Interview with Edward Milliman

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Interview with Edward Milliman


An interview with Edward Milliman 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

2018-29-1: 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


Edward Milliman


Washington State University Tri-Cities


Robert Franklin: I’m ready here.

Tom Hungate: We’re ready.

Franklin: We’re ready, okay. My name is Robert Franklin and I am conducting an oral history with Edward Milliman on July 6th, 2016. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Edward Milliman about his experiences working at the Hanford site and living in Richland. So I guess the first place to start is the beginning. So why don’t you tell me how you came to Hanford and to Richland?

Edward Milliman: From 1960 until ’67, I worked for General Electric and Douglas United Nuclear. I got laid off in ’67, so then I went to Montana, Bozeman area. Ran a couple of ranches there for a couple years. Went up to Cut Bank, Montana. In fact, it was winter for Montana. And 40 below there in the winter was nothing. The only way you could get to town, which was 20 miles away—they would start their D8 Cat up with the blade on it, and blade through all the way to town. And town was a grocery store and a tavern. Some of them old cowboys there, they’d get snowed in all winter.

When spring thaw come, they and their hired help would all come into town and come into the saloon there, the bar. And I noticed every time I would go in there, one fellow was always there. If you left late at night, he was still there. And I asked the bartender, which was from Longview, Washington. He said, no, we just lock him in. He just stays here, and if he drinks anything through the night, the money’s always to the side there. And those old cowboys would come in, and they would get all drunked up.

That one guy would say—and the bartender told me—see them two old fellas? And they must have been 70, 75. He said, stay away from them, just leave them alone. No matter what happens, leave them alone. Don’t say anything. Pretty soon their voices started getting loud, and I started paying them some attention. He said, that was not your calf. That was my calf that crawled through the fence and I just pulled him back. You’re a liar! And them two old fellas jumped up and went to knocking each other around and down on the floor. And they weren’t kidding. They were really hitting knuckles to each other. And pretty soon, the bartender took a bar towel, a wet bar towel on them. They got up, and sat there and sopped the blood up on their nose and their lips. They sat there, having a drink, and they started laughing. The bartender said, you know, neither one of them’s ever had a cow or a calf in their life. They’re wheat farmers. And he said, they’re just so glad to see each other, they beat the devil out of each other every year. [LAUGHTER] And he said this happens every spring.

And pretty soon, he said, now just sit still, man. It ain’t over yet. I said, my goodness. So pretty soon, he said, you hit me harder than I hit you. No, I didn’t. Smack, bang, down they went again. [LAUGHTER] And that finally ended it. Anyway, just some of the funny things that happened to me. Then I came back and put an application in for Battelle.

Franklin: In what—

Milliman: 1970. They hired me on January the 5th, 1970. I was working for a doctor, Dr. Alfred P. Wehner, which happened to be during the war a fighter pilot for the Germans. He joined the Luftwaffe, the Hitler Youth. His father was SS. He’s also written a book, From Hitler Youth to United States Citizen, which I probably have the second autographed copy.

But we were doing all kind of bioassays and lifespan studies using—mainly then it was hamsters, Syrian golden hamsters. We were making them—we would put them in these exposure chambers. They were introduced to nickel oxide in this one particular chamber. The next chamber would be cobalt oxide. And then also we went on to introduce cigarette smoke to them. You’d put them in a tube and plug them into a Hamburg-2 smoking machine which had 30 cigarettes on this turn. And the machine would take a puff off each cigarette and blow it in the chamber. They had no choice but to inhale it. And asbestos exposure. And at that time, all we had on was a lab coat and a little white paper face mask. [LAUGHTER] At that time, they didn’t know the dangers—really bad dangers of asbestos.

Then in 1974, Johnson and Johnson talcum powder exposure. That lasted for two years. In the meantime, all the employees out at 100 F, where we were located, they moved into the new Life Science Laboratory here in 3000 Area. But we couldn’t leave, because we had animals on exposure. Weren’t allowed to move them. So I was out there at 100 F until 1975, ’76.

And then I moved into town. I think it was ’77, we went out on a two-year asbestos concrete exposure. Of course, by then, they had us pretty well suited up in fresh air and respirators and all this stuff. Then I moved over—that was over at the annex. Then I moved into the Life Science Laboratory, which we used to say, we’re stuck one story down in the ground in a rat-infested hole. Which—all we had was rats and mice down there.

They had four macaque monkeys, and they were doing dental implants on them. We had this one comrade down there that—he was kind of a strange fellow. He would go into the monkey room, the macaques’. They had them in—there was four: it was three males and one female. If you’re mean to an animal, there’s no second chance or anything. If they catch you mistreating an animal, you’re out the door right now. They’ll escort you out and you’re finished. Well, when you went in the monkey room, these macaques—they’re only set up, oh, about two, three foot. When you’d come into the room, they would hang onto the bars on their cage. And Dan would come up and smash their fingers and tell them to get back, get back. They tell you, don’t let them get ahold of you, they’ll pull your arm right out of the socket, they’re that strong. And I’ve seen them get ahold of a chain and pull a half inch eyebolt right out of the concrete. They’d put their feet against the wall, and—anyway. This one male macaque which was the dominant one there, he would turn around real fast when Dan would come in and throw his posterior up in the air, which in monkey language, that’s insult, that’s a challenge, come on. Anyway, Dan kept doing that, and being mean to him, and kicking the cage, and making him get back. Always had a safety man looking through the glass at you, all the time when you’d go in there.

Dan was washing the floor out, and he got too close. And he dropped the hose, and he took a step forward to pick the hose up. That macaque reached out and got him by the front of the coveralls and pulled him up against the cage, and drew his fist back like a human, and he Dan so hard—[LAUGHTER]—through the bars of that cage, he knocked him out. And the safety man run in, and all the rest of the macaques were all standing up looking, hey, what you doing? And they pulled Dan out and took him to first aid. Dan come back, he had most beautiful black eye I’ve ever seen in my life. And his nose was kind of pushed over to the side a little bit from the swelling. Our supervisor called Dan in and said, you must be careful. Don’t let them get ahold of you. Okay.

Well, about two weeks later, Dan was in there. It was his turn to go in. He was in there washing the floor out, and feeding them. [LAUGHTER] He got too close. That monkey reached out and got Dan by the head of the hair and chun-kinged him into the bars and knocked him out again. Well, the safety man, he says, I run in and pulled Dan back out and took him to first aid. And now Dan come back, now he’s got this black eye that’s starting to turn green, because it’s healing up. And now he’s all bandaged up around his head. He got stitches in his head. The boss called him in again. Dan, you got to be careful. Stay away from them things. Okay.

About two weeks later, Dan went in there, and to check their water, you had about a six-foot galvanized pipe. And it was crossbar—across the upright bars on the thing, and then there was a divider there. You’d go in, you’d take that pipe, and you’d stick it against the water nipple to make sure that they were getting water. This little female macaque, she would grab the pipe and poke it on there and shake her head, yes, it’s okay. That’s how smart they were.

