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Novel depicts radioactive waste spill at Hanford

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The plot: A deadly earthquake rips through the Hanford nuclear reservation, erupting a graveyard of radioactive waste and releasing a flood of doom that threatens thousands of Tri-Citians.

A Silicon Valley biotech team and its genetically engineered microbes (GEM) join Hanford scientists to combat the deadly advance of 53 million gallons of radioactive waste, which is seeping into the Tri-Cities’ ground water.

Will the microbes save the day?

You will have to read the techno-thriller novel, G.E.M., to find out.

Written by Carol Goode, G.E.M. was inspired by the author’s early interest in life sciences, as well as the decade (1988-1998) her husband John spent as a consultant for the Department of Energy at Hanford. They now live in San Jose, Calif.

“When I began conceptualizing the story line for G.E.M., Hanford emerged as the perfect setting for my genetically engineered microbes to work their magic for a good purpose,” Goode said in an interview.

“First, the geological features of the area made an earthquake and radioactive breaching of the aquifers a real possibility,” she said.

“Second, the setting is rich with technology options well-suited for the techno-thriller genre. And finally, it came along with some built-in controversy and strong emotions in the Tri-City community regarding the whole cleanup effort and its economic implications for the area.”

Goode didn’t just draw from her imagination for the book. As a microbiologist, she also had the science background to make the story believable - much like best-selling author and internationally known forensic pathologist Kathy Reichs.

Goode said there’s a real aspect to her story that reflects future scientific breakthroughs.

“The use of living organisms to clean up hazardous situations is referred to as bioremediation, and was most recently in the news for its positive effects on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,” she said. “Many of the bacteria mentioned in G.E.M. actually exist, most certainly the superbug Deinococcus radiodurans.”