A Republican Representative, Sen. Josh Hawley, representing Missouri, criticized Jennifer Granholm, President Biden’s Energy Secretary, through several posts on Tuesday on X, previously known as Twitter. His criticisms came after Granholm visited Weldon Spring in St. Charles County, Missouri, where she discussed the Manhattan Project’s radiation legacy and the current administration’s efforts to mitigate its environmental and health consequences.
Hawley expressed frustration at the lack of action, posting, “The people of St. Louis have been waiting for answers for years. And all we get is more talk. Put up or shut up. Do the testing we have asked for.” He also urged the Energy Secretary to back his proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, aimed at aiding those affected by Manhattan Project contamination in the St. Louis area.
The senator’s focus on this issue extends back to July when he proposed an extension to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, targeting specific areas where residents suffer from diseases due to prolonged radiation exposure. This contamination traces back to decades of mining, processing, and enriching activities during World War II and the Cold War.
In the 1940s, as the U.S. increased military production for WWII, the government transformed farmlands in Weldon Springs into the Weldon Spring Chemical Plant, producing massive quantities of TNT and DNT. Concurrently, the government initiated the Manhattan Project, partly at the Weldon Spring site, to develop the world’s first atomic bomb.
This uranium production plant remained operational from 1957 to 1966, extending well into the Cold War era. The Weldon Spring site is roughly 30 miles west of St. Louis, near the St. Louis Mallinckrodt Chemical Company, explicitly involved in the Manhattan Project.
During Granholm’s Tuesday visit, she spoke to reporters about the administration’s efforts to assist those impacted by long-standing radiation exposure, emphasizing the need for “transparency, a sense of urgency, and working with the community.” While asked about visiting those personally affected, Granholm stated that she would if her schedule allowed, prompting Hawley to retort that he hoped the people of St. Louis poisoned by her agency’s actions were not an inconvenience to the Secretary.
In her comments, Granholm underscored the collaborative efforts of various federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers. She later visited St. Louis, elaborating on the federal government’s commitment to resolving the radioactive waste issue.
While Granholm acknowledged the gravity of the situation, she did not explicitly support Hawley’s amendment or related congressional measures to assist victims. However, she did recognize the importance of exploring options to bring justice to affected families, stating, “It certainly is something worth looking at for sure.”