Well, Dan got to that big old male monkey—macaque—and he stuck the pipe in there. And the safety man told us later, he said, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Because you could sit there and see in that macaque, he’d kind of sit there and think about that, watching Dan put that pipe through there on the other cages. He grabbed the pipe, pulled it out of Dan’s hand, chugged him in the belly and folded Dan over, put the pipe over the crossbar there, and romped down on the end of it. Hit old Dan under the chin and knocked him out again. And the safety man, he said, I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t—I had to crawl in on my hands and knees and pull Dan out of there. Here comes Dan back, he’s still got bandage on his head, he’s still got a black eye, and now he’s got stitches in his chin. [LAUGHTER] And the boss called Dan in, and said, Dan, I’m going to have to pull you out. Them monkeys are killing you. [LAUGHTER] That’s just some of the humorous things that’s happened there. I guess it wasn’t humorous to Dan, but—and we all kidded Dan so bad, he left. He finally retired. [LAUGHTER]

And then we got—after the asbestos concrete exposure and went to LSL-2 down the basement, then they got a lot of contracts from the NCI and a lot of organizations. There were probably eight or ten exposure rooms in that basement. They designed these special chambers for our inhalation studies. Dr. Owen Moss designed the chambers. And I designed a device to generate particulate matter, which I have a patent on. There were four control rooms that controlled those eight or ten rooms. They were using my device to generate indium phosphide. It was a component they use in computers and chips and things like that. Opening day, two-year contract, about $25 million. And me and this other employee, we were their technicians. They had finally computerized the readouts on all these chambers, and they had 1,200 rats in all these different chambers. This chamber got 10 micrograms per liter, this chamber got 20, 30, and on down the line. There were 1,200 rats in all these different chambers. They were generating this delivery system.

I was 200 feet away from where this stuff was being delivered to the animals. I’m sitting in the control room all comfortable. Started that thing up, and started generating that indium phosphide. I was looking at the computer, checking the different levels in the chambers. You had ten minutes before T-90 to get up to 100% of the target. The other fella asked me, how’s it doing? I’m tweedling knobs and regulating air flows and stuff, and I’m watching the computer.  And one of the last readings I seen was that it was 65% of the target.

And it exploded. And it blew me and him out the door. I’m glad the door wasn’t latched—it was closed, but didn’t lock. Blew us into the hallway. The indium phosphide and the smoke come rolling out of the ceiling. We slammed the door shut, grabbed some tape and sealed the door. All the other technicians down the room in the control room, they stuck their heads out and hollered and hit the panic button, which was one button on all these control rooms. When you hit the panic button, it shut everything down that they were exposing. They broke the barrier and went out through the sterile, which costs a lot of money to clean up, because that was all a sterile area. They couldn’t come my way, because the fumes and the dust. Look in there, and it was the most beautiful violet flame. That stuff was burning. And I’m sitting here looking at it. [LAUGHTER]

Buddy, he got his fresh air on and everything, running for the fire extinguisher and put the fire out and we sealed the door again. And then they called the fire department and they evacuated the whole building. Nobody asked us if we were okay. They would just walk up and say, what did you do? [LAUGHTER] It just blew up! Anyway, the PR people got ahold of us right away—public relations people. They said, you will not say anything—an explosion, or the dang thing blew up. [LAUGHTER] Okay, but it did. You can’t say that. It killed all 1,200 of those rats from the concussion.

Franklin: Wow.

Milliman: And it went and blew out—went through the heap of filters, went through the scrubbers, and out into the air. Which they kind of glossed over. When I read it in the paper, anyway, it was—it said two scientists had previously been in the room. No one was there when it—the incident—happened, is the way they put it.

Franklin: Wow. So, I guess rolling back a little bit—no, I guess we’ll keep going, then we’ll roll back. So, what year did that happen, the incident? This incident, with the—what did you call it, the indium?

Milliman: Indium phosphide.

Franklin: Indium phosphide.

Milliman: Yeah. Gosh, that must have been late ‘80s or early ‘90s. Because I retired in 1996.

Franklin: And you had worked for Battelle from 1970 to 1996?

Milliman: Yeah, yes.

Franklin: Okay.

Milliman: Yes. Worked for the same doctor, same scientist. Until very later on the started having some heart trouble and he retired. But we’re still good friends, we stay in contact. Many, many—I think the worst exposure I was ever on was CS2. It was a teargas with a disabler in it. We got the contract from the Army. Even though you had protective gear on and fresh air, you would take your outside protection off, and you had a pair of coveralls on underneath. If you’d walk out into the hallway, everybody would shun you like you had the plague, because that stuff just stuck with you. One time, some got into my fresh air mask somehow. I plugged the area, and it gave me a full shot in the face. Down I went. Safety man pulled me out and went and got a wet towel. They had a compound that kind of nullified that stuff. It was Triton X-100. He soaked that towel in that Triton X, and I got it on my face. Of course, you don’t even know where you’re at. The disabler is like a bad dream. It just—your hand will fly up and slap you in your own face, and you got no control over anything. It only lasts for a little while, but it’s very effective, I can tell you. [LAUGHTER] It—gosh, it just burns your eyes, you can’t breathe, your throat constricts, and you’re disoriented.

Franklin: Do you know when this was? Do you remember when this was?

Milliman: That must have been in the ‘80s, too. Probably the late ‘80s. We had so many chemical exposures going on, just one after another. These were all lifespan studies. And they figure a rat lives—a rat or mouse—can live a couple of years. Their lifespan is two years at the max. I have a stack of papers eight inches high of all the disclosure of what we were getting exposed to, and we had to sign we were aware of what the exposure would do. There were so many chemicals, like 1,3-butadiene and propylene. And next time you open a bag of Lay’s potato chips or any kind of a—the bags are all puffy and look like they’re plump full—I mean—full. [LAUGHTER] Ha, the last thing they shoot into that plastic bag before they seal it up is propylene, a preservative. And all these contracts that we received were to see if they were—they were all potential carcinogens, and we were testing the effects of them to see if they were carcinogen. That was the main thing that I did for 26, 27 years on all these inhalation exposures.                                                                                                                                                  Franklin: So, can you tell me about propylene? Is it a carcinogen?

Milliman: I didn’t get to read the report on that. They would mostly debrief us after the exposure was over. And of course they’d write a scientific article about it. I’m not sure whether it was or not—it probably was because—gosh, methyl methacrylate, a lot of things they use in the carpets, 1,3-butadiene, propylene oxide, methyl methacrylate, and—it just goes on and on and on. Everything that’s in this room—potential carcinogen. A lot of the glues they put into the carpets and the dyes and stuff. A lot of the household cleaners—the chemicals and stuff they put in them—they’re—everything you do is bad. Everything you buy is bad. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Right. [LAUGHTER]

Milliman: Yeah.

Franklin: So let’s roll it back a little bit. Where actually—where were you born?

Milliman: I was born in Washtucna, Washington.

Franklin: Oh, okay, that’s right. And what year was that?

Milliman: 1938.

Franklin: 1938.

Milliman, November 15, 1938.

Franklin: And how long—did you grow up in Washtucna?

Milliman: I don’t even remember being there. Then my parents moved from there to Spokane, out in Moran Prairie.

Franklin: Okay.

