From the control room

Del Ballard
President, BRMA

PROGRESS! How sweet it is, even when it comes only one small step at a time. Federal legislation that would authorize the National Park Service to conduct a study to evaluate the B Reactor as a Park Site was introduced into Congress on September 30. Joint bills were proposed by Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Doc Hastings. This legislation has long been sought after by our organization, and became even more critical following the statement issued by DOE that they were “not in the museum business.”

I want to thank Madeleine, Hank, Lyle, Tim and all of the other BRMA members who have helped persuade our Federal Legislators to move forward on this matter. Cindy Kelly of the Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) has been instrumental in helping to influence Congressional staff members in DC. We thank her also. If and when these bills are passed, Federal appropriations will still be required to fund the study. Our members should therefore continue to contact our delegation to encourage completion of the necessary legislation. Funding probably cannot be expected until the FY 2005 Congressional Budget.

A parallel but separate activity is also underway regarding the push to preserve the history of the Manhattan Project. The AHF has persuaded Congress to include $1M in the FY 2004 budget to help AHF complete its work on the Report to Congress and other activities related to preservation of artifacts and archival materials.

In late July and early August over one dozen BRMA members, who were also “old timers” at Hanford, were interviewed by a professional filming crew from the Atomic Heritage Foundation. These interviews covered memories and experiences at B Reactor, or other Hanford plutonium production facilities. Our hope is to eventually acquire copies of these taped interviews

Because of Hanford’s significant involvement in the Cold War, the BRMA sent a representative to a recent conference on “Preserving the History of the Cold War”. Our past president, Gene Weisskopf, attended a conference September 8 and 9 in Washington D.C. and presented a talk on B Reactor. Elements of his report are contained in this issue.

In other matters closer to home, our stalwart supporter and B-Czar, Dru Butler, has left Bechtel for greener pastures. We wish her well in her new job with another Hanford contractor and as a continuing loyal BRMA member. Our new contact in Bechtel for matters relating to the reactor is Bob Potter. Bob is a longtime Bechtel leader, active in strategic planning and community outreach and I’m sure he will serve our interests well.

Personally, I have had a very busy summer. My wife, Virginia and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in August. Many friends and family members joined us at our party at the Royal Hotel on August 16. My work as a volunteer helping to build houses for Habitat for Humanity continues to be interesting and challenging. I guess all of that physical activity is good for the soul but sure makes for a lot of sore muscles. I wish you all good health and well-being in your respective activities.

What’s new at the B Reactor?

Project Update for April – September 2003

Bob Potter, B Reactor Project Manager
Tom Marceau, Cultural Resources Supervisor
Bechtel Hanford, Inc

During the spring and summer B Reactor has seen a lot of visitors and the completion of some major facility upgrades that were part of our hazard mitigation activities in the reactor building.

Tours and Visitors

Since March, eighteen groups representing more than 300 visitors have toured the reactor, with BRMA providing tour guides for 12 of the groups.

The most notable of the visits was from the Atomic Heritage Foundation in July. Their visit was in conjunction with their production of a documentary for a week-long public television program commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Manhattan Project, targeted for airing in August 2005. The 5th episode will feature the construction of the Hanford Site with an emphasis on the B Reactor. During the visit, on-camera interviews were conducted with ten Manhattan Project and Cold War workers who had contributed to the construction and/or operation of the Reactor. Additionally, two Manhattan Project workers from T Plant and three from the 300 Area were interviewed. In rounding out the Hanford Site story, specifically the effects of construction on the local communities, interviews with former Hanford and White Bluff residents and Native American Elders were also filmed.

Facility Upgrades

The facility improvements at the reactor included: repairing exterior building deterioration sites, upgrading the ventilation system, eliminating a serious tripping hazard along the tour route, and installing heaters in the fuel storage basin.

Restoration of building exterior

Over the years, the exterior block walls of the accumulator room and D elevator have experienced continuous deterioration from water infiltration caused by draining from the adjacent roofs. The pealing paint was removed, grout between the blocks repaired, and a dual-coat, polymer sealant was applied to protect the blocks from future water infiltration. In addition, the color of the coating was selected to match the original color of the concrete block.

Other exterior restoration included the repair of deteriorating drip edging on some of the lower roofs and the repair and painting of fascia boards and exterior doors. The painting was part of our lead paint encapsulation program, but also improved the appearance of the entrance to the reactor. We were fortunate to be able to obtain a color of paint that is very close to the original green used when the reactor was built.

Upgrading the building ventilation system to mitigate radon levels

In order to more efficiently mitigate radon within the facility, three new ventilation fan units have been installed, two on the roof and the third inside the building adjacent to the control room. The units will provide filtered air flow into the valve pit and fan room areas; into the offices, hallways and fuel storage basin viewing area; and into the control room. An automatic timer allows the ventilation units to be activated in sufficient time to reduce radon levels prior to the time access to the reactor is required. The new system can also be used to help control temperatures inside the building during variation in outside temperatures throughout the seasons of the year.

Eliminating a serious tripping hazard along tour route

We were able to eliminate a very distinct tripping hazard along the tour route that existed between the valve pit area and the entrance to the fan room. The tripping hazard was caused by the difference in elevation between the walkway grating in the valve pit area and the floor of the fan rooms. We eliminated this hazard by installing a new ramped walkway grating leading up to the doorway to the fan rooms.

