The streets have names such as Proton Lane and Nuclear Lane and there is an annual Atomic Frontier Day Parade. Welcome to Richland, Washington, which grew from a hamlet into a town of 25,000 residents between 1943 and 1945. Its rapid growth was due to the arrival of thousands of workers for the production of plutonium used for atom bombs at the Hanford nuclear complex near Richland. The Native Americans living there at the time were driven from their land.
Richland uses archive footage and excerpts from recent interviews to show how Richland residents have made “the bomb” into their identity. People used to say they were “proud of the cloud,” according to a local. But there are also residents who are troubled by the town’s destructive past: the unimaginable human suffering caused by the bomb, the radioactive pollution of the environment and the premature deaths of workers at the nuclear complex due to radiation exposure. Richland shows the deep divide in today’s highly polarized America between those in denial of America’s violent past and those who are willing to confront it.