Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. -xii

The Baneberry Disaster is a true story about two men, Harley Roberts and Bill Nunamaker, who died of leukemia after they were contaminated on December 18, 1970, by radiation from a failed nuclear test code-named Baneberry. Their contamination and deaths resulted in lawsuits brought by their widows against...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-2

The Baneberry case would not have been possible without the support of my wife, Mary, who supported the cause and shouldered the burden of raising our four children, Charles, Laura, Julianna, and Jason, who grew up with Baneberry.
Alan bore the burden of Baneberry equally, and his wife Loretta and their...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-6

In 1950, Las Vegas had one high school, Las Vegas High, only a handful of elementary schools, and Fifth Street Grammar School for fifth through eighth grades. On December 18, 1950, the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range, a vast government reserve in south-central Nevada, was selected to test atomic...

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1. To the Dark Tower: January 16, 1979

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pp. 7-10

“All rise. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada is now in session. The Honorable Roger D. Foley presiding.”
The judge ascended the bench, sat down, and banged the gavel. “You may be seated.” He looked down at Alan and me and then over at the lawyers seated at the government’s

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2. Thar She Blows

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pp. 11-22

At 6:45 am, Harley Roberts pulled next to the trailer at security station BJY and slammed the door of his pickup truck. He stepped briskly over fresh patches of snow left from an overnight dusting and walked up to the trailer. As he opened the door, he heard his brother-in-law, Ernie Dyer, in a heated argument...

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3. The Luck of the Draw

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pp. 23-29

At 9:25 am, Roberts left Dyer and drove out of the camp. As he left, the last remnant of the Baneberry vent cloud was moving up and over the Rainier Range. It was as if Harley Roberts had been Baneberry’s primary target, and when he left it had no reason to linger.
Following orders, Roberts drove several...

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4. The Bulldog: April 1971

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pp. 30-32

When we opened our law office in January 1971, the practice of law was a noble profession we were honored to join. There were fewer than 150 members of the Clark County Bar Association, and we knew most of them.
Mike Hines, a long-time lawyer and one of Alan’s first bosses, hosted a party at...

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5. The Georgiadis Curse: October–December 1971

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pp. 33-36

After sending the letter to U.S. Public Health Service, Bill Cleghorn called us several times to report there had been no response. By early October, he insisted we meet to discuss what could be done to get the radiation records.
When we met, Bill ranted about the mistreatment of the security guards...

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6. The King Can Do No Wrong

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pp. 37-45

The United States had six months to respond to the tort claims we filed in December 1971. If it ignored them as we anticipated, we then had to file an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) by December 1972.
The Federal Tort Claims Act was enacted in 1946.1 Although it had been under...

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7. We’re Here to Help You: January 1973–February 1974

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pp. 46-48

By early April 1973, Harley Roberts was struggling to work his four twelve-hour shifts each week. He called Dr. Smith, and he and Dorothy drove to Loma Linda on April 17. Dr. Smith ran blood tests and was amazed Harley could continue working. He filled out a total disability form for Harley to submit...

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8. A Ray of Hope

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pp. 49-53

Harley’s emergency trip to Loma Linda so soon after his deposition was unexpected. The Oak Ridge doctors would not support his case and offered no suggestions for treatment. We needed a radiation expert willing to get involved in a lawsuit against the AEC.
We called Paul Duckworth, our consultant, and told him...

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9. The Ides of March, 1974

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pp. 54-61

I was not looking forward to driving over to Loma Linda Hospital to see Harley. Alan and I agreed we could not both go, so I volunteered. There’s an old saying that a lawyer should not get emotionally involved in his client’s case. It is a fine-sounding legal axiom I probably heard in law school from some old professor...

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10. Cracking the Shell of Secrecy

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pp. 62-65

In early May 1974, Dr. Warren called to report that he had reviewed the autopsy slides from Loma Linda. They confirmed that Harley Roberts died of acute myelogenous leukemia. But his next words were quite unexpected.
“I thought I should let you know that I have reviewed all of Mr. Roberts’s...

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11. Tell That Lawyer to Go to Hell

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pp. 66-75

Dr. Warren was a careful investigator who wanted as much information as we could obtain before he would give us his final opinion in the Roberts case. It took five months to complete the depositions of Rad-Safe monitors and others who collected the data on dosage.
We called in November 1974 to make sure Dr. Warren...

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12. The Second Man

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pp. 76-78

After Dr. Warren made his observation about another possible leukemia in the Baneberry group, we asked Bill Cleghorn and Paul Duckworth whether they knew of any workers exposed at Baneberry who were having health problems. They checked around but did not find anyone.
Other than running...

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13. A Hobson’s Choice

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pp. 79-84

By the end of October 1975, we had taken over twenty-five depositions to prepare for trial: Frank Cluff, the Baneberry test manager; Drs. Weart and Brownlee, the scientists who signed the Baneberry Summary Report; Dr. Lawrence Germain, an LLL scientist who sat on Cluff’s Test Evaluation...

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14. GI Joe and the Smoky Vets

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pp. 85-88

In early 1976, Paul Cooper, a resident of Idaho, went to see his family doctor complaining of weakness and fatigue. He was referred to specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, who diagnosed his leukemia. When Paul told them that he was among a large group of young soldiers exposed to radiation during above-ground...

