THE MODERATOR – Fall 2002
From the control room
Fall is here, the days grow shorter and cooler, and that must mean one thing–ELECTIONS!
I’m not just thinking of the candidates and ballot issues we’ll decide on November 5. I’m thinking ahead to the B Reactor Museum Association’s December meeting, when we’ll elect a slate of fresh new faces, as well as some old familiar ones, to lead our group in the year 2003.
At the October meeting we’ll establish a nominating committee. The committee will submit its recommendations to the membership at the November meeting.
Now is the time to get that unlisted phone number, or alternately to heed the call to duty and find some great ways to support our group.
Here is my most important message to B Reactor museum supporters: CONTACT CONGRESS.
Ask Congress to authorize the National Park Service to prepare a study in FY03 of B Reactor’s historic significance and preservation alternatives. That’s how we get the ball rolling for the National Park Service to operate the B Reactor Museum. DOE won’t operate a B Reactor Museum, and frankly we don’t want visitors to submit to guards, guns, and gates to visit this historic site.
As President as well as editor I certainly have plenty of space to express myself and I’ll try not to be redundant. On the other hand, advertisers tell us that the way to get the word across is to repeat the message a few times, so maybe I’ll tell you what I’m going to tell you, tell you, then tell you what I told you. There. I told you so. So read on for more news and views.
BRMA gets a seat at a new table
Just when I decided my plate was full enough that I must learn to say no, along comes an invitation to me from the Fish and Wildlife Hanford Reach Monument folks to participate in a 3.5-day workshop. They want a wide range of stakeholders to develop goals and management objectives for the Hanford Reach National Monument, which is historic B Reactor’s newest neighbor.
I wanted to know if it was my League of Women Voters hat they wanted or my BRMA advocacy hat, and the answer was clearly BRMA advocacy! So please be kind to Lyle as he tries out temporary single parenthood in the first week of November.
Tours just can’t be stopped
According to our Bechtel year-end report (pp 4-5) B Reactor had 500 visitors this fiscal year. This was despite the cancellation of all tours without a mission or business purpose after the 9/11/01 attack. While 500 is far fewer than the 1200 visitors to B Reactor in FY01, it shows interest in B Reactor cannot be squelched.
Let’s face it. When visitors leave B Reactor they usually leave supporting the cause of making it a museum.
If USDOE really wants to help us find those capable partners to operate a future non-DOE-operated museum, DOE must open the gates so we can turn thousands rather than mere hundreds of visitors into museum supporters.
How and Why to Contact Congress
It’s time to show some grassroots support for B Reactor’s preservation. Congress needs to hear from us, and FAST. Just when DOE declared it didn’t want to operate a museum at B Reactor, a lovely development
unfolded–the National Park Service has shown some interest! But the National Park Service can’t lobby Congress. We can, and we must.
USDOE has no mandate to operate a museum at B Reactor. But the National Park Service is charged with preserving and interpreting our nation’s historical sites, and has begun to learn about B Reactor’s vital role and need for preservation.
It’s Congress that funds work at B Reactor. It’s Congress that funds the National Park Service. It’s Congress, ultimately, that decides the fate of B Reactor.
The first step in making B Reactor a National Historic Site or otherwise getting it into the National Park Service’s custody is for Congress to authorize NPS to study B Reactor.
What to say
To save B Reactor, Congress needs to tell the Department of Interior to study B Reactor. So politely and clearly request Congress to add $400K and language like the following to the FY03 Omnibus Parks Bill: “National Park Service shall prepare a report that assesses historic significance and evaluates preservation alternatives of the B Reactor at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site. NPS shall complete this study in FY2003.”
More golden words
You can borrow these words, or use them to inspire some of your own. But please–don’t worry about writing the ultimate perfect note–just get out your pen or turn on your computer and do it.
You can find more golden words if you browse around on www.b-reactor.org.
