Interview with Roger McClellan

Dublin Core


Interview with Roger McClellan


An interview with Roger McClellan conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.



Date Modified

2017-15-12: Metadata v1 created – [A.H.]


The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to this US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Franklin


Roger McClellan


Washington State University Tri-Cities


Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Roger McClellan on September 2nd, 2016. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Roger about his experiences working at the Hanford Site. So, Roger, best place to begin is the beginning. So, when and where were you born?

Roger McClellan: I was born in Tracy, Minnesota, out in the prairies of southwestern Minnesota. Tracy, a little town of 3,000 people. My father was a blue collar worker. My mother came from an agricultural family. They were part of a generation in some ways contributed to but also, their lives were substantially influenced by World War II. They, in some ways, were saved economically. So my father went away in 1942 and I would faithfully write every Sunday evening to him at an APO address in New York, and wonder where he was. In summer ’43, he came home and said, hell, I was up in Canada building an air base on Hudson Bay, Churchill. Up with the polar bears and the Eskimos. And got another job at Hanford Engineering Works, Pasco, Washington. So in two weeks, I’m going to catch the train and be off. And maybe if I can find a place to live, your mom will come out and join me.

Franklin: So—sorry—what year were you born?

McClellan: 1937. January 5, 1937.

Franklin: And do you remember when your father left for HEW?

McClellan: Well, he, as I said, he spent ’42 and ’43 in Canada working on an air base. That construction company ended up being engaged at Hanford. So he came out in ’43, in the summer, and lived at Hanford, the construction town. My mother soon joined him when they found a small trailer they could live in. She worked in the commissary at Hanford. And then in the summer of 1944, they came back to Minnesota. My brother and I had lived with our grandparents on a farm for a year, and my sister with an aunt. So we got on the train and headed out to the state of Washington on a new adventure in the summer of 1944.

Franklin: Wow.

McClellan: And then that fall—we lived for the summer in Sunnyside, Washington. I remember well an eight-plex apartment, if you will. Pretty exciting. You’d go to the end of our street, take a right, go a half mile, and there was an honest-to-God Indian teepee with an Indian that lived in it. That was pretty exciting for young kids.

Franklin: I bet. Was that one of the Navy homes?

McClellan: No, that was a part of the Hanford complex, that they had built some housing in outlying areas while they were constructing new homes in Richland. So near the end of August, my father came home one day and said, hey, they finished a new group of houses in Richland, and we’re going to be moving down next week or two. Neighbors would drive us down, I’m going to come in off of graveyard shift and I’ll be at our new home, and you can meet me there.

Franklin: And what kind of home was it?

McClellan: Well, we said, well, where is it?  He said, well, it’s a three-bedroom prefabricated house, a so-called prefab.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

McClellan: And it’s on 1809 McClellan Street. And my kid brother and I jumped up and down and said, gee, on our own street! [LAUGHTER] So we later learned that, you know, many of the streets were named for individuals in the Corps of Engineers. So McClellan was in the Corps of Engineers, a one-block-long street, up in the—I guess, what? Southwest side of Richland.

Franklin: Yeah. I live a stone’s throw away from—I live on Stanton.

McClellan: Yeah, okay.

Franklin: In a two-bedroom prefab.

McClellan: So we did just as he said. The neighbors drove us down and we got to the new house. The door was open, we went in, and there was my dad, flaked out in the bed. He’d come home from graveyard shift and welcomed us to our new home.

Franklin: Are you related to General—is there any family relation to General McClellan?

McClellan: Well, only speculation. Probably one of my more noteworthy traits is procrastination. And as you may recall, General McClellan had some problems with procrastination.

Franklin: Yeah, as a US historian, I’m very well-versed in—[LAUGHTER] Especially the first three years of the Civil War. Yes, he certainly was.

McClellan: And he also liked the libation, and I think we shared a similar taste there.

Franklin: And luster. [LAUGHTER]

McClellan: But he was short of stature; I’m tall of stature.

Franklin: Yeah, he looked good on a horse.

McClellan: But I don’t know. I’ve done a little bit of digging and I found, you know, a cluster of McClellans there in Kirkcudbright in Scotland. We actually have a Castle MacLellan. It’s more of a large manor house than a castle. But interesting.

Franklin: What did your father do at the Hanford Site?

McClellan: Well, my father initially worked in construction and then very quickly as they started to assemble the operational workforce, he went to work as a patrolman. You know, part of the, what today we call, security force. Of course, worked for DuPont. He moved quickly from there into what was called the separations department or operation. That was the unit that we learned later was involved in separating out the product, plutonium, from the irradiated fuel elements containing uranium. So he spent most of his career, actually, working in the PUREX facility.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

McClellan: Earlier he had some time in the bismuth phosphate separation plant. And then in the RADOX and then PUREX was ultimately the big workhorse separations facility for the Hanford operations.

Franklin: And how long did your father work at Hanford for?

McClellan: Well, for his total life then. I think he passed away age 62. My mother, very soon after we came to Richland, went to work in the food services facility at Marcus Whitman Elementary School, which was where we were going to school. So I do remember in the third grade, seeing my mom in the cafeteria as we went through and picked up our lunches. She was a very ambitious lady, very intelligent. She got her shorthand and typing in quick order and then went to work and became the secretary of the principal of Columbia High School. She always commented she was pleased that one of the students in the class, I think of 1948, a noteworthy graduate was Gene Conley. The trivia question is, who is one of the athletes that played for two different sports teams in terms of major sports? And that’s Gene Conley, Col High graduate who played for the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics, and earlier here was a student at Washington State University.

Franklin: Wow, interesting.

McClellan: So my mother spent basically her career as a professional administrator.

Franklin: Did she work at Hanford at all?

McClellan: No, she really always kind of focused on wanting her family.

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: And she really didn’t want that extra travel time. So she worked for a period of time at the United Way or Community Chest, and then back into the school system and was the administrative assistant or secretary to a number of principals in different schools in the Richland school system.

Franklin: So, tell me about growing up in Richland in a government town, and in a prefab, and how that--

McClellan: Well, I think growing up and—obviously, growing up is a unique experience. [LAUGHTER] For everyone. But we had come from a small town in Minnesota. Everybody knew everybody else. Everybody was from there.

