Prosser resident McCluskey was a 64-year-old chemical operator employed by Atlantic Richfield Hanford Co. in the Plutonium Finishing Plant, called Z Plant. He was working at a glove box when a chemical reaction resulted in an explosion. The explosion shattered the glass box and he was showered with nitric acid and radioactive materials and he was blinded and cut. He inhaled approximately 500 times the occupational standard for americium 241, a plutonium byproduct. Other workers who rendered assistance were also contaminated.
Normally, humans exposed to that level of radiation die. Dr. Bryce Breitenstein placed McCluskey in a special isolation unit and treated him there for five months. Dr. Breitenstein administered an experimental drug which flushed 80 percent of the contamination out of McCluskey's system. McCluskey survived and retired. He received a settlement of $275,000 plus medical care for life. The Atomic Man died in 1987.