Milliman: My father was a farmer and he was also a steam engineer. We left Spokane—he had a small farm there—we left Spokane in 1947 and moved to Benton City. And he had a farm there. He worked for the Benton County road department. Then, before that, they had—the old prison camp out at Horn Rapids. Him being a steam engineer, he hired onto the Morrison-Knudsen construction company and he fired the boilers for the whole complex out there at the old prison place. Which, there was no prisoners there, but they’d converted it into almost like a small community for the construction workers. They had all the barracks and the hutments and—just like a small town there for a while. It’s all gone now, but—

Franklin: Those were construction workers at Hanford?

Milliman: Yeah, and they—

Franklin: In the late ‘40s, early ‘50s?

Milliman: Yeah, this was in the ‘50s. Most of them were working building railroads up—and construction work.

Franklin: So then you went to school—so you said ’47, you moved to Benton City?

Milliman: Yeah, I started third grade in Benton City. Then I graduated in 1956.

Franklin: Then what did you do after you graduated?

Milliman: Went up to work—went up to Seattle and hired on for Boeing at the Renton plant. We were making—we were working on the KC-135 tankers. They had me working the plumbing bays, tying down the bladders and the pumps and everything for the KC-135s. Then one day, after I was there about two months, the boss called and said come with me. Okay. So he took me over and he said, now you’re an electrician. [LAUGHTER] So went to school for that, and we wired up the tankers from the nose back to where they joined the wings on. And then—its assembly was from the nose back to where they put the wings on; no wings yet. And they were on tracks and when it would come time to move, they would just roll it down and another one would come into position. They would just—in one end, out the other. And one day I happened to look over and thought, what is that? That’s not a tanker. They said, well, that’s the first commercial jets—passenger. The first six were Pan-American—for Pan-American Airlines. We built six of those. And then the next one was American and Qantas and all of the foreign companies. But all a 707 was at that time was a KC-135 tanker with the fuel base taken out, and the boom and everything on the back for refueling. And they made that—[LAUGHTER] Boeing made a fortune off a government expense building those KC-135 tankers and doing all the design work and the engineering on them. And then they just simply made the 707 out of that tanker. After I was there a couple of years, in one part of the hangar, they started putting this big black shroud up from the ceiling to the floor. The rest of the crew says, what’s going on over there? The boss wouldn’t say anything, just shut up and mind your own business. These guys started walking around in suits with their dark glasses on inside the building—sunglasses. And they’re all leaning a little bit to their left. I got up close enough look and said, oh, this guy’s got a hog leg in there—he’s got a pistola. They were Secret Service. What they were doing there was building Air Force One. A 707—the first one.

Franklin: Wow.

Milliman: They picked six of us, and they assigned one of those Secret Service guys to two people. And he would follow you wherever you went—even to the bathroom. And I would—being me, I’d tell them a joke, and he’d just stare at you. [LAUGHTER] The boss’d call us in the office. You leave those guys alone. You don’t speak to them, you answer their questions, and that’s all there is to it. Well, I said, they haven’t got a sense of humor. [LAUGHTER] You especially—[LAUGHTER]—knock it off. Okay. If you came out of that shrouded area to go to the tool room to get a tool, a pair of footsteps right behind you. The guy’d say, what are you doing? Why do you need that? Ask you all kinds of questions. He’d look and check it all out, follow you right back in again. You go eat lunch, the guy’s sitting there looking in your lunchbox and seeing what you’re eating. Hey, want a sandwich? [LAUGHTER] Oh, oh, oh, back in the office, the boss shaking his finger at you. I left there in—I started getting homesick. I wanted to smell the sagebrush again and the cottonwoods in the springtime and all that fuzz they put out and everything. Then I came home and courted my girlfriend and got married. Then I went to work for General Electric in 1960. I had two boys and a girl. Was living and moved into Richland at that time, and then moved back to Benton City, which was my home. I’d been there all my life.

Franklin: How long did you live in Richland for?

Milliman: Probably two years.

Franklin: Where did you live in Richland?

Milliman: Oh. Marshall Street. Don’t remember the exact address, but it was on Marshall. I’d come in on Van Giesen. Moved from there, rented a place there, and then moved to Benton City and bought a home and raised the kids up. Got them up through high school. They graduated there. Then, like I say, went to Montana for almost three years. Then back home for Battelle.

Franklin: What did your wife do when you worked at Hanford?

Milliman: She—just a homemaker. She worked at grocery store, checker. And we got a divorce in—gosh—imagine that. I can’t even remember. The kids all got married. They had kids. Then I remarried. Wife’s a registered nurse, works here at Life Care Center in Richland.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Milliman: Very talented person. And she will come home and tell me strange stories that happens there. Like this one fellow was in this motorized scooter. And he was just dying for a cigarette. Nobody would give him a cigarette. So he got in his motorized scooter and he escaped out the door. He went down to the corner to the 7-Eleven store and buy him a pack of cigarettes. Now, this guy is on oxygen. And he come back, and he lit up. My wife, Christine, said she heard, my goodness! That man’s on fire! She said they all rushed out the door! [LAUGHTER] And the guy’s on fire, and they got the fire out. It melted the plastic right into his face. And she says, every time I look at him, I can hear that. That man’s on fire! And he’s still there. Then they have—she says that one person in particular keeps calling the Richland police and telling them that—hey, they kidnapped me. They’re holding me against my will. [LAUGHTER] And she says the police show up with their hands on their guns. She says, I just put my hands up and say it’s a false alarm. About the third time he calls, they’ll say, well take his phone away from him then. [LAUGHTER] Some of the funny things that happen in life.

Franklin: So when you worked for—what did you do when you worked for GE and Douglas United?

Milliman: We were metal handlers, which meant they were canning up six an agent uranium slugs for the reactors. A metal handler, all he did was they had—you’d stand in front of this hydraulic machine that the metal carrier, after they got—dipped those things in the hot aluminum and silicon, inside of aluminum can, then the guy who had a pair of tongs, he’d come over and he’d put them in these two baskets. And the baskets would drop into the water, come up, and drop again. And then the basket would turn towards you, and my job was you pulled slugs out. They had a metal container around them. You had to scrape the aluminum and silicon off the metal can. And then you took out the uranium slug that was clad in aluminum and put it in the pallet. The process went on like that all day long. Then I moved back to final inspection. The lights were so bright in this cubicle we had. And you would look at the welds—they had to weld endcaps on these slugs and you had to look for pinholes and voids.

I did that for a year or so, and then I went to final inspection, which we were radiographing, x-raying the slugs for voids and stuff. Beside the station there where we were radiographing these slugs, there were about 30 autoclaves, just—they stood up about this high above the metal floor. There’s 200-pound hydraulic door that closed on those autoclaves, and what they would do, they would load 60 of these slugs—these uranium slugs—in a basket. They had little round cylinders, and you’d put the slug in so they wouldn’t bump against each other. You’d put six in the basket, and they’d get an array of six baskets, which were 240 slugs. They all had a hole in the basket through the center. They would load this—put this big steel rod down through the baskets and they’d put a pin in the bottom. And the crane would come overhead and pick that whole stack up and lower it down into the autoclave. Then the operator would give the signal, close the door. Then he had a pipe—there was a handle sticking out, and he had a pipe he’d stick under a big cheater bar. And he would pull that door shut and the locking lugs would all come out and lock the lid on there. Now, on the end of that pipe on the door was a round hole. Underneath of it was a hydraulic device that had a pin in it. And the pin had to come up and go through that hole in the handle before he could ever bring it up on pressure. He’s looking at his control panel, okay, this one’s okay. I’m going to bring it up on tremendous pressure—steam pressure.

