Frequently Asked Questions About Hanford’s History

The following questions were raised and answered at a special class on B Reactor held at the Kamiakin High School auditorium in Kennewick on December 7, 2010. The class featured four Hanford old-timers — Larry Denton, Steve Buckingham, Norman Miller and Larry Fischer — and was cosponsored by the B Reactor Museum Association and the Columbia River Exposition of History, Science and Technology (CREHST) museum.

Q. When did everyone have to move out of the town of Hanford?

A. The land and home owners were all bought out by the government in the spring of 1943. All were given notice to move out, usually within a one month period.

Q. Why did they tear down the Brueggeman’s house out near B Reactor?

A. The practice was to remove or tear down all the buildings that were not useable in support of the government project.

Q. Was the residential area for construction workers located at the old Hanford townsite?

A. Yes, it was located right adjacent to the old Hanford townsite. The Hanford construction camp was used only until major construction was complete. It was abandoned and torn down during 1946-1947.

The construction camp is not to be confused with Camp Hanford, a military base etablished in 1951 just north of Richland to coordinate the air defense of the Hanford Site. Air defense weaponry originally consisted of antiaircraft artillery. Nike Ajax missiles were installed in 1954 and later Nike Hercules missiles. Camp Hanford was closed in 1961.

Q. Did all Hanford employees have to live in Richland?

A. During the original Hanford construction under the Manhattan Project, essentially all of the workers lived at the Hanford construction camp. The village of Richland was constructed on a slightly lower priority and was built to house the operating and engineering personnel and their families as they came on board, as well as those working at stores and other facilities serving the workers and their families. Those people could live elsewhere if they chose to do so. However, the vast majority lived in Richland. The Richland houses — all built, owned and maintained by the government — were essentially the only housing available. In later years, more and more of the Hanford operating staff lived in Kennewick, Pasco or elsewhere.

Q. Was there an A Reactor? It has been rumored that a foundation for an A Reactor was actually started, but it turned out to be too close to Richland and was abandoned. Is that true?

A. Construction was never started on an A Reactor. Original plans called for a total of eight reactors. As the reactor design progressed and water was selected as the reactor coolant, plans settled on reactors of higher power/heat rating and only three reactors were needed to meet projected needs. So the original eight reactors, designated A through H, were cut back to three. Alternate sites along the Columbia River were retained and the A Reactor site, the first in line toward the west and farthest from Richland, was done away with. That resulted in the three reactors — B, D and F — that were constructed under the Manhattan Project.

Q. How did B Reactor get its name? Likewise for the other reactors.

A. The answer above answers this question. All of the reactors were simply given a letter designation.

Q. When was C Reactor built? Is it still there? What was the area called once C Reactor was built?

A. C Reactor, Hanford’s sixth plutonium Production reactor, was built during 1952-53. It was shut down in 1969 and has been placed in a condition called “cocooning.” Most of the support and service portions of the building have been torn down and the reactor core itself isolated inside existing shield walls. A new metal structure and roof cover what remains of the facility. The 100 Area that contained both B and C reactors was commonly called the 100B/C Area.

Q. Where did the graphite for the reactors come from? Where was it made?

A. The special nuclear-grade graphite for the Hanford reactors was made from coal tar pitch and petroleum coke using the process for producing graphite electrodes for the steel industry. The pitch was a byproduct from metallurgical coke ovens. The coke for nuclear graphite was supplied by the Kendall Oil Company near Bradford, Pennsylvania. Graphite for the early reactors was manufactured by National Carbon Company (the predecessor of Union Carbide) at Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Q. Did women work in “the area”? What roles/jobs were performed by women?

A. Yes. During the Manhattan Project days, many women were employed in service jobs such as clerical, laboratory workers, nurses, etc.

Q. What was the Smith Report?

A. It was the Smyth, not Smith, report. Henry DeWolf Smyth authored the book titled “Atomic Energy for Military Purposes.” The report was written at the direction of General Leslie Groves, who headed up the overall effort to make nuclear weapons during World War II. It was finished in the spring of 1945 but kept secret until the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, helping to end the war. The first thousand copies were made available to the press, followed by availability to the general public. It also served to tell the thousands of persons involved in the Manhattan Project what information had been declassified and could be talked about. Remaining information remained classified and was not being disclosed.

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