THE MODERATOR – Fall 1999
The current fiscal year’s DOE budget includes funding for the B Reactor Phase II Feasibility Study.
Both a “B Reactor Museum” and the BRMA are included in the final draft of the Hanford Comprehensive Land-Use Plan Environmental Impact Statements.
From the Control Room
After a couple of slow months, things are really cooking for BRMA. Gene is in the death throes of completing the second draft of the T Plant HAER document. We are having trouble getting security clearance for photos, even though all the photos we selected were from public documents. It appears because of the Los Alamos security problems that much material which was formerly declassified is now again classified. While we are trying to complete the T Plant HAER, we still have not received feedback on the B Reactor HAER draft from the National Parks Service, which we submitted last Fall. The Federal Government grinds slow but fine, which is all right with us in this case.
The DOE budget provides for opening the B Reactor to the public only four times this fiscal year (Oct-Sep). We can, however, attach BRMA organized tours to the DOE sponsored tours. I’m told DOE will provide transportation. The tour dates have not been established, but two will be public tours held in May and September. The other two tours have yet to be scheduled but will be VIP tours to which we can attach our tour group.
Gene has designed a nice B Reactor button which we have been turning out in quantity to present to VIPs along with the note card collection. We think this is a good means to leave a lasting impression at very little cost. [As long as we value our own time at 79¢/hr. -Ed] Our buttons, note cards, and hats are available at nominal costs.
We must organize a nominating committee soon. Nominations will be announced at the November meeting for December elections. The best way to avoid being nominated for an office is to serve on the nominating committee. Any volunteers?
The good news on the B Reactor Hazards Survey report, issued last June, is that there are no “show stoppers.” All the problems mentioned can be easily fixed but will require funding. Items such as old light lamps with lead seals on the screw base and fluorescent light ballasts containing PCB were typical hazards to be dealt with. No contamination was found on the regular tour routes in the reactor. Gene will print the URL where the report may be accessed on the Internet.
The even better news is that the definitive Phase II Engineering Study is funded for this fiscal year; the contract may out for bid and in force as early as December. This is really cause for celebration. We are planning to offer our services as consultants to the contractor, both to make their job easier and also to ensure that our experience and goals are represented in the resulting report. The coming year is shaping up to be a good one for BRMA!
BRMA Board Members – 1999
President: Lyle Wilhelmi
Vice President: Jim Stoffels
Secretary: Gene Weisskopf
Treasurer: Roger Carpenter
Health, Safety, & Engineering: Del Ballard
History, Artifacts, & Exhibits: Madeleine Brown
Membership: Joe Hedges
Public Relations: Jim Thornton
Editor: Gene Weisskopf
Millennium Ends, Elections Loom
Who will guide the BRMA into the unknowns of the next millennium (assuming there is a next one)? It could be you, because when it’s Fall, BRMA elections can’t be too far away.
Any of our members are welcome to step forward and be nominated (or nominate themselves) for one of our elected posts: president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Nominations will open at our November 8 meeting, and remain open until we hold our elections at the December 13 meeting. The new officers take over in January 2000 (assuming there is one).
Your ideas and energy will be much appreciated during the year ahead.
Mining for Nuclear Materials Photo Exhibition
[From The Cultural Resource Review, the newsletter of the Hanford Cultural and Historic Resources Program]
October 7-31 – Washington State University Tri-Cities will host an exhibit of historical black-and-white photos titled “The Last Great Mining Boom: The Nuclear Industry in Western Colorado.” The photos show remains of the days of nuclear materials mining in western Colorado. The exhibit is designed as three segments: Radium Era, 1890-1925; Vanadium Era, 1900-1985; and Uranium Era, 1940-1985. See the exhibit at the WSU Tri-Cities Consolidated Information Center (CIC).
To subscribe to The Cultural Resource Review, the newsletter of the Hanford Cultural and Historic Resources Program, contact Tara Eschbach at 372-1735 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BRMA to Assist in Showing of Hanford Construction Movie
October is Washington Archaeology Month, and one of the featured events is the showing of the movie “Construction in the Desert: The Hanford Engineer Works” on October 23.
This is the 90+ minute movie (now on a video tape) that shows a wide swath of activities during the construction of the Hanford Engineer Works, circa 1944. While the BRMA was working on the B Reactor HAER project, we picked up a copy of this film from the archives in the Federal Building in Richland.
The film was later discovered through a completely different channel by Darby Stapp of PNNL, who is organizing the showing of the film. Turns out not many people had ever seen this movie, which contains wonderful footage of life at the very beginning of HEW.
The movie is in color but without sound – titles are displayed before every new scene. The origins of the movie are still unknown, although it was most certainly prepared for promotional and general information purposes, not for technical explanations.
The broad range of topics it presents would make a good introduction to the Site for anyone who was coming to Hanford, including workers and politicians. It shows how men and women lived in the temporary construction camp, the vast work going on in the desert, and the building of the town of Richland.
In contrast to the “summer camp” scenes evoked by life at Hanford, and what is particularly confusing, is the very detailed footage of the building of a reactor and a separations plant. These scenes were top secret, and do not seem to fit in with the rest of the film’s tone.
The reactor footage was the material we were interested in for B Reactor: workers milling the graphite blocks for the reactor core, laying up the graphite within the core, scenes of the control room and its instruments, and similar scenes that a lot of people outside the US would have been very interested in.
The BRMA will be participating in the showing of the film by providing some narration of the reactor and separations plant-related material. In the future, it would be great to see a sound track added to the movie, so it could be shown as a self-contained piece.