We were radiographing our slugs, me and this other employee. Pretty soon the floor started shaking. What? Earthquake? What? And then we seen the operator. He got up and he started walking over towards this one autoclave. His head come up, and his head come up and he looked like a giraffe. He looked like his head was this high above his body. He looked, and he just turned and started to run, because he could see that door on that autoclave shuddering. And that pin had just barely touched the edge of that hole and give him the signal that the door was locked, which it was not. And that thing just worked that door around until it got past the locking lugs.

The hinge pin on that 200-pound door was two-inch solid steel. It snapped that like a toothpick. It blew the lid off, and blew it up through the roof and stuck it right in the monorail—the crane rail, and just bent a big U and stuck right there. The steam pressure on that started firing those baskets and those uranium slugs—it was just like a cannon barrel. You know—zoom—boy.

Me and this other fellow jumped onto this steel table. And the workers that were on the outside of the building, they said they seen those baskets and those slugs go 80 feet above the building and then they came back down through the roof, back down on us. And these things were hitting—dropping all around us. And of course me and him were under the table. People scattered. It just happened to be that this was right at shift change. The other crew was coming in; we was getting ready to leave. And right in the middle, that thing went through the roof. What was—after the slugs kept raining down, after they stopped, me and that fellow underneath there was on our hands and knees and we started laughing—just giggling insanely. [LAUGHTER] You know what, because you can hear these things hitting above you on that table—ba-ding, ba-ding.

Then the criticality alarm went off. And that wasn’t funny. We thought, uh-oh. One of those slugs ruptured and we’re all crapped up. And that’s what they—crapped up. And then they told us that it was a false alarm—which seemed kind of strange. Criticality alarm going off.

But the bad thing about working back then for General Electric and Douglas United Nuclear was they picked six or eight of us—I think there were eight of us—and they took us out of the 313 Building where we were canning slugs up. They took us over in this Butler Building, they called them. A tin—kind of a tin shack. Went in there, and all this fancy equipment in there and a great big, long, open-front hood. What are we doing here? We had a supervisor, his name was Paul Rhoades. They called him Dusty Rhoades. He said, you guys have been picked—[LAUGHTER]—for guinea pigs. [LAUGHTER] Well, yeah, what’s new? [LAUGHTER] They had designed a process to can up thorium. And thorium is a white powder; it’s just like flour, like a sandy flour. It was for the atomic subs, and they used that on the front face of the reactor in the sub as a biological shield, because thorium oxide is not radiation-wise as hot as uranium slugs.

Franklin: But they were the fuel element?

Milliman: Fuel element, yeah.

Franklin: But they were safer.

Milliman: Instead of uranium, it was thorium. Instead of a uranium slug, it was thorium oxide. Thorium oxide is a bone seeker. Cancer of the bones and stuff. Once, when we first started out—now, we’re working in this open-faced hood, and we’re pounding this stuff in the can. You got a—oh, it’s a rod about this big around with a flat on top. And it comes on a conveyor belt to you. The scale is weighing it out on an electronic scale. And these are little tin cylinders. You take it and you got a funnel thing here and you put the aluminum can in and lock it down. Pour the thorium oxide into the can and then pound it in there. You had a mark on that tamping bar that you had to put it down, get it to that mark, or else it would cause a variation in the quantity that was in there. You had to put it all in, or no go. There were six of us pounding that stuff into those cans.

Now, you had a pair of white coveralls on, you had your surgeon gloves on, taped at the wrist, and you had a leather glove. No respirator, no anything. You just—the glass came down about nose-high. And you were working with that stuff, and it was just a white fog in front of you. Now, when they’d blow the whistle for you to go to lunch, what we would do was we would—and we were—that powder would be all the way up to your elbows. You could see it on your coveralls. You would brush your coveralls off, and then you would take the leather gloves off, and you would take the tape off, and leave your surgeon gloves inside there in the trash. And then we would all come out of there and walk over to the step-off pad, and all six of us are getting out of our coveralls and—I thought, man, that stuff’s got to be going airborne.

Then we’d take the Scintran. We’re okay, no bad stuff on us. They would take us down, when we first started out, once every two weeks to the Whole Body Counter. They’d scan us from head to foot. Then it got to be once a month, and then once every two months. They pulled me out of there and they said, you eat a lot of fish? No, why? They say, you got a high zinc content in you. And I didn’t think much of it at the time.

But I got my dose reconstruction back here in 2012. I was contaminated with thorium oxide, which turns into some exotic thing, so they say. And they had the audacity to tell me I picked it up in the 1960s during atomic testing. And it just happened to be thorium oxide, which—anyways. [LAUGHTER] I turned the claim in, which was denied. But for the other three cancers, I got compensated for that. Two basal cell carcinomas and one other cancer that is pretty common in a male—prostate cancer. They compensated me for that, which—it doesn’t make up for your health now. But I just got examined the second. In fact, the Cold War Patriots, which I’m very proud of—to be a member of—they found the asbestos in my lungs when they gave me my—every three years you’re allowed a complete physical. They go over you from head to foot, and they picked up the asbestos in my lungs.

Franklin: Wow.

Milliman: And then the second, they told me because of that, they told me I have COPD and lung capacity is at half. Which makes it hard to do anything.

Franklin: Oh.

Milliman: Went to Cancun—my wife and I—on vacation. They got a mile-and-a-half zip line there—1.7 miles. Of course, the towers—the different towers you got to get on. [LAUGHTER] Take me a half-hour to get onto the top of the tower. Run out of steam before you get there. It’s been an interesting life; it’s been an interesting career. While we were in canning up thorium oxide, they had—they were all plywood walls, and they had that—it was like crepe paper insulation back in the days when they built those back in the ‘42s and ‘43s. And sat there, and I happened to look at the wall. They had painted the wall with a white epoxy paint. I got to looking at the wall, and, man, that thing’s blowing bubbles. I told the guy, and he looked over and said, how come that wall’s bubbling? I don’t know. So we come out of the hood, got cleaned up and went over there. Was looking at the wall and that epoxy would blow a bubble and then pop. What’s going on here? Well, little did we know there was a welder on the outside of that tin building. And he was welding us up some gas manifold pipes, and he set that insulation on fire. We had a big exhaust fan up in the attic and it was whipping that up—the flame up through there—and it was blistering that plywood epoxy paint. And the boss come over and said, what are you guys doing? Get over and get to work! He said, what are you doing? I said, well, we’re looking at the wall here. He’s looking and he said, how come that’s bubbling? [LAUGHTER] He says, do you see any smoke? He says, no. And they have where they’d plugged—patched the plywood with the—you’ve probably seen it—little square there, a diamond-shaped thing in the plywood where they’ve patched a hole in. One of them popped out. And he looked and he said, uh-oh, I see some fire. Now, you guys just stay here. He went and locked the door! He stepped out and locked us in there! And then he pointed to the back, which—it was a step-off pad off the back, a concrete area they had roped off. We could go out there and stand. And here come the firetruck. He missed the place, he backed up and come, and the other guy’s still welding. He don’t know he set the building on fire. And they chopped a hole in it, put the fire out. Boss sent us to lunch. We come back, never missed a lick. Just went right back to work again. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Wow. [LAUGHTER] That’s—

Milliman: That was kind of sad. One of the sad things was I was watching the TV and they detonated the smokestack out at 100 F. I thought, man, that was right beside the building we were working in.