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15. Dr. Alice Stewart, Éminence Grise

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pp. 89-96

We telephoned Dr. Alice Stewart in Birmingham, England, in early September 1977, told her about the Baneberry case and that we had contacted Dr. Caldwell to study our Baneberry group, similar to his Smoky investigation. She seemed flattered that Dr. Caldwell had recommended her and asked for...

Illustrations

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pp. 97-110

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16. Was It Really an Accident?

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pp. 111-118

On January 15, 1979, we made our final preparations, gathered our exhibits, and spent the day reviewing for the trial set to begin the next morning. That night, a rare snowfall covered the Las Vegas Valley, reminiscent of the snowfall that had blanketed the Test Site the night before the Baneberry test nine...

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17. Murphy’s Law

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pp. 119-123

The second day of trial began with government counsel’s cross-examination of Dr. Stewart. With the tenacity of an English bulldog, she stuck to her clinical opinion that both leukemias were the result of Baneberry. In her view, there was simply no other explanation for the occurrence of these two unique leukemias...

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18. To the Rescue

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pp. 124-126

When Mr. Cluff gave the order to evacuate Area 12 at 8:05 am, he did not know what radiation levels the Wackenhut security guards would encounter when they reached Area 12 Camp to begin the evacuation. But although he knew the security guards had no protective equipment or respirators, he took...

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19. The Fault Is in Ourselves

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pp. 127-129

Armed with the USGS report, NVO-95, the opinions of our two geologists, and admissions by government experts, we put on our case to show that the AEC knew or should have known that there was a high probability that Baneberry would vent.
In his opening statement, Alan had planted the seeds of...

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20. No Harm, No Foul

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pp. 130-134

Once we had established the government’s negligence in exposing Roberts and Nunamaker to radiation, we then sought to show how that negligence also caused their leukemias. Dr. Alice Stewart had carefully reviewed the medical records and work histories of each man prior to Baneberry and found...

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21. Occam’s Razor

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pp. 135-144

Dorothy Roberts knew her case depended almost entirely upon the testimony of Dr. Shields Warren. She had rejected the government’s settlement offer, and we agreed to try her case on the strength of Dr. Warren’s opinion and to honor Harley’s last request.
Dr. Stewart testified as our first witness in order to...

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22. Nickeling and Diming Them to Death

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pp. 145-151

Dr. Warren’s testimony was the high point of our case. While he was concluding his testimony, our next two experts had flown in and were waiting to testify the next day.
Dr. Arthur Tamplin earned his PhD in biophysics at UC Berkeley and worked at LLL from 1963 until the early 1970s. He was there...

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23. Give ’Em the Old Razzle-Dazzle

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pp. 152-156

In mid-February, the AEC began its defense. Since we had shown multiple acts of negligence on the part of the government, and Mr. Cluff had all but conceded that he violated his duty to avoid exposing our clients to radiation, we thought the government might abandon its defense of the negligence claim...

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24. Dr. Evans’s Marvelous Cluster Theory

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pp. 157-164

All the government’s razzle-dazzle was sandwiched between a host of witnesses and evidence on radiation, along with the government’s methodology for calculating the bone marrow doses for Roberts and Nunamaker.
Dr. Robley Evans, hired by REECo right after Baneberry vented, had eight...

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25. Emptying the AEC Laboratories

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pp. 165-170

When Dr. Evans ended his testimony, the government moved into the final phase of its defense. It called upon its own: men and women who were trained and had spent most of their professional careers in AEC-funded laboratories or affiliated hospitals. Three came from the AEC’s Oak Ridge National...

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26. Not with a Bang But a Whimper

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pp. 171-173

We concluded our case by calling Dr. John Gofman.1 Dr. Gofman received his PhD in nuclear physical chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1943 and was deeply involved in the Manhattan Project. Among other duties, Robert Oppenheimer assigned him to utilize the cyclotron to produce 1.2 milligrams...

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27. Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

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pp. 174-187

While we hunkered down in trial from January 16 through April 5, 1979, the AEC was being shellacked with adverse publicity about the effects of its nuclear testing program. The downwinders, whose first claims were filed with great fanfare by Stewart Udall on December 22, 1978, were headline news in Las...

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Epilogue

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pp. 188-190

The twenty-five-year Baneberry odyssey ended in 1996, but the high and low points of the adventure are as fresh today as they were then.
The most exhilarating moment: Dr. Shields Warren’s spell-binding explanation of the Roberts case, supported by Dr. Alice Stewart and Dr. John Gofman...

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Notes to Sources

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pp. 191-192

The Baneberry story began as a memoir, recollections and ramblings about events that happened decades earlier. But Harley Roberts’s and Bill Nunamaker’s sacrifice required more. And Dr. Shields Warren, Dr. Alice Stewart, Dr. John Gofman, and Dr. Karl Morgan deserved a detailed and accurate rendition of the scientific and medical issues...

Glossary and Characters

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pp. 193-196

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About the Authors

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pp. 197-198

Larry C. Johns was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 23, 1944, the youngest (along with his twin sister) of five children of Ray M. Johns and Helen H. Johns, longtime schoolteachers who retired from the Clark County School District in the 1970s. Larry attended elementary school, junior high, and...

Index

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pp. 199-210