The construction film will be shown on Saturday, October 23 at 3:00pm at the Mid-Columbia Library, 1620 South Union St in Kennewick (near W 15th Ave). For more information, please contact Darby Stapp at 509-376-3631
B Reactor Hazards Report
Bechtel published the B Reactor hazards survey last June, as document BHI-01282. You can find it on the Internet at:
This page is an index of “BHI” documents; look down the list for BHI-01282, the “Hanford B Reactor Building Hazard Assessment Report.” However, the report is in PDF format and in order to view it, you’ll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader, a specialized viewer (reader) for files saved in the Acrobat format (with the PDF file name extension). You can download and install the Acrobat reader for free at:
The results of this report will be addressed in the B Reactor Phase II Feasibility Study.
B Reactor Phase II Feasibility Study
Rejoice! Let the bells ring out! Funding has been provided in the DOE’s current fiscal year budget for the “B Reactor Phase II Feasibility Study.” This survey will define the work that is needed to make the reactor into a publicly accessible museum.
The report will build upon the work already done in the Phase I Feasibility study (1995) and the recently completed Hazard Assessment Report. When the Phase II study is completed next summer, it will lay out the specifications and estimated costs for creating a B Reactor museum.
Many members of the BRMA wrote letters urging the DOE to fund this study sooner rather than later. We also appeared at DOE budget meetings to make our comments public, and published articles in this newsletter. It’s great to see our efforts produce such important results.
Of course, another reason the Phase II study is being funded this year is that it and the hazards study are part of the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA), which has three milestones specifically for B Reactor:
- M-93-04: Submit 105-B hazards assessment and characterization report to EPA – June 1999
- M-93-05: Issue B Reactor Feasibility Study Engineering Design Report for public comment – June 2000
- M-93-06-T01: Submit B Reactor Surveillance and Maintenance Plan for EPA approval in part
- The Phase II study will present a road map for the future course of the reactor. When it’s finished, the question should no longer be “If?” B Reactor will become a museum, but When? and How?
Final Hanford Comprehensive Land-Use Plan EIS
As reported in the previous issue of The Moderator (Summer 1999), the Hanford Remedial Action Environmental Impact Statement and Comprehensive Land-Use Plan, or the HRA-EIS, included very definite statements about the future use of B Reactor. The keywords were “museum” and “high-intensity recreation.” The B Reactor Museum Association made a strong showing during the public hearings for the document, and our efforts seemed to have been rewarded.
After the public comment period and DOE review, the final version of this document, the Hanford Comprehensive Land-Use Plan Environmental Impact Statements (CLP-EIS) has now been published. Of the various plans for the Hanford Site, the DOE Preferred Alternative strongly supports a B Reactor Museum.
One page of the final document is particularly important to us: page 3.21 in Section 184.108.40.206.2, the section named “The Columbia River Corridor.” The box on that page entitled “B Reactor Museum Proposal” (shown below) is clear evidence of our work, and further proof that the BRMA is really helping to ensure the future life of the B Reactor.
B Reactor Museum Proposal
Preserving the history of the Hanford Site, and the public’s knowledge and understanding of the events that occurred during World War II and the years which followed are the basis for the existence of the B Reactor Museum Association (BRMA). The primary mission of the organization is the long-term preservation of the retired B Reactor at the Hanford Site, and the upgrading of the structure to allow public access and unrestricted tours.
The B Reactor produced the plutonium for the first manmade nuclear explosion – the Trinity test – in
New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The second bomb used in World War II contained plutonium produced
by B Reactor. That bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, and was credited with bringing
about the final surrender of Japan and the ending of the war. Plutonium production operation of the B Reactor was permanently stopped in 1968, and the reactor is currently functioning as a controlled-
access museum in the 100-B/C Area of the Hanford Site.
As envisioned by the BRMA, the museum would be within the 105-B Reactor building itself, near the east end of a proposed State park. The new park would include the south shore of the Columbia River
extending from the Vernita Bridge rest area on State Highway 240, eastward to the 100-B Area
(a distance of about 6 km [4 mi]). The park area, the road providing access from Highway 240, and the museum area would be fenced off from the adjacent Hanford area. Ideally, access would be by private automobile, by train across the Hanford Site from Richland, and by boat from the Columbia River.
The B Reactor was entered into the National Register of Historic Places on April 3, 1992, by the
National Park Service. Because of this placement, DOE must comply with the National Historic
Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470) prior to taking any action on the historic site. A report, entitled 105-B Reactor Facility Museum Phase I Feasibility Study Report (BHI 1995a), concluded that the use of the facility as a museum is feasible.
Members of the BRMA worked many hours presenting their views to the DOE on the importance of singling out the B Reactor for public access. We appeared at the public meeting to give statements, and sent in written statements, as well. All part of the BRMA’s job.
Note, however, that this is not at all the final step in the planning for the Hanford Site. The document describes the path in the following way:
The Final EIS is a revision of the…HRA-EIS published in April 1999 and responds to comments received in writing and at public hearings. The Final EIS is being transmitted to commenting agencies and individuals, made available to the public, and filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A DOE decision on proposed actions will not be made earlier than 30 days after EPA issues a public notice of availability for the Final EIS. The DOE will issue a Record of Decision (ROD) published in the Federal Register.
The document can be found locally at the DOE Reading Room in the library at WSU, Richland. It’s also on the Internet; the table of contents for the document is:
As with the B Reactor hazards report, this document is in PDF format, for which you’ll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the sections you open from the table of contents. Keep in mind that each section of the document can be a really big file, ranging up to 15MB. For example, Section 3 contains the B Reactor proposal we reprinted here, which is almost 3MB.