Franklin: Do you remember any Navy officials ever coming to inspect the process--

Milliman: Navy?

Franklin: --you were working on?

Milliman: Navy?

Franklin: Yeah, because you said you were making these slugs for the nuclear submarines.

Milliman: Yeah. And we didn’t know that until after we got—we did two different sessions over there, two different years. Never seen any Navy personnel—of course, we were just—we were just the employees, and not privy to that. But with Battelle, that was different. When the sponsor—NCI or any of the dignitaries from the companies that we had a contract with, they would all come and talk to us. I can remember, we got called in the office—a good friend of mine that worked there with me and his name was Gary Ell. The sponsor—and he was the head hog, I mean over everything—he was in the change room with us. And when we’d first seen him, about a year before that, he was huge. He was a very large man, almost a beast. When he come the second time, I swear, he must have lost 200 pounds, because he looked normal, you know. And he was in the change room with Gary and I, and we were suiting up getting ready to go into one of the sterile zones. And Gary said, I bet I know what—well, first the sponsor said, hey, what do you think, guys? I lost about 200 pounds. Yeah. Gary said, you know what? This guy’s name was Joe. He said, I bet I know what Joe’s thinking about right now. I said, what? He said, I bet he’s thinking about a big chocolate milkshake. [LAUGHTER] The guy had some choice words for us. And next thing you know, we were sitting in the boss’s office and he’s shaking his finger at us. [LAUGHTER] If you couldn’t put some humor into the situations we were in, it wasn’t worth being there, because—

Franklin: Right!

Milliman: [LAUGHTER] But it’s been very rewarding for me, all except the—like I say, back then they didn’t know what asbestos—the danger of that, and the potential carcinogens.

Franklin: Right.

Milliman: But been very rewarding.

Franklin: Do you—were you working onsite, or do you remember when they started to bring the spent nuclear—the submarine reactors back--

Milliman: No.

Franklin: --to be buried onsite?

Milliman: We had nothing to do with that whatsoever. We were just making the fuel for them. We never got—weren’t privy to what happened afterwards.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Milliman: But we didn’t know that was for the atomic subs until—it was quite a while after they finally told us, hey, you’re canning up fuel for the atomic subs.

Franklin: Kind of interesting, though, to think that you canned that fuel and then now Hanford is the repository for all of the spent reactors. That they cut them up and buried them in the same place.

Milliman: Yeah. A friend of mine, he just retired. He was working out there for CH2M Hill and a bunch of other contractors. His job was to go sample the burial grounds after they dig them up. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell about that. One thing that—[LAUGHTER] This was during the ‘60s. If you recall, in the paper, Hanford put out a news blurb about any of the duck hunters. They were checking thyroids on ducks, and they wanted you to bring your duck heads in—their neck and their head, so they could check them. And they come up with some strange reason why they were doing this. Well, a friend of ours, he brought this big old mallard duck in. That thing was so hot, he ought not have been anywhere near that thing. They grabbed him and scrubbed him down until his skin was bleeding. Those ducks were going out to the cooling ponds out in the Area, which weren’t screened over at that time. And ducks were dabbling down at the bottom, picking up strontium-90 and all these radioactive elements. And then that guy’s got that duck in his hand and put the Scintran up there and that thing went nuts. And they scrambled and suited up. And they never did come out with why they were doing that until later on. It finally came out that those ducks—you know, they see a big pond out there, they go out there and dabble around in it and get crapped up.

Franklin: When did they finally start screening those, do you remember?

Milliman: Oh. No, it was—that must—they had them all screened over by—probably by ’75. If I recall, it was about that time. But that friend of mine said, boy, they scrubbed me until I was bleeding. Oh, they went to his home, also.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Milliman: And they tore up the carpets, furniture—everything. Because he come in the house, hey look at this duck I got you. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Right. So later, when you worked for Battelle, you said that you had done that animal testing, and you introduced animals to nickel oxide and cobalt oxide. Why those two chemicals? Were those used at Hanford, or did those have other applications?

Milliman: Other applications: commercial. Most of the testing was manufacturing-type applications, like the asbestos concrete exposure that I was on. That was the sawdust off of transite pipes. When the craftsman would saw the pipes to length, he’s inhaling that transite pipe dust, and he don’t know there’s asbestos in it. Most of the—well, in fact, all of the contracts we got were to test whether they were potential carcinogens.

Franklin: Wow, that’s really—so when you were doing cigarettes, then, was it—when you were doing this, was it known that they were—obviously, most people, like, knew, but was it a stated fact, federally, or—

Milliman: Not at that time, no.

Franklin: Or did your research help lead to that?

Milliman: Yeah. We got that contract from the National Cancer Institute. Later on, for Battelle, they did a—maybe it was Liggett and Myers. They were doing a cigarette exposure, which was very hush-hush. Nobody would tell you a thing about what went on in that room. Even the technician was sworn to silence. Because of the manufacturer of that product, not because there was anything sneaky going on; they just didn’t want it to get out before they finished the study. And also expose them to diesel exhaust smoke.

Franklin: Oh.

Milliman: We went over to Kennewick one time, right there on the main street. We set up an air sampler on all four corners. The asbestos content in the air was higher than it was in Johns-Mansfield’s where they’re putting these asbestos bats together for insulation for homes. The reason for that, it was coming off the break rooms. There was asbestos in the break rooms. And the cars going by kept that stuff fanned up. You walk down the street, you’re taking on asbestos. And then we went to all the food stores around and bought different liver—hog liver, beef liver, chicken liver. Dashed that down, went to the chemical analysis of it. [LAUGHTER] I would never, ever—I never liked it anyway—but I would never, ever eat liver. There was Dibestrol and growth inhibitors, hormones, heavy metal. [LAUGHTER] No liver for me! [LAUGHTER] But that—all these things they’ve been pumping in all these animals, in these feed lots and everything, Dibestrol and growth stimulators and hormones, left a residue in the liver, which is the collecting point of everything—your filter. And then people are eating that and they’re ingesting it and it’s sticking with you.

Franklin: Yeah. Wow. Were you working—you were working onsite when JFK visited in 1963. Did you go to the dedication at the N Reactor?

Milliman: Yes, went out to see him, yeah.

Franklin: What do you remember about that?

Milliman: I can remember him saying, boy, you have a hot country here. And he was pulling on his—here. That was a thrill, to see the helicopters, there he comes! And they said, no, that’s the decoy. And then they finally came in and landed. It was just blistering hot that day. People were passing out in the crowd. It was—you couldn’t see the ground for the people, I mean, there was hundreds out there. It was very hot. But that was kind of a thrilling thing to see the President. Big to-do about it, of course.

Franklin: Were there any other events or incidents that happened at Hanford while you were working there that—or at Battelle that stand out to you, besides the couple explosions you mentioned?