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: Many of them had two, three, four generations living in the area. Coming to Richland was totally different environment. Everyone was from somewhere else. There were a number of people from Utah, a number of people from Colorado, Denver. Turns out all of those were connections back to DuPont, and DuPont’s operation of facilities in those areas. And there were quite a number from the Midwest and a few from Montana. Areas where there was not a lot of industrial activity. People could be recruited. Like my father, in terms of married, three children, why, he was lower down in the draft order. So, that was prototypical of many of the people. My classmates would be families of two, three, four, five kids and their fathers, in some case were blue collar workers, in some cases were engineers. New kinds of professionals that I never had experience with, even as a little kid, and later when I’d spend summers with my grandparents on the farm in Minnesota. Yeah, the professionals we came in contact with were our family doctor, the farm veterinarian, the lawyer, the banker. So Richland, one of the interesting aspects was the extent to—as a young kid I had fellow students whose fathers were engineers or chemists. In fact, one of my classmates, class of 1954 from Columbia High School, his father was W.E. Johnson.

Franklin: Oh!

McClellan: He was the top guy running Hanford for many years for the General Electric Company.

Franklin: Yeah.

McClellan: The other thing that’s unique is that no one owned their own home.

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: You rented your home. DuPont left soon after the war ended. DuPont had been brought in because they were really a unique company. Not only were they large, but they, because of the nature of their business, producing explosives, they were in the business of designing, building, and operating facilities. That was a unique set of activities. So, as I say, you’re working with building and manufacturing explosives. You want to know that your facility—

Franklin: Right, and I imagine, too, that there’s a culture of safety in DuPont in dealing with such—

McClellan: Oh, absolutely.

Franklin: When your product is explosive and—

McClellan: Yeah. And many years later I would actually have interactions professionally in terms of DuPont, and that safety culture was present and continues today. But that was also present at Hanford. And then that ability, as I say, to make modifications in the design as new information came available.

Franklin: And do that in-house, too.

McClellan: Yeah, that was all done in-house. Then we euphemistically said that changed from DuPont to Generous Electric. General Electric was the prime contractor, and sometimes we’d refer to them as Generous Electric. Of course, they operated on a pass-through basis. It was federal dollars. That’s the other thing I think unique in terms of Richland and Richland school systems. There was no private property. So there was no private tax base. So the dollars for the Richland schools flowed through, let’s say, line of dollars that came from Washington in terms of appropriation—authorization and appropriations, and were ultimately administered by the Richland Operations Office of the Atomic Energy Commission. So if you’re in the Richland Operations Office and you’re involved in overseeing the expenditure of dollars, your kids are going to the Richland schools, you’re certainly not going to slice some dollars off the budget for School District 400, Richland. Your kids are going to be impacted. So the schools were, quite frankly, extraordinary quality. I don’t think I fully appreciated that at the time.

Franklin: [LAUGHTER] I don’t think any of us do at the time.

McClellan: Yeah. So as I told someone, even recently, you know, I’m still working off the vapor left in the fuel tank that they started to fill when I went to Marcus Whitman, then Carmichael, and Col High, and then headed off to Washington State University.

Franklin: Wow. What else can you say about growing up in Richland that might be different from a lot of other people’s experiences in a normal—

McClellan: Well, I think at that time, in Richland, there was an element of kind of the long hand of Washington in planning communities. There was an interesting intersection of class, if you will, more based on, are you an hourly worker or are you a monthly payroll? So-called non-exempt and exempt payroll. And there was a recognition that there was an element of status associated with education. But overlaying that, at the intersection was the fact that when we moved from 1809 McClellan Street to 1122 Perkins, we lived in a B house. Now, that’s one of the things that’s a little different. I mean, the houses had alpha-numbers on them. A houses, B houses, one-, two-, three-bedroom prefabs. So a B house was a duplex, two bedrooms on each end. But on Perkins Street, we could look across the street and there were two L houses. Those were two-story and four bedrooms upstairs; living room, dining room, kitchen downstairs. They were pretty spiffy. So here you have this strange junction of somebody who was an hourly worker was not at first bat going to be assigned an L house to live in.

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: You were a manager. The manager that lived across the street, ultimately, would become the chief engineer for the Hanford Project. That was Oren H. Pilkey, P-I-L-K-E-Y. A senior. And he was an engineer. Grew up in Texas, trained as an engineer at Texas A&M, and then gone off to work for Chicago Bridge and Ironworks. Had a lot of experience. So I remember well—you know, I’m kind of a tall, even in those days, skinny kid, and I was playing out in the front yard, and I saw this black Ford sedan drive in to the L house that had recently become vacant, and out hopped four people. They weren’t too unusual, except they were short of stature. The two adults were about five-foot-four, and the kids were under five-foot. We soon became good friends. Ultimately, Oren Pilkey was one of my scout masters and a mentor.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

McClellan: He encouraged me in terms of mathematics, engineering, physical sciences. A love and appreciation for the outdoors. But I did many Sunday afternoon kind of engineering, or learning experiences in his study at his home. I remember doing one of those. It was a calculation of pressure in a large tank, what the pressure would be involved in lifting the lid on the large tank. Only many years later did I learn that was the double-walled steel tanks at Hanford that he was overseeing developing. On that particular occasion, I actually could best his son, who was my classmate in high school, Walter Pilkey. Walter would go on to become a very distinguished engineer and professor of Engineering Science at the University of Virginia. His older brother, who was my good friend also, Oren Pilkey, Junior, went on and very distinguished career in marine geology, was a Washington Duke professor of geology at Duke University. So, I think that kind of segueways back in terms of the educational environment. I think there was a lot of inspiration, if you will. As a young kid you could see people who were successful, and you soon recognized success was tied to education.

Franklin: Right, I suppose it’s knowing so many people from so many different places. I guess I could imagine maybe that people in Richland were aware of a wider world than, say, someone in a small town in Minnesota or Arkansas might be.

McClellan: Well, I think that’s true. And I think they each brought their own culture. I mean, I recall our next door neighbors in Sunnyside. They were from Oklahoma. Even as a seven-year-old, I kind of knew a bit about the Dust Bowl and whatever, and the Okies. I was admonished by my parents, we’re not supposed to call them Okies. That’s a little bit of a derogatory term. But I still remember an experience, going with my mother, and she of course had her troop of three kids. I was seven, my brother was five-and-a-half and my sister was four, and we were going downtown Sunnyside to mail some packages and shopping. The lady next door had her troop of three kids about the same age, except she had a newborn baby. So we went into the Sunnyside post office and mailed our packages and came out, and the baby started to squall. And so the lady sat on the steps of the post office in Sunnyside and opened her blouse and started to nurse her baby. Well, that was not quite what you would expect in Tracy, Minnesota. Little bit different culture. So you had different cultures. Again, my friends, the Pilkeys, their mother had gone to Hunter College in New York. Very well-educated lady. We would very frequently take trips to the public library on Sunday afternoon to pick up a new collection of books. If you went to her home, why, there’d be a book on almost every table. She was an avid reader. And that encouraged us to do the same.