Hanford’s historic B Reactor needs help from Congress to avoid the wrecking ball and get preserved and accessible for all. The B Reactor at the Hanford Site has a special role in history. Its plutonium went into the world’s first atomic bomb test and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which brought World War II to a swift and unequivocal end. B Reactor’s place in history has been recognized by the Federal government and by national technical organizations.
How to contact Congress
U.S. Postal service works but is very very slow because of the anthrax scare last year. So don’t use postal mail for this urgent message.
Instead, fax (gives the office a piece of paper they must deal with) or use email.
Senator Maria Cantwell’s fax number is (202) 228-0514. Senator Patty Murray’s fax number is (202) 224-0238. Congressman Doc Hastings’ fax is (202) 225-3251.
For BRMA supporters in other congressional districts: I found these fax numbers by going to http://www.house.gov/hastings and http://cantwell.senate.gov and http://murray.senate.gov. You can just insert your own senators’ and representative’s names and with a few clicks (try “contact us” or the like) get the fax number.
Email can be sent directly to your representative and senators through the following link:
You also can email via the congressional reps’ and senators’ web pages but it may not be as direct or simple to do so.
BRMA supporters with email may notice this request strongly resembles the one you received on September 20. I have word from only four stalwart B Reactor supporters that they followed through on my request. Please, please, make your voice heard! It’s free, it’s easy, it’s vitally important for B Reactor’s future, and it’s your Constitutionally protected right.
DOE’s Not-So Secret Museum Business
US Department of Energy has recently and frequently stated it’s not in the museum business. USDOE needs to qualify that statement.
USDOE is not in the museum business–except in Idaho Falls, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Albuquerque, and Alamogordo.
Of course it’s not usually DOE employees who operate museums–as with nearly all functions at DOE sites, DOE pays contractors to do the work.
Near Arco, Idaho is the EBR-1 museum. It receives more than 7000 visitors each summer. DOE still funds this museum to the tune in FY 02 of $368,801. This covers one contractor PR person, the three college students who work as guides there, plus electricians, painters, and RCTs (for monthly surveys plus a check of the garbage leaving the building).
Oak Ridge has a newly refurbished Graphic Reactor Museum.
It also is home for the American Museum of Science and Energy, in downtown Oak Ridge. This museum chronicles the Manhattan Project, provides interactive exhibits on fossil fuel and alternative energy sources and live demonstrations of basic science principles.
Before ASME started charging admission, it had 125 to 140 thousand visitors per year. After admission charges in August 2001 and the terrorist attack the following month (which limited travel and access to DOE sites) attendance is down to 90 to 100 thousand visitors.
DOE’s desire to get out of the museum business at this site has led to efforts there to donate the museum to the City of Oak Ridge.
But in Los Alamos, USDOE is diving deeply into that museum business. USDOE has recently opened a new (dare we say it) museum, the Bradbury Science Museum. It’s open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Albuquerque is the site of DOE’s National Atomic Museum.
This is the nation’s only congressionally- chartered museum of nuclear science and history. It’s open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It’s closed only on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Last, let’s not forget the incredibly historic site of the world’s first atomic explosion at the Trinity Test Site on July 16, 1945. The site of that test in Alamogordo, New Mexico, was declared a national historic landmark in 1975. It’s on the northern end of the White Sands Missile Range and is open to the public twice a year.
USDOE denying it’s in the museum business is laughable–but it really isn’t so funny when it keeps the public from visiting historic B Reactor and keeps the threat of cocooning lurking like a recurring nightmare.
Summer Tour Summary
BRMA has supported a smattering of tours despite the security limitations. Following are the tours BRMA led at the reactor:
7/11 US Fish and Wildlife staff and guests — 43 visitors including Hanford Reach National Monument Steering Committee and senior FWS and National Park Service officials
7/25 Nuclear Regulatory Commission – 20 visitors
7/30 US Defense Intelligence officials – 5 visitors
9/7 Richland Club 40 (High School reunions)
9/24 Manhattan Project pioneer Tom Kelly, his son Andy, and Lisbeth Henning from Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
BRMA tour guides who have escorted guests are Hank Kosmata, Dee McCullough, Paul Vinther, Gene Weisskopf, and Lyle Wilhelmi.