Milliman: Just minor humorous things that had happened. One time, they brought all these Japanese dignitaries. Now, our aerosol physicist was named Douglas K. Craig. And he was a very proper person. He called me an illiterate savage. But that was early on in my career. When I hired in, he was the—I worked for the doctor, the German. And Douglas K. Craig was the aerosol physicist. The doctor got the contract; the aerosol physicist was responsible for the outcome and the design and everything. Me being an old country kid at that time—his speech and his manner, and being so stiff and prim and proper, you know, kind of made me chuckle. I proved him wrong a couple of times. And he would say, but that cannot be! That cannot be! [LAUGHTER] Well, it is! [LAUGHTER]

Anyway, I endeared myself to him by just using common sense, and he and I got to be—he’d come and ask me, he’d say, how would you do this? And all it was was common sense—an uncanny knack of figuring out how to generate all these exotic chemicals we were using. The one thing I do remember, before the asbestos exposure ever started, they had this huge cylinder, and it was—it had this tube with a plunger in the bottom. And they’d put the asbestos in there and screw it in the bottom of this big column. And it had the air jets going in. It would suck the asbestos—you had to maintain the concentration within 10% for six hours. Which—pbbt—there went the asbestos in the chamber. So the engineers—aerosol physicists, they worked on this thing for months. We were about ready to lose the contract. And they finally gave up on it. And I asked them, I said, hey, what are you going to do with that generator? And they said, well, we’re going to junk it, bury it. Can I play with that thing? Humph! Yeah, sure, Mr. Einstein, go ahead.

By the time I got done, that asbestos generator was this tall, and by chance, I found out you had to pack that stuff into the tube and tamp it down—13 grams in exactly seven inches. I turned that thing on, and I couldn’t find an aggregate that the air jets wouldn’t—I didn’t want the air jets to blow in there and send that stuff out. I tried pieces of gravel, and I tried little kid’s jacks—I cut them up and put them in there, and they’re rattling around on top. And everything got dull. I even took some screws and cut them in half and dropped in there.

Anyway, I was sitting there one day trying to—I thought, boy, you’re a dummy if you can’t figure this out. And I had a bunch of crucibles, and the lids sitting on the shelf there. And I thought, ceramic, ceramic, I wonder. So I took the crucible lid and put it in a paper towel and took a hammer and beat it up. And I took those pieces and I looked and I said, well, that one looks about right. I picked up four of them and I dropped in that tube and that stuff started rattling around. They never did get dull.

The first—we were shooting for 24 micrograms per liter. And the first sample I took was 23.9. And I thought, wow! So I got ahold of the aerosol physicist and he come over. And I had all my data; I’d been taking samples of that all day long. And he come over and he says, what is this? No, that can’t be! Yeah, it can be. I said an illiterate savage like me, I’ve got enough brains to figure this out, you know that? Dr. Douger. [LAUGHTER]

Anyway, we got the contract. He would walk around me and look at me and he said, but you have no—you have no education, you know. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, well? All mine come from common sense. And that would infuriate him. But went up to his office one day, why, fellow technician, and he had a rock as a paperweight there. It was kind of a U-shaped rock. And I said, Doug! He said, you’ll address me as Dr. Douglas K. Craig. Doctor will be fine. That’s okay. Douger, where’d you get that rock? [LAUGHTER] Lay some of this hillbilly stuff on him. He said, why? I said, you know what? Where’d you get that? And he said, well, my walk down at the river one day. [LAUGHTER] I said, my gosh. Don’t you agree? And my partner, he said, oh yeah. He went right along with me, you know. He said, why? What? I said, do you know what that is? That’s a left-handed Indian throwing rock! He says, what? Oh my! An artifact? And I said, yeah! See how it fits your hand? I said, the Indians throw them and knock them jackrabbits over. And he said, oh my! And he took it away from me. He was looking at it, and—[LAUGHTER]—he put it there and said, wow. I’ll cherish that. An artifact. Wow! And he was talking to himself.

About that time, the other scientists come in, and they knew we were a couple of jokers. And he come in—his name was John Belue. And John heard what we were doing, and when we come out of the office, he said, you better hope he never finds out. [LAUGHTER] What that junk of rock. And I said, my goodness, maybe we ought to not play that joke on him.

But Dr. Douglas K. Craig and I ended up being good friends. He finally—he moved down to California and went to work for another research outfit. And he would call me up. And he’d say, Edward, my friend! And when he’d start that, I knew he wanted to know something. And when I got the device that I patented, the calls were coming in from all over the world—foreign companies, research outfits—because the device they had on the market was the Dust Right Speedmill. And it was very unstable way of generating any kind of particulate or solids. And it would break down. Very poor performance on them. When I made that device, all you had to do was pour the powder in. Two working parts, two bottle brushes, one spirally wound like an auger, the other was flexible brush. And it was just in a—you’d pour the—it had a Lucite—I made it on my kitchen table one night. About a year later, after I got the patent on it, I checked in to see what they were selling them—Battelle Development Corporation made a nice design and stainless steel and--$15,000 a pop. For two bottle brushes. I got one silver dollar for the patent and taken to supper, and that was that.

Franklin: [LAUGHTER]

Milliman: [LAUGHTER] So, they’re making money hand-over-fist on me. But a lot of people calling for reprints. I had to write a technical report on that, and they published it. I didn’t bring one of them copies with me, but I got calls from all the world—scientists wanting to know about it, how—I say, well you can make it yourself on your kitchen table. And there’s the boss, whopped me on the head, don’t tell them that! Sell it to them, you dope! [LAUGHTER] But that was probably the highlight of my career, was the—just common sense. Now, the scientists and the doctors—12, 13, 15 years of college education. But they don’t teach them anything about common sense. And that’s all I ever worked on, was—being a farm kid, having to repair your own machinery, things like that. It wasn’t hard to figure out how to endear myself to the company by just using common sense.

Franklin: That’s great. Just a couple more questions, I guess, until we move on to the stuff you brought, which I’m really excited to have you narrate. Do you remember—how did—sorry—do you remember any impact from large nuclear incidents on your work, like Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl? Because you would have been working for Battelle at that time. Do you remember any particular impact of those incidents on your work or kind of the attitude of the work or people here?

Milliman: I remember reading it in the paper, and wondering how much of that stuff was going around the world in the airstreams. Probably paid more mind to Chernobyl when it blew its stack. Now, when Mount St. Helens blew up, I was in Yakima. I was going up and going camping. I spent the night in Yakima. I woke up, I thought it was too early and went back to sleep. I woke up, and I thought, my goodness. Did I sleep all day? It’s getting dark out. And I turned the radio on, and—uh-oh. I took off for home, and I just beat that dust cloud down to Benton City. Most of it went over the top of us, like, end up at Moses Lake and Spokane and—but we got the contract for exposing hamsters to Mount St. Helens fly ash. And if you looked at the fly ash under a microscope, it looked like—it was kind of crystalline, and it was—it looked like a little kid’s jack they play with, but a million spikes sticking on that thing. It looked like a sandbur. And that stuff, when you inhaled it, just cut your lungs up to pieces.

Franklin: Oh, I bet. Wow. How did the atmosphere surrounding the Cold War affect your job or your life? Did you notice anything, or can you recall anything?