Franklin: That’s very interesting—sorry. Go ahead.

McClellan: Well, so, I think the difference in everybody being from somewhere else was something that kind of pulled things apart, in terms of a community. On the other hand, the fact that everybody was in some way involved with Hanford brought people together. And overlaying that, in those days—the late ‘40s—was the element of secrecy. You didn’t really know what was going on. Things were compartmentalized. Many years later, I was taking a graduate course at what was then the WSU Joint Graduate Center. In a sense a predecessor of—

Franklin: Right, pretty much right here.

McClellan: WSU. So the individual teaching that was Doctor Lyle Swindeman, who was an environmental scientist at the Hanford Laboratories. And we were going through each of the different AEC facilities around the country: Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Shipping Port—whatever—as to what they did, how they managed environmental activities. It was really rather remarkable in terms of the early 1960s, when I took that. One of them we focused on, of course, was Hanford. That particular evening, we had a flow chart for the PUREX facility. I came home and I was doing some homework at the table. My father came home from a swing shift and sat down with a cup of coffee, and we’re chatting and looking at what I’m doing. And he said, what the hell are you doing? Those are classified! [LAUGHTER] I said, no, no, look up there. It’s unclassified. He said, no, I think that’s classified. That’s what we’re doing all the time. So there was this little bit of a conflict there. He was not absolutely convinced that I had the unclassified version of the flow documents for the PUREX facility.

Franklin: Well, that makes sense, too, right, because he would have come to Hanford during World War II when secrecy was paramount. I mean—

McClellan: Oh!

Franklin: If you said anything about your job, you could easily be on the next train out.

McClellan: Oh, absolutely. And the other is elements—I recently had a conversation with some people in terms of plutonium workers at Hanford, which my father was one of those. Ironically, many years later, I would be studying plutonium. I was involved in the first meeting that gave rise to the US Transuranium and Uranium Registry. My father was enrolled in that. And I continue today to have an interest in plutonium toxicity and what we do to protect the workers, which, in my opinion, was remarkable in terms of at Hanford. Part of that is you have a bioassay program. Well, what’s bioassay? One of the elements of the bioassay program is that you collect samples of urine periodically, you analyze them for radioactivity, and then using very sophisticated models, go back and project—estimate—what exposures an individual may have in terms of internal deposition. Well, it was classified as to what people did, but now I can understand, if I had just gone down the street and taken a look at which addresses had a gray box on the front doorstep, which was the urine samples that were being collected, I could have identified who were the prospective plutonium workers at Hanford. I don’t know if the Soviets had anybody doing those street checks in Richland or not, but they could have identified who were the plutonium workers pretty readily.

Franklin: Interesting. I just wanted to come back to something, and say that it’s remarkable to hear you talk about the impact of the mixed income neighborhood you lived in, and that you identified that we lived in this mixed income neighborhood from the B house next to the L. Because that was, as you might know, that was Pherson—Albin Pherson—the man who designed the Richland village. That was his idea. That was one of the things he pushed through, was having mixed income neighborhoods, so that you didn’t have a total segregation of people by class.

McClellan: Yeah. Yeah.

Franklin: It’s interesting to hear your views on that and how that affected you.

McClellan: Yeah. No, there was that element of kind of a utopian plan community approach. I don’t want to go too far on it. There’s a book out there, it’s got a corruption of the word plutonium in it, written by an individual who puts herself forward as an academic historian. I’m not certain where she got her degree, what her credentials, but I can tell you the book is filled with hogwash, as my grandfather would say. Absolute, unvarnished hogwash. I don’t know where she got a lot of her information—it’s misinformation, as she tries to contrast and compare Richland, the Hanford Site, with Mayak in the Soviet Union. I’ve studied both of those; I know both of them quite well. And I also know the outcomes, in terms of health of workers at both those sites. She’s totally off base. I always like to call that to people’s attention. They say, have you read the book in its entirety? I say, I’ve read pieces of it, but I really don’t want to waste my money buying it.

Franklin: I see. So, you graduated in ’54, correct? From Columbia High.

McClellan: Right.

Franklin: And then you went to WSC.

McClellan: Right.

Franklin: So what did you go to study at—

McClellan: Well, we have to back up a ways.

Franklin: Oh, okay, let’s do that.

McClellan: There’s an interesting event that occurred. I’m going to be a little bit vague in this because I may not remember the specific dates. But 1948—using the royal we—the US detected airborne radioactivity on the west coast of the USA. That was not surprising; we knew that the Soviets were building a copycat facility to Hanford. When we detected radioactivity in the air, specifically radioiodine, iodine-131, that was a very good—not just clue—but we knew they were processing radioactive fuel.

Franklin: I’ve heard that their first facility was almost an exact copy of the one in the 300 Area, except instead of being horizontal, it was vertical. Do you know anything about—

McClellan: I’m not really knowledgeable of the absolute details of theirs, but again, the key element is that what they were doing is they were taking refined uranium fuel—

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: --creating a reaction, in terms of neutrons and producing plutonium-239.

Franklin: Right. We knew they were doing the same thing that we were doing.

McClellan: Exactly. And when we detected radioiodine in the air, we knew they were processing that fuel. Now, the key is how much plutonium were they producing? That’s what we really wanted to know. And somebody said, well, gee, they’re doing just what we did at Hanford. They’re processing green fuel. Well, what do we mean by green fuel? Green fuel is freshly irradiated uranium oxide fuel with plutonium in it. And were now, rather than letting that cool down for a period of time, so the short live radionuclides decay off, were processing it almost immediately because we want the plutonium. That’s what happened in terms of Hanford when the first processing, I think late in 1944, early 1945, to produce plutonium to go to Los Alamos. So, somebody said, well, gee, if we know there’s x radioiodine in the air, what we want to know is y amount of plutonium. Well, why don’t we just repeat that big experiment? So that was Operation Green Run. That was the code name for what would ultimately be the largest—to my knowledge—release of radioactivity from the Hanford Operations. A planned experiment that went astray. They took the freshly irradiated green fuel, chopped it, added the nitric acid. I have reason to go back through the dates—my father was probably involved in that crew. And then the radioiodine started to come out the stack. But Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. We had a major meteorological inversion, and, basically, fumigated, quote, the Inland Empire with short-lived iodine-131. It has an eight-day half-life. That would create controversy over whether there were ill effects related to that. As it turned out, in terms of those releases—that was highly classified—but it led to a real push in further work at Hanford on radioiodine. They started a major study. That study involved feeding radioactive iodine to sheep each day. And along the way, they decided, gee, you know we always have this possibility of exposures on the site. Why don’t we maintain an offsite flock of control sheep? Ah, that sounds like a good idea. Who could do that? Well, gee, why don’t we have the Richland schools do that? I can’t go through all the details, but I’m reasonably certain there were discussions at rather high levels. Rather surprisingly, the Richland School District started a vocational agriculture program. I was one of the early students in that program. The school farm was located right across the road from where the WSU Tri-Cities campus is located today.