Besides the tours BRMA has escorted, DOE has permitted others to the reactor recently. US Military Interpreters,and Congressional and committee staffers visited B Reactor this summer.
What’s new at the B Reactor?
Project Update for Summer 2002
Bechtel Hanford, Inc.
The Federal fiscal year 2002 (FY02) ended September 30, 2002, which provides a good time to pause and consider our accomplishments and challenges. Despite ongoing security restrictions, limited tours were provided; hazard mitigation work was completed; and DOE-RL, EPA, and Ecology established a new deadline for determining the ultimate fate of the B Reactor.
Bechtel has prepared a budget and detailed work plans so that hazard mitigation to enable public access can continue in FY03. This is despite the ongoing uncertainty over the timing of the award of the new River Corridor Contract, which will include management of the B Reactor. The new contract award is expected sometime in FY03.
Annabelle Rodriguez joined the B Reactor Team in FY02, succeeding Dee Lloyd as the U.S. DOE Cultural and Historic Resources Program Manager. Annabelle has actively supported tours and related events. Chris Smith continues as the DOE-RL Project Manager for the B Reactor and oversees the budget and work scope assigned to Bechtel Hanford Inc.
Hazard Mitigation Upgrades
Perhaps the most notable accomplishment in FY02 was the safe and timely completion of the first phase of the hazard mitigation upgrades required to support public access along the tour route. Safety is enhanced in the front-face work area by installing a large mesh net under the ceiling. The valve pit walkway railing was improved, nine roof panels were repaired, and the electrical system was refurbished. Additionally, several of the fan room cells were decontaminated and downposted to improve access and allow use of space in these areas.
Facility upgrades planned for FY03 include several rooms along the proposed tour route (i.e., the flow lab/machine maintenance room), as well as improvements to the fire protection and ventilation systems and exterior block repairs.
Tours and Security
Due to increased Hanford Site security after the September 11, 2001 attack, all public tours planned for the summer of FY02 were cancelled. Access to B Reactor was and remains limited to groups or individuals determined by DOE-RL to have a business- or mission-related interest. In FY02 there were approximately 500 visitors to the B Reactor, including the Hanford Reach National Monument Planning Committee, the State Historic Preservation Office representatives, Congressional staffers, the Richland High School Club 40 Reunion, and DOE and contractor groups including Bechtel’s radiological control technicians. The FY03 plans for tours are uncertain and are contingent upon security restrictions.
The BRMA provides guides for tour groups as requested by DOE-RL and BHI. The small subcontract that provides BRMA with limited compensation for this service was extended through December 31, 2002, and increased slightly to provide $125 per tour.
Bechtel Hanford Inc. produced tour brochures to provide historic perspective, explain the tour route, and relay safety-related information to visitors. The B Reactor Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) document is also made available to interested people upon request
A new agreement was reached between DOE-RL, Ecology, and EPA for a deadline for a decision on the final use of the B Reactor. By September 30, 2005, the DOE-RL must recommend a “final configuration” or long-term use.
The DOE-RL leadership has implored stakeholders and historic preservation groups to work together now to find options for B Reactor’s long-term preservation. Possible champions for this use are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (including the Hanford Reach National Monument Planning Advisory Committee) and the National Park Service. If a viable preservation partner and associated funding is not found, it is likely that the B Reactor will be folded into the Hanford cleanup mission, which DOE-RL will complete by 2012.
Welcome to the new members who have joined the BRMA in the past few months:
T.D Chikalla Richland
Keith Maupin Richland
Paul Forman Washington DC
BRMA member Tom Clement died July 14, 2002 in Richland. Tom came to Richland during World War II to help build and maintain B Reactor and was a long-time member of BRMA. The funeral program featured a photo of Tom standing in front of a historic B Reactor photo behind him. The beautiful flower arrangement on Tom’s casket was adorned with his B Reactor Museum Association cap.
A HUGE THANK YOU!