Milliman: A lot of contracts from the Army. A lot of contracts. And, like I say, one of them was the CS2 with the disabler in it. A lot of activity that nobody would say anything about. They’d say, hey, what you guys working on? What you fellas working on? Blank stare and walk on, you know. You’d better not ask them anymore. But a lot of activity from the Army. Didn’t seem—I don’t think I ever saw any Navy personnel; if I did, they weren’t in uniform. A lot of strange people around that time coming and going.

Franklin: What about living here, living next to Hanford and all the activities? Did you ever feel like maybe you were safe because of all the Army attention here, or maybe you were not safe because Hanford might be a target if a war ever broke out?

Milliman: I always thought about it being a target, being there were quite a number of reactors out there. You thought, well, if they’re going to hit something, it’ll probably be Hanford. Never lived in any fear of it, but when they start all this down-winders stuff in the papers—contamination from Hanford, that did make me kind of wonder. It didn’t make me feel ill-at-ease, but it just—you didn’t know what you were inhaling. You didn’t know what was coming down the ground that the cows were eating and you were drinking your milk, which ended up being a big deal in later years. My children never thought much about it, either. My brothers and sisters did, and they all moved away to different places. I told them, hey, you can’t outrun the air currents. That stuff’s coming down all over. Especially during the atomic testing, when they were—

Once they sent me to—Battelle sent me to University of Davis to represent them. This was—I’d only worked there about a year-and-a-half, two years, maybe, at the most. They sent me down there and little did I know they—[LAUGHTER]—They sprung me as their guest speaker. I didn’t know anything about it. Boss of mine set that up. Boy, I thought, my goodness, what in the world am I going to talk about? And I thought, you got to put some humor in this thing. Because I’m shaking. I’m young and dumb and I said, whoo! And all these people sitting there watching me, all the dignitaries and the—I said, well, we’re doing research with hamsters. And most of these were all hamster people. It was a big hamster research convention there. I said, the first thing you have to do, as you all know, is you got to get them loose from your finger. [LAUGHTER] Those are the bitingest animals in the world. Everybody thinks they’re so sweet and cuddly, until it latches onto your finger.

And I can remember when we were making them—introducing them to cigarette smoke—of course they had the smoking dogs out there, too, which are famous, you know, every time they mention the—and those dogs were addicted. They’d fight you for a cigarette. You’d open the cage and they’d jump right in your arm and stick their head in the mask. You know, put the cigarette in and light it up, boys! But I can remember many times those hamsters latching on and locking their jaws up and biting you right through the fingernail, right to the bone. You’d have to take the handle on the pair of tweezers and jack his jaw open to get your finger back out. If the boss knew this he’d kill me. We had this one particular hamster, he didn’t bite you—I mean, he’d go after you. He’d bite you every time you—most of them, they’d bite you once and let it go at that. But this one he’d bite you ever time you got near him. And he’d just defy you. Pick me up, I’m going to bite you. Well, me and my partner said, what do you think? Well, I’m tired of him biting me. I hope he’ll pretty soon. Maybe he’ll die. He wouldn’t die. So we grabbed him one day, got him by the scruff of the neck and we took him by the side cutter and cut his teeth off. And after that, he’d chomp down on you, and hey, can’t bite, you know! Well, for the rest of his life, we had to soften up his food and feed him so he wouldn’t die. He couldn’t bite you. But we said maybe we ought to not done that.

Those hamsters—what actually—the asbestos hamsters were the only ones that would do this. Their water nipple hung above their head, and you had a big water tree you’d put on the cage. And that’s how they got their water. They’d take their finger and stick in that water nipple and sit in there and let the water run on them. We’d sit there and watch through the window. And of course, they’d make a terrible mess. Because we had them on these racks, and we had absorbent pads underneath of them. In the morning when we’d take them out, we’d have to roll that pad up and put it in the garbage. Well, they’d just flood that thing. Their tray had a lip around it. It was an awful mess to clean up. So we got to watching them—we’d look through the window at night. And there they are, they’re taking their finger and sticking it in that water nozzle and letting the water coming down there and they’re showering and shampooing and shaving. We’d go in there and quit that, quit that. They’d all quit, and the minute we’d leave, there they are with their finger in the water nipple taking a shower.

Franklin: And it was only the asbestos ones?

Milliman: Only the asbestos animals did that.

Franklin: Interesting. Do you think that was maybe like some kind of neurological--?

Milliman: I think it was the fibers tickling them and itching them.

Franklin: Oh.

Milliman: Because that stuff was all over them.

Franklin: Right. Interesting. So, anybody else have any questions?

Emma Rice: Yeah. Minor clarification. When you worked at Battelle, what was your job position exactly?

Milliman: Started—hired in just as a—well, for Battelle, it was just technician.

Rice: Technician. Because you went from being a metal handler to—

Milliman: Yeah, from General Electric, they called us a metal handler.

Rice: Mm-hmm.

Milliman: Then they made me the inhalation specialist. And then things kind of slowed down, so I kind of got demoted back to a technician again, and that’s when we went into the control rooms and each of us had an assigned control room that we ran. Many, many different chemicals would go through them control rooms that we were generating. Everything potential carcinogen. I like that word. Potential carcinogen. [LAUGHTER] Formaldehyde—that’s some bad stuff, too.

Franklin: So, should we do the pictures now?

Hungate: Okay. I’m going to stop now.

Franklin: Okay.

Hungate: Change—


Milliman: “About air pollution except the U. S. Patent Office which has awarded a patent to the Department of Energy for a device that will ‘deliver uniform concentrations of dust for a long period of time.’ It was developed by Edward E. Milliman at the Pacific Northwest Laboratory operated for DOE by Battelle Memorial Institute. People, however, need have no fear as the dust is used in research to test the potential health effects of dust compounds when inhaled into the lungs of laboratory animals. Some of the tested dusts have talc powder, CS2, and Mount St. Helen’s ash. The prototype of the unit cost is about $50.00, and the number is 4,424,896 – if anyone cares.”

Franklin: So this was the device you invented that then they were selling for—

Milliman: Yeah.

Franklin: $15,000?

Milliman: 15,000.

Rice: Do you want me to take some of these smaller ones?

Milliman: Yeah. Now, this is how you make a hamster smoke cigarettes.

Franklin: And that’s you?

Milliman: That’s me, 1970. Boy, I had a lot of hair.

Franklin: [LAUGHTER]

Milliman: There’s 30 cigarettes in this turn, and it will take a puff off of each cigarettes, and then it rotates, and there’s 30 hamsters in these tubes. They have no choice. The smoke comes down through this column here. They have no choice.

Franklin: I forgot to ask you—did you ever smoke cigarettes?

Milliman: Yes, I did.

Franklin: Okay.

Milliman: After we took the lungs out of these animals, I put the cigarettes in the garbage can and never smoked since.

Franklin: Wow.


Milliman: This one of the exposure chambers. This is where they—each rat—

Hungate: Whoops, just one second, we’re getting quite a bit of glare.

Milliman: Okay.

Rice: Can you hold it from the top? See if you can hold it flat. There we go.

Franklin: There we go. That looks good.

Milliman: This is the exposure chamber, designed by Battelle. Rats and mice and hamsters were all individual in each compartment. And then I think they would a couple hundred critters. The—whatever you’re going to make them inhale comes down a pipe and goes into the top and it’s exhausted out the bottom. The doors are glass, so you can watch—observe the animals.

Franklin: Wow.