Franklin: Oh, right.

McClellan: We had a large tract of land, and in fact, if you were enterprising as I was, you could sublease a piece of that land. I actually had the sublease on the ten acres right at the corner of Jadwin across from the WSU campus where I grew corn and alfalfa for four years that I was in high school. I also had several orchards and a vineyard for two years. But that school farm maintained the offsite control sheep for the big Hanford radioiodine and thyroid cancer study that was being conducted. What was particularly important out of that is one of the people that WSU recruited was Leo K. Bustad. Leo K. Bustad was a veterinarian. He had been a distinguished military veteran. Had spent a significant portion of his military time in World War II in German prisoner of war camp, which substantially influenced him. He came back to WSU and pursued a master’s degree in nutrition and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. When he received the DVM and the nutrition degree, he was an ideal candidate to recruit to Hanford for involvement in the studies on radiation effects. I first, then, met Leo Bustad when he was a Hanford scientist and periodically would stop by the school farm and check on the status of those offsite control sheep. So, he encouraged me in terms of veterinary medicine. My friend, Oren Pilkey, across the street encouraged me in engineering. When I headed off to WSU—or WSC—1954, I actually enrolled as an engineering student. I took engineering. I took economics. I took pre-veterinary medicine. And then I decided to go down the pathway of veterinary medicine. That led me, then, to seek summer employment. [LAUGHTER] And so I was employed as a student at Hanford for three years—’57, ’58, ’59. And then Leo twisted my arm to come back as a full-time scientist in 1960, when I received my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. [37:40]

Franklin: Wow. We should note that Bustad is also one of the most well-known or prodigious WSU alumni in terms of his contributions to veterinary medicine and, you know, there’s an entire hall named after him on campus.

McClellan: Well, Leo is a wonderful remarkable individual. I can relate many, many stories with regard to Leo. But one of those—I’d just finished what was probably my first major scientific manuscript on the metabolism of strontium-90. Strontium-90 is an alkaline earth element. Behaves very much like calcium. So it’s readily absorbed in the GI tract, goes to the skeleton. Radio strontium, strontium-90, is a beta emitter, radiates then the bone and the bone marrow. So you’re concerned for those effects. So we were studying strontium-90 in miniature pigs. So I had finished this manuscript on metabolism of strontium-90 and gave it to Leo to review. Leo said, I’ll read through it tonight, come back tomorrow, and we can talk about it. So I came in the next day, and he said, well, this is really good. But there’s kind of a little bit of a problem with a few aspects. I said, oh, what’s that? He said, well, rather surprised there’s only one author. I knew, uh-oh. Boy, I goofed. I said, oh, well, this was just a draft, Leo. He said, well, I hope so. I thought I had quite a bit to do with the design of that experiment. I said, what else? He said, well, it’s got some statistics in here. You and I aren’t statisticians. Maybe we ought to have somebody else review this. I said, who do you have in mind? And he said, Carl. Turns out that he was sort of the top statistician at Hanford. I said, we don’t to waste his time then. He said, oh, I’ve already called him up. He’s expecting you in his office at 300 Area at 4:00. And he said, we’ll have to have it wrapped up by 7:00 because I’m going to be home for dinner at 7:30. Sure enough, I went in and we spent three hours—a wonderful experience. Very junior scientist and here’s one of the leading statisticians in the world, in fact. So I said, what else? And he said, well, we need some good editorial advice? I said, well, what are you thinking about? He said, well, what about Phil Abelson? I said, Phil Abelson, the editor of Science magazine? And he said, yeah! I said, well, we’re going to need some connections there, Leo. He says, we got them. He’s a Cougar! He picked up the phone and called Phil Abelson. And introduced me to Phil on the phone. And that was the beginning of a lifetime association that I had with Phil Abelson.

Franklin: Who also has a building named after him on campus.

McClellan: Yeah. And many years later, I was the president and CEO for an organization called the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology from 1988 to 1999. And Phil Abelson was on my board of directors. So Phil and I were lifelong friends. I was very pleased, many years later, when I was recognized as a Regent’s Distinguished Alumnus at Washington State University to actually—I knew that Phil was also an alumnus, but I didn’t appreciate he was the first Regent’s Alumnus in terms of Washington State University. And then as I went down the list further, Leo Bustad was on that list. So I’m very proud in terms of that lineage.

Franklin: That’s great. As a side note, your name was so familiar to me in the beginning because I did a project for them—for University Communications for a historical timeline and had to find pictures of all the Regent’s Distinguished—what year were you a Regent’s Distinguished—

McClellan: Golly, I think 2007, maybe.

Franklin: Okay, I think I found your picture somewhere and put it up on the website.

McClellan: Yeah.

Franklin: It’s funny. So, wow. You got all three degrees at Washington State?

McClellan: No, no, I only received one. It’s always interesting, particularly if I’m appearing in the court room. They’ll say where did you get your bachelor’s degree? I say, I don’t have one. You know, plaintiff lawyers spend a lot of time on that. I went to WSU at a time period when you could actually gain admission with the appropriate number of credit hours after two years. So I ended up going to Washington State University and completing my only degree, a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, in six years, and graduated in 1960.

Franklin: Wow.

McClellan: So I was 23 years old. I later—kind of on a lark—took a Master’s in Management Science—an MBA in an executive program—at the University of New Mexico. I received that degree in 1980. That was a lot of fun, because, again, it was multidisciplinary. There were engineers; there were chemists, physicists, social scientists, physicians, lawyers. I’ve alwys enjoyed that kind of interdisciplinary environment. I had that in terms of that program at Robert O. Anderson School of Management at University of New Mexico. And then later I had the good fortunate that the Ohio State University recognized my career in comparative veterinary medicine and awarded me an honorary Doctor of Science degree, which I’m very proud to have received.