To Betty Gulley of Richland, Debra McBaugh of Olympia, Edward Burnet of Spirit Lake, Idaho, and Vernon Holt of Mendham, NJ. These four good people contacted their representatives in Congress and emailed me so I can thank them.
To Lyle Wilhelmi, Jim Stoffels, and Leo Munson for their letters to the editor, and to Michele Gerber for her wonderful op-ed piece on August 4.
To Burt Pierard for his generous donation.
I’d love to thank more folks, so please speak up for our cause and let me know you did!
What’s been going on since July 1, 2002
7/11 BRMA provides tour guides for a contingent from US Fish and Wildlife (see tour summary.
7/18 Jim Stoffels has an op-ed piece in Vancouver Columbian. Check it out at http://www.columbian.com/07182002/opinion/300173.html
7/25 BRMA provides tour guides for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission tour of B Reactor.
7/30 BRMA provides tour guides for five visitors from US Defense Intelligence
8/1 Lyle Wilhelmi attends a meeting with artifacts group.
8/14 BRMA goes to bat for B Reactor pioneer Tom Kelly. Madeleine Brown emails Keith Klein to plead the case of this worthy visitor and also for Lisbeth Henning of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
8/15 Leo Munson has a letter to the editor of Tri-City Herald in support of B Reactor musuem.
8/16 Keith Klein emails back a “YES!”
8/22 Staffers from Washington and Oregon congressional delegation, plus a few lobbyists, visit B Reactor. BRMA was not asked to provide guides. Attending were Jeff Markey from Rep Hastings’ staff, Angela Becker-Dippman and Clark Mather from Senator Cantwell’s staff, Doug Clapp from Senator Murray’s staff, Cameron Beckman from Rep. Wu’s staff, Shannon Flaherty from Rep. Dunn’s staff, Alison ?? from Rep. Baird’s staff, plus lobbyists Tim Peckinpaugh, Dick Corrigan, and John Lindsay. Names courtesy of B Reactor supporter Greg Jones.
8/26 Lyle Wilhelmi attends another meeting with artifacts group.
8/28 Madeleine meets with B Reactor supporter Roy Gephart and Bill Rogers, director of Battelle’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, also CREHST Board member, who offered help for our cause from national physics groups.
9/6 Hanford Reach National Monument scoping meeting in Seattle. Madeleine attended and found comments written down in support of B Reactor becoming part of the Monument.
9/7 BRMA provides tour guides for Richland Club 40 (High School reunions).
9/9 Hanford Reach National Monument scoping meeting in Richland. Some BRMA members attended.
9/12 Burton Pierard, president of Richland Club 40 and recently joined member of BRMA, donates $190 to BRMA. This was the amount left over from the charge his group paid to ensure commitment and cover refreshments. Thanks again Burt!
9/13 Keith Klein, DOE Manager, responds to BRMA’s June 27 letter, which had responded to DOE’s April 19 letter.
9/18 Back to bat for the Kellys, after hearing that national security alert might cut off their tour after they’ve traveled here from North Carolina (the son) and Texas (Tom Kelly).
9/20 Email goes out to BRMA members so equipped to urge them to contact Congress to get the National Park Service started in studying B Reactor’s preservation.
9/23 Gene Weisskopf squires Kellys around the mid-Columbia.
9/23 Kellys invite Madeleine (Madame Prez) and spouse to dinner to thank us for our efforts to bring the tour to fruition. So this presidential role has a few benefits!
9/23 Budget committee (Warren Sevier, Richard Romanelli, Madeleine Brown, plus past Presidents Lyle Wilhelmi and Jerry Woodcock) meets.
9/24 BRMA provides tour guides for a B Reactor tour for Manhattan Project pioneer Tom Kelly, his son Andy, and Lisbeth Henning from Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
9/30 BRMA sends to the field offices of Doc Hastings, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell a fat package with endorsements from 13 agencies and groups, and 10 articles, letters to editor, and editorials supporting a B Reactor Museum. Package went to field offices because postal service mail to Washington DC takes 3-8 weeks.