Mary D. Wammack, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Mary D. Wammack, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

“This book is a remarkable achievement in perseverance by the authors trying to gain justice for two individuals who were exposed to radiation released from the underground nuclear test, Baneberry. Harley Roberts and Bill Nunamaker were exposed when Baneberry was detonated and then vented through a fissure spewing a column of radioactive dust, smoke, and particulates into the atmosphere. (read more)

Mr. Roberts rushed to clear the area of personnel and during that time was exposed by inhaling the vented radioactive dust and smoke, and from particulates on his skin and clothes. Mr. Nunamaker was also exposed during the evacuation from the site. Later both men died of acute myelocytic leukemia.

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts first contacted Larry Johns to compensation his medical expenses, but Mr. Nunamaker case was not found until after he had died and added to the Johns’ efforts much later and in part that’s what makes this historical story so fascinating. It’s their attempt to collect the exposure, medical, and scientific data to support the negligence case for these men and their families.

The government lawyers were equally determined to prevent any determination of wrong doing by either the government agencies or the nuclear site operating contractors. In many ways, the legal and scientific testimony and diverging opinions are among the more concerning parts of this saga. The more disconcerting part is well summed up by the authors in the chapter title Justice Delayed is Justice Denied, and by the judge’s rulings. Neither the Roberts nor the Nunamakers received compensation and they and their spouses had died before the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (1990) or the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (2000) was passed.

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