Franklin: So you said—you mentioned that you worked three summesr at the Hanford Site and then were brought on at Bustad’s urgings back to Hanford. So how long did you stay at—so you graduated in 1960 and then came back to—

McClellan: Yeah. Well then I actually—I planned to stay two years until my fiancée, Kathleen—Kathleen Donnegan—graduated from Washington State. Then we’d have kind of free range. One of my understandings with Bustad when I came to Hanford is he would make certain I could visit all the schools around the USA that I was interested in potentially going to to pursue a graduate degree. He said, I won’t get you to Perth, Australia, the other one you’re considering, but I’ll get you to those five in the US. And he did live up to his bargain. Leo was a great mentor in terms of encouraging me to do lots of different things and always push yourself to the limit. He signed me up—I think the second year I was at Hanford, I was 24 years old, and he asked me to keep a day open. As I recall, it was in March ’62. And I said, well, Leo, we need to fill in the calendar; what do you have in mind? He said, well, I signed you up to give a seminar at the University of Washington on bone marrow transplantation in miniature pigs. [LAUGHTER] It was pretty heavy. But he was reassuring. As I was getting my slides together, he said, Roger, remember when you talk to that group of people, you’re going to know more about the subject than anybody in that room. That’s great advice to a young student—young scientist—to have confidence. That if you’re well-prepared, you could go before a pretty formidable audience, because you should know more about that topic than anybody in that room.

Franklin: Right. How was it, coming back to Hanford after it had been privatized? I’m sure you probably—your parents lived—

McClellan: Yeah, actually it was—when I was at WSC, my parents bought their home. So I saw those activities. And then, when I was employed, I was in the Hanford Laboratories. That was a remarkable institution, organization. The individual that headed that was H. M. Parker—Herbert M. Parker. The biology division within that was headed up by Harry A. Kornberg. Leo Bustad reported to Kornberg. I reported to Bustad. I was on a very short reporting line, if you will. Mr. Parker reported to W. A. Johnson. So I knew Herb Parker personally. I’d had the opportunity to give one of what were sometimes called the Parker seminars—individuals would be invited to give a seminar for Mr. Parker and a very small group of people in Parker’s office and library in 300 Area. Those were always with some trepidation. You couldn’t turn down that invitation, because people maneuvered to get them. But that was a pretty august audience they had at the laboratories—H. M. Parker listening to your presentation and having questions.

Franklin: That sounds like a very encouraging workplace.

McClellan: Oh, it was!

Franklin: [INAUDIBLE] of research discipline and hard work.

McClellan: And hard work was rewarded. I remember in 1962, I had a call from Mr. Parker’s office to come in. A little bit uncertain. Leo Bustad had kind of gone out on a limb in terms of encouraging me to go to an international meeting in England at the International Congress of Radiation Research. I initially took in my travel schedule and Leo took a look and said, gee, this doesn’t look very good, Roger. And I said, what do you mean? I’m going to the meeting for a week, I’m going to take a week’s vacation. It’s going to be just a month or so after I’m married. He said, oh, no, no problem with that. I’d like you to spend a lot more time there. There’s a lot of people I want you to see and meet. So he said I’ll draw up a revised schedule. So I came back the next day and he had a schedule that was four weeks! I said, holy cow! I said, Leo, this isn’t going to fly. I mean, it certainly won’t get by Mr. Parker. And he said, what do you mean? I said, well, you don’t know the saying. There’s a saying around the lab with the working troops that if you’re gone two weeks, you’re gone forever. I said I don’t want to tempt fate. He said, oh, Herb’s bark is always a lot sharper than his bite. He said, I think he’ll approve this. He thinks you’re one of our rising stars. So sure enough, Herb Parker approved it. And then just the week before I’m going to this meeting, I get a call from Mr. Parker’s office. And I thought, uh-oh, he’s going to personally tell me he’s changed his mind. So I went into his office, and seated in the outer room, the door to the strong room, if you will, open. And Mr. Parker, a rather large individual, came out with his kind of limp handshake. Hello, Roger, great to have you here. Come on in. And then, you’re probably wondering why I’ve invited you to my office today. And I said, well, I am. [LAUGHTER] He said, well, we have a program here. I like to recognize people for their contributions, and it’s a rather private matter. And he gave me a little black leather case, and it had a nice little commemorative statement in there. Then he reached into his coat pocket and he pulled out an envelope and he said, and there is a monetary award that goes with this. I’m sure that’s going to be useful on that very prolonged trip you have planned to Europe. [LAUGHTER] So, Herb could have a—he was an outstanding scientist—also had a very wry, British humor. He certainly encouraged me to become involved in activities in radiation protection. I’m very confident I would never have become a member of the National Counsel of Radiation Protection and Measurements if it had not been for the encouragement that Herb Parker and Leo Bustad gave me.

Franklin: Could you speak a little—just for people that might not know—could you speak a little more about Herb Parker and his work at Hanford. Since you knew him personally, Herb Parker’s working at Hanford and his importance to Hanford.

McClellan: Well, Herb Parker was trained as a radiological physicist in England. Very bright individual. Did some seminal work in radiological physics, particularly related to treatment of cancer, and what we call [UNKNOWN] dose curves. He developed these to estimate the radiation dose that would be delivered to a tumor, if you will, from an external x-ray beam. One of the people that he learned of and came in contact with was Dr. Cantrell at Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle. So, he joined Cantrell to continue his work. And then World War II came along and Herb got pulled into the Manhattan Project. He was a part of a group of individuals trained primarily in physics, some in chemistry, and brought together initially at Oak Ridge. They were to be sort of the liaison between the operations, the medical community, and assuring the safety of workers. That coded, if you will, as health physics. That was done in part because no one wanted to use the term radiological in terms of this particular activity, because of the secrecy during World War II. Later, Herb would express profound dislike for that term, health physics. I agree with him. I would think it probably was a useful placeholder for a time period. So Herb was one of that early group, and he was assigned to Hanford, I think. If memory serves me, he came to Hanford in August of 1944. I said I came in September to start the third grade in 1944. And Herb had a key role in the overall design and management, ultimately, of the program in terms of radiological protection of the Hanford workers, and you could go more broadly, protection in terms of chemical agents. And not protection just of workers but the total environmental program. In my opinion, the program that Herb Parker really provided the leadership for was one of the foremost programs in terms of environmental and worker protection that was ever put in place in prospective way. Evidence of that, Mr. Parker—and it was Mr. Parker; he did not have an earned doctoral degree—set about writing with Cantrell kind of a handbook, if you will, on radiation protection. What is it? What is radiation? What does it do to the body? He wanted to see that distributed to the appropriate workers at the earliest possible date. It ran into some difficulties in terms of clearance, but it ultimately was released on January 5th, 1945. My eighth birthday. [LAUGHTER] So it’s easy for me to recall. That document is an extraordinary exposition on what we knew about radiation then. And many of the basic concepts that were outlined by Cantrell and Parker in that document are still applicable today.