Installation of electric heaters in fuel storage basin to reduce deterioration of roof panels

The fuel storage basin is not heated and the many freeze-thaw cycles during the years have had a deteriorating effect on the structural integrity of the pre-cast concrete roof panels over the fuel basin area. We have installed two 45-kilowatt heaters in the ceiling area above the fuel basin deck. Equipped with automatic thermostats, the heaters will prevent freezing temperatures above the basin deck and eliminate the thermal cycles that have adversely impacted the fragile roof panels.

What’s been going on since July 2003

An unofficial log of happenings from BRMA leaders

7/7 Annabelle Rodriguez, DOE, called a meeting to plan for the filming project scheduled for the week of July 28 in Richland by the Atomic Heritage Foundation. Several BRMA members attended including Hank, Roger, and Del.

7/10 BRMA submitted invoice to BHI in the amount of $1000 for tour guide service for period February through June of 2003. Only $875 remaining on current contract from Bechtel.

7/15 Meeting with DOE, BHI, and others at CREHST in planning content and schedule for the Filming Project by the Atomic Heritage Foundation here at Hanford the week of July 28. Meeting called by Annabelle Rodriguez. Lead taken by Tom Marceau

7/15-22 Del contacted all of the individuals that have expressed interest in participating in interviews/discussion during the filming by the AHF crew at B reactor, T Plant, and the 313 building. Badge request forms were provided for those not currently badged.

7/22 Attended third planning and scheduling meeting for the filming project. Tom M. has established a daily and hourly schedule for the film crew and the participants.

7/28 Cindy Kelly and her filming crew arrived and started with exterior shots at B reactor and interviews with Fred Hunt, long time DuPont employee, and Bob Egge at site.

7/30 BRMA members traveled to B for on-camera interviews of Manhattan Project experiences. Those interviewed include Dee McCullough, Roger Rohrbacher, Larry Denton, and Paul Vinther.

7/30 Atomic Heritage Foundation president Cindy Kelly hosted an appreciation dinner at the Shilo Inn for participants and supporters of the History Project filming. Dinner made possible through donations by Bechtel and Flour Hanford.

7/31 Filming continued covering the T Plant separations facility. Interviewees today were Steve Buckingham, Roger Hultgren and Roy Gephart.

7/31 Del received copy of DOE response letter to AHF on the 18 recommendations developed during the April 30–May1 workshop in Richland

8/1 Morning interviews covered the 300 area and fuel fabrication work. On file were Ev Weakly, Lou Turner, and John Smith. Afternoon interviews on B reactor and related subjects included Carl Higby, Greg Gregor, Wally Greager, Hank Kosmata, and Del Ballard. Michele Gerber spoke on Saturday for the history film record.

8/5 BRMA Board meeting held at Del Ballard’s house. Gave authorization to send representative (Gene Weisskopf) to conference on Cold War in Wash. D.C. in Sept. ‘03.

8/11 Membership meeting held at Richland Public Library. 23 members and guests attended.

8/7 Special tour hosted by Bechtel for a contingent of some 20 staff personnel of Federal Legislators.. Hank Kosmata had opportunity to meet & bend the ear of several “staffers” including Doug Stout of “Doc’s” office) regarding our desire for legislation authorizing the National Park Service study.

8/15 Hanford Communities filmed an “Issue Briefing” on the subject of Reactor Cocooning, held in the Richland City Council Chamber. Speakers were Mike Mihalic of Bechtel, Beth Bilson of DOE, Dennis Faulk of EPA, and Del Ballard of BRMA. Del spoke on our objectives of a Museum and the current push of federal legislation to authorize the NPS study.

8/28 Met with Gene Weisskopf to review the slide presentation he plans to present at the Cold War History Conference in DC in September.

9/8 September membership meeting attended by 20 members and guests.

9/8-9 Gene Weisskopf attended the Cold War History Conference in Wash. D.C., sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center. Gene presented the “Story of the Historic Hanford B Reactor.”

9/10 Mel Finkbeiner called Del to discuss upcoming conferences and who should participate to represent the BRMA.

9/11 Madeleine and Lyle met with Senator Cantwell local staffer, Kristin Eby. They extolled on the merits of the B Reactor as a historical jewel and tourist attraction. They described the need for road improvements and other transportation enhancements for tour access. The information was received with enthusiasm.

9/16 Agreed with Glenda Brunson that the Club 40 tour on September 6 will be billed at two tours. The tour consisted of three bus loads of visitors and involved 4 tour guides.

9/19 Del received news from Cindy Kelly that Senator Domenici (R-NM) had written an amendment to Senate funding bill for $1M for Manhattan Project History preservation. Funds apparently destined to the AHF.

9/23 BRMA distributed draft letters to all members with e-mail; letters that are to be used to urge our congressional delegation to submit and support legislation authorizing National Park Service study of B Reactor as a Park Site.

9/24 Del and several others signed and sent letters to the three Washington Federal Legislators urging them to complete the NPS Legislation.

9/29 Congressman Doc Hastings’ office (Doug Stout) informed BRMA (Del) that Hastings and Senator Cantwell would jointly submit to Congress on Sept. 30 legislation authorizing the National Park Service to study B Reactor as a potential Para Site.

9/30 Press releases were received announcing the Legislation for the NPS study. The Tri-City Herald (John Stang) called Del to get the BRMA reaction to the news release from Washington, D. C. Of course we are very happy to hear of this important step forward.

10/1 KONA Radio called Del for an on-line interview regarding the potential of the National Park Service being the operators of the B Reactor. This recent legislation that would authorize a feasibility study by the NPS is certainly good news for BRMA and the local economy.

10/1 The members of the BRMA Board met to attend to regular and ongoing business matters.