used to test the effects of radiation on animals.

Today, no one can say why DOE decided in the 1960s to start testing alligators at Hanford.

Speculation centers on the fact that Hanford already had lots of experience in testing animals, dating back to the late 1940s when soldiers and technicians secretly snuck up to local sheep and cows with radiation counters to check for effects from airborne radioactive emissions.

Hanford's first four alligators came from Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp in August 1961. More dribbled in from a Louisiana alligator farm until Hanford had 33 by March 1962. And more came later until at least 55 were on the site. Most were 2 to 3 years old and 2 to 3 feet long.

The alligators stayed in a small manmade pond heated by sun lamps outside the lab near F Reactor. There, technicians took care of them, feeding them trout.
"We had a lot of fun playing with them," one technician said. "When we fed them fish, their mouths would open and then snap the fish in two. They were amazing animals to move so slow and have such fast jaws."

The fun had to come to an end at some point. A mass-escape definitely took place - maybe two.
A chain-link fence surrounded the gator pond. The critters burrowed either beneath it or through gaps where the fence sections met.

"You could see the tracks in the sand go out to the river," said one researcher.

Some gators were caught quickly. Some took months to find.

A few months after it escaped, an angler caught a 33-inch alligator on the Franklin County shore about nine miles downstream of F Reactor near Ringold. He put it on display at a local sports shop, but General Electric officials confiscated it when the fisherman was not around. (G.E. managed Hanford from 1946-1965, bringing some really interesting things to life.)

One control group alligator and one irradiated alligator were never found.

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