Franklin: So he’s really a major leader in health physics.

McClellan: Yeah, and I would say, Herb would probably—he would prefer radiological protection.

Franklin: Radiological protection.

McClellan: Yeah, and I see it as that big picture of protection of workers and the environment from agents, whether the agents were working, processing, in terms of the whole chain of radioactive materials, uranium to plutonium fission products, or whether we’re talking about chemicals. My career, in fact, has been punctuated—I’ve been involved in radiation throughout my career, but I’ve also spent a very large portion of it dealing with chemical agents.

Franklin: How long did you work at Hanford Labs?

McClellan: Well, as I said, I came back as a permanent scientist 1960. I was very fortunate, I think, working under the leadership of Leo Bustad and Harry Kornberg and Mr. Parker, to be advanced very early to rank Senior Scientist. I soon put the graduate program sort of on the side and pushed ahead. In 1964, Leo came to me and said, you know, they’re pushing on me again to come back to Washington, D.C. on a special assignment. I’m not really enthusiastic about it because my kids are in school. But I think I’m going to suggest they take a look at you. What do you think about that? And I said, well, gee. That sounds like an interesting opportunity. So, first thing you know, I’m on my way to Washignton, D.C. and a series of interviews. We reached agreement that in October 1 of 1964, I’ll go to Washington, D.C. Well, then, all of the sudden, things started to change in the summer, basically, of ’64. The decision that General Electric is going to leave, that total operation is going to be fragmented. Sometimes I refer to that as the disparaging phrase of, maintaining employment in the face of absence of a product. Because it was pretty clear we had enough plutonium-239. We didn’t need Hanford any longer to produce any more. General Electric ran a very efficient operation. So, General Electric headed out, and they start to look at firms to run different pieces of the operation. It became known that the laboratories would be managed as a separate enterprise, and very quickly we learned that was going to be Battelle Memorial Institute from Columbus. For those of at Hanford, it didn’t take much time in the library to kind of determine that, gee, this seems to be upside-down. We ought to be taking over Battelle, not Battelle taking us over. But that’s the way it was. So I was interviewed by Sherwood Fawcett, who had been announced as the first director of what would become the Pacific Northwest Laboratories. The outcome was predictable. They said, we want you to join the Battelle team. We seem to have this problem: you’re leaving before we arrive. So I said, well, that’s just the way it is. [LAUGHTER] And he said, well, maybe we could delay your departure. I said, well, perhaps we could talk to the people in the AEC and see if they’d be agreeable. But Dr. Fawcett said, well, what would they have to do with it? And I still remember telling him, they had something to do with everything that goes on here. They certainly will have a say. Well, they were quickly agreed. So it was agreed that I would become a Battelle employee. So as I recall, January 4th or thereabouts, 1965, I walked out the door on Friday evening and threw my GE badge in the box and came in on Monday morning and picked up a Battelle badge, and that Friday I headed out on a leave of absence to join the division of biology and medicine at the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C.

Franklin: Wow.

McClellan: So the next phase is after not quite two years in Washington. I spent—I was then strongly encouraged to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico to run a research program on inhaled radioactivity that was operated by the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research, a part of a triad of a medical research institute, a private medical clinic and a hospital. And in that role, running that program, I essentially competed with Hanford in terms of a very significant research program that Bill Bair pioneered in leading at Hanford. So while I was gone from Hanford, I in a sense remained connected, certainly scientifically. And as a competitor, but a very friendly competition.

Franklin: [LAUGHTER] And did you ever come back to work at Hanford after you went to New Mexico?

McClellan: Well, I never came—well, I came for a couple weeks in the summer of ’66 and sort of bid my farewell. Wrapped up a few things. And I continued to publish some papers interrelated. I came back many times in terms of the Hanford Symposium that became a regular feature. And then I had the opportunity, more recently, to serve on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the US Transuranium and Uranium Registry. Which, ironically, I was involved in in some of the early activities initiating it in 1966. Now we’re 50 years later, celebrating the 50th anniversary of a landmark program started by group of occupational physicians, Dag Norwood, one of those small contractors in the privatized acitivites at Hanford. Then that later went over to Washington State University, and today is maintained and operated as a piece of the Washington State University College of Pharmacy.

Franklin: Yup. When you were at Hanford Labs, what kinds of work were you—you mentioned work on pigs, bone marrow—what other kinds of work were you doing?

McClellan: Well, we had a major study that Leo was wrapping up on the effects of radioiodine in thyroid cancer in sheep. I did some ancillary studies related to how we translated those results to people, to humans. One of the key pieces of work that I did—and it really fit into a bigger picture with many people involved, but—we looked at the effects of x radiation of the thyroid gland and compared that to the protracted beta radiation of the thyroid from ingested or inhaled radioiodine. That showed that the protracted radiation exposure was much less effective in causing damage to the thyroid. So that was a very important piece of work. Another major study that—the primary one I had responsibility for was one that involved miniature pigs given strontium-90. They received their strontium-90 dose each day. We had three generations of pigs. Not because it was a study of genetic effects, but that’s the way in which we could introduce additional animals into the study. It ultimately involved over 1,000 miniature pigs, essentially studied for their total lifespan. And the endpoints were the development of bone marrow discrasias, bone marrow cancers, leukemia, and a development of bone cancers. So that study continued after I left. I think, in total, it represented a very important contribution. A key finding, again, was the importance of dose rate delivery. When radiation dose is protracted over time, it’s much less effective in causing damage and causing cancer. Another key study that was done during that time period linked back to Operation Green Run. We essentially simulated a part of that in a study in which we fed radioiodine—iodine-131 to dairy cows. We followed the thyroid in radioactivity in dairy cows. We collected samples of the milk—we milked them. And then we had a group of volunteers that drank that radioiodine-contaminated milk, elements of it. And then we monitored their thyroids. So you could put together this total picture of a contamination event in terms of iodine-131. What’s happening in terms of the cow’s thyroids accumulating iodine, what’s happening in terms of the iodine-131 in the milk, and then what is happening in terms of concentration of radioiodine in the human thyroid for people ingesting that. That was a very valuable set of data to help us understand what happened in terms of Operation Green Run. It was an extraordinarily valuable piece of information we could use in terms of assessing what was happening post-Chernobyl and post Fukushima.

Franklin: What did that data show, as to contamination in humans?