Rice: Was this just for smoking—the cigarette smoke—or was this--?

Milliman: No, any kind of chemical.

Rice: Any kind of chemical.

Milliman: Vapors, dust—any kind of compound.

Rice: Okay. Next one?

Hungate: It’s the smoker.

Rice: The smoker, yeah. That’s what I was thinking.

Milliman: And that’s how you load a hamster into a smoking tube after you get him off your finger. Now, you can see here that the one—he’s saying, uh-oh, I’m next. And it was also the asbestos exposure. This is all the protection we had on. Just a white paper face mask.

Franklin: Wow.

Milliman: And this is one guy that—this is what they do. You take them apart, all the way from his nose, all the way down. Take samples, everything, make slides, and it goes to histology, pathology.

Rice: New one. Here.

Milliman: This was what your lungs will look like if you inhaled Mount St. Helen fly ash.

Franklin: Wow. So what is the lighter one there on the—

Milliman: NEFA is Nickel Enriched Fly Ash, which has a high content of nickel in it. And the one on the far right is a normal lung.

Franklin: Okay. Wow.

Rice: And the one on the middle is also—

Milliman: That’s nickel-enriched fly ash. The one on the far left is just fly ash.

Franklin: What was the level of exposure here to get this?

Milliman: Probably 25 micrograms per liter. It is equivalent to what a human breathes. Everything was scaled down hamster-size compared to a human.

Franklin: So if you just were walking around and breathing it—

Milliman: Right, correct.

Franklin: How would that compare to, say, cigarette smoking?

Milliman: Cigarette smoke is a long-term thing. Nickel-enriched fly ash is short-term—that does the damage right away. There’s no long period to it. Cigarette smoke, the latency period on that is years. People smoke for years.

Franklin: I guess, like—the damage that’s done, is that equivalent to a certain number of years of smoking?

Milliman: No, this—

Franklin: Or is it kind of a different—

Milliman: This is different here. The lifespan after you inhale this stuff, everyday compared to a cigarette, is very, very short. Cigarette you last quite a bit longer.

Hungate: So on that—I’m just a little curious—so was that fly ash from—

Milliman: Mount St. Helen’s.

Hungate: But it’s not after the explosion, because that’s dated ’77 and the explosion was in ’82.

Milliman: Well, see, they stored this stuff up and we didn’t do the exposure until after that thing blew up. Now these lungs here were probably some of the preliminary stuff. Because they were testing volcanoes from around the world.

Hungate: Oh, so, yeah.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Hungate: So this was just volcanic fly ash, as opposed to—

Milliman: Yeah.

Hungate: --Mount St. Helens.

Franklin: Oh, okay. So that explains the date.

Rice: Do you have another one?

Milliman: This was the asbestos concrete exposure. Now, this was probably in ’78. And you can see here they finally started figuring out that asbestos was bad for you. Compared to white paper face masks, this—

Franklin: Right. Now you have a full-body, looks like you have a respirator mask.

Milliman: Yup. We had rubber overshoes on, Tyvek protective clothing, and respirator.

Franklin: Wow.

Milliman: This just to have to be around exposure chamber there. These were with hamsters also.

Franklin: Wow. That’s great.

Milliman: And we are smoking rats. [LAUGHTER] We’re doing the physiology on it. That’s a graph machine, it’s like a lie detector. We’re doing the testing on their respiratory rate, their heart rate. Everything’s sterile. To get where I’m at right there, you had to shower and shave and disinfect and be fully protected. That’s to keep us from giving them disease. It’s not to protect us from the animals. It’s to protect the rats and the mice and the hamsters.

Franklin: [LAUGHTER]

Milliman: Here we’re doing the same thing. This is when you go red, you’re on actual exposure from the contractor.

Franklin: So—oh, so there were different color suits for—

Milliman: Yeah.

Franklin: Okay. So red would be when you were directly working with chemical—with the particulates?

Milliman: Not necessarily, but that’s what they wanted from us. There was no difference in—other than the color of the—everything’s sterile and sanitized.

Franklin: Is that so that other people working would know that you would be—

Milliman: Yeah.

Franklin: Okay.

Rice: There’s just these. Do you want to talk about those at all?

Milliman: [LAUGHTER] This is one of the funny things that happened to me. Girlfriend and I were over at the Black Angus in Pasco. We were sitting in the booth and we were eating our supper, steak and mushrooms, and having a fine time. Started getting quiet. I’d already paid for my bill and ordered a cup of coffee and we were sitting there drinking a cup of coffee. Got awful quiet. So I got up and there was nobody around. So we went to go out the door—we guessed everybody left—so we started to go out the door. Well, the door’s locked, we can’t get out. I went in the kitchen hollering, hey, hey, let us out! Bartender gone, kitchen gone, nobody’s there. I got on the pay telephone and called 9-1-1, and I said, hey, we’re locked in the Black Angus. Said, what? [LAUGHTER] Are you playing a joke? No! We want to go home! I got to go to work tomorrow! [LAUGHTER] So they said, what’s your phone number there? So I give them the phone number, they called the place next door. The next door place called us. Phone rang, I picked it up. Yeah, we’re here. He called back, they said, they’re in there.  So they figured what happened was we hid in there and we were going to rob the place but we couldn’t get out. So they called me back and they said, well, okay, we’re coming down. I said, don’t come with the police dogs and the guns and stuff and the sirens, because I got to go to work tomorrow. [LAUGHTER]

So they—here they come. We were sitting there waiting on them, and there was a little console there and there was some kind of video machine that she and I were trying to figure out how to play. And all at once I told her, don’t move, keep your hands on the table. She said, why? I said, I smell a cop. And slowly, both of us turned our heads, and there were three heads peeking around the door at us. They came in, and they all had their hands on their guns. Whoa, fellas. Get your hands off that hog leg, you’re making me nervous. I’ve been shot once and it ain’t fun. They really questioned us. How’d you get in here? Said, well—they had this manager with them. And he said, you pay for your supper? And I said, yeah, and left a tip. If you keep on being mean to me, I want my tip back. And I kept looking to one police officer, one that came back from Montana and worked at the Bon Marche before they opened up. Me and him were in there as a security guard. He was moonlighting because he was a Pasco cop. And I kept looking at him, I said, Archie Pittman? Archie Pittman? And he looked mad! He said, what are you doing here? I said, just eating supper. And he said, okay, guys, I know him. Let him go. But that come out in the paper said, they knew businesses was hard up for patrons but they didn’t think they was going to lock them up just to keep them! [LAUGHTER] And this is my old friend—I was in the Cub Scouts, I think it was? Me and my old Poncho. Old lifelong friend.

Franklin: That’s cute.

Milliman: That’s the box elder tree my brother dove behind to—

Hungate: Dodge the bullets?

Milliman: Dodging a bullet.

Rice: There you go.

Milliman: Great.

Franklin: Well, thank you so much.

Milliman: Well, I hope I didn’t make a fool out of myself—

Franklin: You did not.

Milliman: Or bore you to death.

Franklin: No, it was really exciting. It really was! You have some great stories.

Hungate: He’s a story teller.

Milliman: Man, please behave yourself. Don’t lay that hillbilly stuff on them. [LAUGHTER]

View interview on Youtube.



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Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Edward Milliman,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 16, 2024,