McClellan: Well, it basically—key message out of that is if radioiodine is released in the event of a reactor accident, you really want to focus on what you can do to control it. You can control it multiple ways. One way is you simply take the cows off of any pasturage. You put them on the stored feed that doesn’t have radioiodine in it. And you make very certain that you simply stop the milk in that supply line. So in the case of Chernobyl, I was able to go to the Ukraine the fall after the Chernobyl accident and do some work there, reconstructing what was going on.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

McClellan: We could see—and I think has been subsequently borne out—in many areas the Soviets were very effective of limiting the exposure of populations. Part of that was cut off that contaminated milk supply. The other that came out of that was something we had a clue to, and that is that the stable iodine intake is very important. If an individual is in what we call a goitergenic diet, low on stable iodine, then they’re going to take up much more of the radioiodine and get a higher radiation dose, as well as, I think there’s a synergistic interaction between the goitergenic thyroid that low in terms of iodine intake, and it’s pushing to do its best, if you will, limited iodine. So that’s combination of living in an area that’s goiterogenic and being subjected to radioiodine is bad news.

Franklin: How would someone naturally have a low iodine intake?

McClellan: Well, very difficult in the USA—or in most advanced countries. Because one of the things we do is we introduce iodine in the flour.

Franklin: And what about iodized salt, also.

McClellan: Salt, yeah.

Franklin: Okay. So--

McClelland: Okay. But in certain areas, you know, in the Ukraine and Belarussia, at the time of the Chernobyl accident, things were not working well politically. Areas that had subsidized practices in terms of iodized salt, iodized flour—that was gone. They were reverting back to the old ways of flour being produced from wheat grown in these low iodine areas.

Franklin: So they’re bodies would have been much more naturally attuned to be grabbing that iodine and storing it?

McClellan: That’s right. Yeah, that’s exactly—

Franklin: Wow, that’s really fascinating.

McClellan: So the people most at risk were those people living in those goiterogenic areas. In fact, that pattern was well-studied in terms of people knowledgeable of thyroid and thyroid disease.

Franklin: So did you know this about—you knew this about the iodine, then, before Chernobyl happened and were able to identify it, or this came about as a result of Chernobyl?

McClellan: Well, what happened is Chernobyl kind of confirmed our fears, if you will. An individual by the name of Lester van Middlesworth at the Univeristy of Tennessee in Memphis was a major figure in studying thyroid and thyroid diseases. Leo Bustad and van Middlesworth were very good friends. I later became friends with van Middlesworth. He understood this, alerted him to this. In fact, our study that I referred to of radioiodine in cows—cows’ milk—we actually studied the influence in a small supplemental study of changing the iodine intake of the cows. So we knew—we understood that picture then. But it was after Chernobyl that, I think, Lester van Middlesworth was a key figure in pointing out these were the areas that were going to be at risk in the Ukraine, Russia, and Belarussia.

Franklin: Wow. The cows that were used for the study, were those cows—were those someone’s cows, or were they cows at the Hanford Labs?

McClellan: Oh, no, we purchased the cows. We purchased the cows at the open market. It was kind of fun. We actually had a much bigger experiment planned early on. We were going to grow and have the pastures and contaminate them and so on. But that was a multimillion dollar experiment to get shrunk down to something you could finally do. Kind of an interesting sideline is, as I told you, I came to Hanford as a summer student. I was fortunate that I fit into a program that was designed primarily for engineers. There were 100 individuals in the program in ’57. I think there were 95, 98 bona fide engineers. There was a graduate student from Wyoming and me, a veterinary medical student. But I had a—and Leo had an enthusiasm for bringing in students. So when I came back and was a permanent staff member, we regularly recruited students. So I can recall when we were planning the cow study, Leo and I had a set of resumes and applications in front of us. Leo pulled out one, and he said, I think this guy is really our guy. His name was Eugene Elafson. And I said, oh, I spotted him, Leo, and I knew you’d probably pick him out. He said, why is that? And I said, because he’s from Stanwood, Washington. That’s where you grew up! He’s another Scandinavian. And he said, oh, Roger, I knew you’d see through that. But remember, this guy grew up on a dairy farm. We need somebody to milk these cows this summer. [LAUGHTER] So we had Gene Olafson, who later was onto a very successful career in veterinary medicine. It was one of the students working with us that summer.

Franklin: How did you get the volunteers to ingest the milk? Did they know of—

McClellan: Oh, they knew that they were ingesting—in fact, they were all, as best I recall, the individuals were all professionals within the radiation protection unit at Hanford.

Franklin: Okay.

McClellan: So today, whether we would have allowed them to be subjects of their own experiment, I don’t know. But I want to assure you that the radiation doses they received were extraordinarily small.

Franklin: I was just curious.

McClellan: Yeah.

Franklin: You don’t hear about human subjects, generally, you know?

McClellan: Well, we went through a time period where there was a lot of attention given in terms of work done under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission and using radiation and radionuclides in human subjects. During that time period, this study was one which the people—by then, Battelle was operating the laboratories, but they had go to back and pull out all the records. I recall very well the day I received a call from an attorney with the General Electric Company and said, I’ve read your papers in which you’re a coauthor reporting these students with five volunteers at Hanford. What can you tell me about them? But turned out, our scientific papers published in the open peer reviewed literature were one of the best pieces of information that one could use to readily calculate the radiation exposure the individuals and show that it was what I would call de minimis.

Franklin: Okay. That’s really interesting. When did you finally retire? Or have you retired?

McClellan: I’m not really retired. I’ve transitioned. I think my career is one of Hanford and studies on ingested radionuclides. A very important part of Hanford that I think should be emphasized is we were involved in what I would call issue-resolving science. We were trying to develop science so that we could resolve issues, solve problems, create information that could protect workers, protect the environment. I’m concerned that we’ve, over the years, science has changed in many quarters. Now sometimes I accuse some of my fellow scientists of being engaged in issue of perpetuating science: can we keep this going until my career’s over, or my graduate students’ careers are over. And even sometimes a bit of, will this arouse enough concern on the part of the public that they’ll fund what I want to do? The year that I was involved at Hanford, it was issue resolving science. The problem, the issue, it wasn’t a random walk through the scientific thicket, trying to find something interesting.

Franklin: Why do you think that’s changed?

McClellan: Well, I think we always have tension, and sometimes the tension—we can simplify it by talking about basic versus applied science. I think that’s an artificial distinction on it. Some of the most basic, fundamental findings in science have been serendipitous findings that came out of applied science. I really am not an enthusiastic of the view that the best and the brightest can go into the laboratory and just sit down and they’ll have some great thoughts about what comes next. Some of this, I think, comes out of the high energy physics community, where there is a bit of that. I’m a strong believer, particularly in the use of public funds. That public funds should be used for science, in which we do have issues, and we want to obtain information that’s going to help us resolve those and use the science for the benefit of society. I think we sometimes get a little quite frankly maybe a little pompous as scientists that we know what the issues are and if the public would just listen to us more and give us more money, why, we’ll solve all the problems. That’s not really the way the world works. I think that science if a very vital part of the whole society. But it has to be a part of it, and it has to be interlocked and working with the other elements of society. I also think that many times we find scientists getting so wrapped up in their particular discipline that they fail to appreciate that most of these issues are so complex, they’re not solved by one scientist, one discipline. They’re really solved by a team of people. That becomes very challenging, because systems, in terms of reward, are not always designed to reward teams of people.

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: We focus on rewarding individuals. I would say, I think, at Hanford, in the time period that I had extensive involvement, there was a teamwork orientation and a balance of recognizing the value of the individual but the value of the individual contributing his part of the team to solve a problem.

Franklin: Do you think—do you feel, maybe, that the Cold War had an impact in how science was connected, or that kind of teamwork or purpose-driven science happened, especially in the period you’re talking about, in the early, the heightened tensions of the Cold War versus this kind of post-Cold War world?

McClellan: Well, I know there was a purpose. In terms of talking nationalistic.

Franklin: Right.

McClellan: I mean, we were in a war. But now we’re in a new war, the Cold War. We knew what the Soviets were doing; they knew what we were doing. I think there was a battle on—I think the other part of that that influences this is that if you go back to the tremendous contributions of science, in terms of World War II, to winning that war, and certainly in many different ways—but we can go into the whole issue of RADAR. Things were done in communication, things were done in aeronautics in terms of physiological suit design.

Franklin: And so on.

McClellan: Yeah. Development of antibiotics. All of that, the whole field of nuclear energy. My personal view is that nuclear energy has both benefited from those origins, but it’s also had a heavy burden to bear. [LAUGHTER] I can relate to the fact that I’m visiting here in Richland and I’m going to go to a football game, and that football game, my grandson’s going to be playing in one team from western Washington, and they’re going to be playing the Richland High School Bombers, and their symbol is a mushroom cloud.

Franklin: Proud of the cloud!

McClellan: Unfortunately, many people, when you talk about nuclear power and its role in meeting our societal energy needs, their first image is that mushroom cloud. Their second image is envisioning thousands of deaths in terms of people who were killed in the two atomic bombings in Japan. What they fail to appreciate is that in fact radiation is not very effective in terms of producing cancer. It is really a weak carcinogen. That being said it has a bad rap. It doesn’t get as much of a good rap, probably, as it should in terms of its value in diagnostic purposes in terms of human medicine, nor diagnostic purposes—treatment purposes in terms of ccancer. Radiation is still one of our most effective tools in terms of cancer treatment. But all of that is sort of overwhelmed in the public view. So I continue to be a very strong supporter, enthusiast, wearing my hat as a citizen, I think, with special knowledge of radiation, as to what we should be doing in terms of trying to meet our energy needs. I think nuclear power has a key role. We’ve amply demonstrated that we can handle it and control it. We have had serious accidents—Chernobyl, Fukushima—but I think we can also learn from those.

Franklin: Right. So I hate to—

McClellan: I think we’ve gone well over.

Franklin: We’ve gone for a bit. But I hate to [unknown] but I have an interview here in just a bit. But before you go, is there anything else we haven’t talked aobut that you would like to get off your chest?

McClellan: No. Well, there’s probably about another hour-and-a-half.

Franklin: Well, we’d—I’d be happy to schedule a follow-up interview with you. There’s still several questions that I haven’t asked you.

McClellan: Oh, I think there’s a whole area that we ought to go into. Because I think—I mean, I know I sound pompous, but—I think I know it probably better than anybody else. This would take us down the line of radio accidents, inhalation of radioactivity, workers and worker exposure. Really the basis for much of the work that Bill Bair and his colleagues did at Hanford. And then the work we did at Albuquerque, initially with fission product radionuclides and then with plutonium. And then worked on it at the University of Utah with injections of plutonium, strontium-90, radium, in the beagle dogs. And then the study at UC-Davis that involved ingested strontium-90 and injected radium in dogs, and that links back to the studies with miniature pigs here. Those studies collectively provide a major portion of our knowledge of internally deposited radionuclides. The part that’s fascinating out of that is when we look at our human experience, in terms of the USA, I think we can be extraordinarily pleased with the fact that we did have effective radiation protection programs that go back to Herb Parker. So if there were effects, injuries, they’re extraordinarily rare, very localized. On a collective basis, I think we—we have ample evidence—we did a good job. On the other hand, I tell you that we have evidence post-Cold War that Mayak, the Soviet, was a very different situation. In fact, we did the studies in dogs because we didn’t have human experience. And we never expected to get it. What it turned out is the Soviets at Mayak got the experience that we never thought we would see and we never wanted to see. Their human subjects, accidentally exposed, demonstrated that our dogs were great models; i.e., workers at Mayak were exposed at levels that did produce an excess of lung cancer, an excess of liver cancer, an excess of bone cancer. The lung cancers and liver cancers were really remarkably predicted from the dog data.

Franklin: Wow.

McClellan: Once you took into account two factors—one major. The dogs were clean living. They didn’t smoke, and they didn’t drink. Smoking does cause lung cancer.

Franklin: Yeah, it does.

McClellan: And some plutonium exposure adds to that. Drinking in huge quantities can cause liver damage, and liver cancer. Exposure to plutonium increases it further.

Franklin: Interesting. Well, that was great. And I would love to—we’d love to—

McClellan: So we’ll figure out some other time when we can continue into these others. Then after you’ve looked at what you’ve got here and how much of it’s useable—

Franklin: Oh, there’s a lot of it. Thank you so much. That was great. And I had a great time.

McClellan: Well, my pleasure.

View interview on Youtube.



Bit Rate/Frequency

317 kbps

Hanford Sites

300 Area

Years in Tri-Cities Area


Years on Hanford Site


Names Mentioned

Gene Conley
W.E. Johnson
Oren H. Pilkey
Walter Pilkey
Oren Pilkey
Doctor Lyle Swindeman
Albin Pherson
Leo K. Bustad
Kathleen Donnegan
Herbert M. Parker
Harry A. Kornberg
Dr. Cantrell
Sherwood Fawcett
Dag Norwood
Lester van Middlesworth
Leo Bustad
Eugene Elafson
Gene Olafson




Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Roger McClellan,” Hanford History Project, accessed April 21, 2024,