THE MODERATOR – Spring 2004

From the control room

Del Ballard
President, BRMA

Happy to be back from my annual “vacation” to California and back into the fray. I expect many of you have seen some of the recent publicity in the Tri-City Herald about the B Reactor and the pot that our organization is stirring. This is what is needed to keep the public aware and in support of our objectives of preserving the historic B Reactor.

Encouraging progress on pending Park Service legislation was shown when hearings were held by a Senate subcommittee on March 9th. Those testifying included Cindy Kelly of the Atomic Heritage Foundation and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. Written testimony by Congressman Hastings, and yours truly, were also submitted for the record by Cantwell. The Senator’s statements included, “We are left with these irreplaceable relics of the Manhattan Project – such as the B Reactor – which are incredibly important in understanding the engineering achievements that propelled this country into the nuclear age, with all of the complicated moral issues it poses for the processors of such technology.” And, “I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure passage of this bill, as the study it authorizes is a much-needed first step in determining the best options for preserving this important piece of American history.”

Today I learned from Cantwell’s office that the bill is expected to be considered by the Energy Committee during their April meeting. If that Committee approves the bill, I understand it would then be placed on the Senate calendar for consideration. Cantwell’s office is pushing for passage this session of Congress, which is scheduled to conclude by the end of September. Although we are all aware of the tough road ahead, we continue to be optimistic and ask for all members and others in the community to continue their support.

Obtaining the necessary approvals from the DOE for our planned 60th anniversary events continues to be a frustrating experience. Two letters and a meeting with Mr. Klein, Manager of Richland Operations, have yet to produce a final confirmation. However, we are still hopeful and continue to make necessary arrangements. Tentative dates are for a smaller observance at “B” on Sunday, September 26th, and public tours and exhibits, on Saturday, October 9th.

Celebration events at the Los Alamos site have been scheduled for June 25 and 26th of this year. The AHF and the Los Alamos Historical Society have scheduled tours of the site and a full day Symposium on “Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.” Invited dignitaries include Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and NM Governor Bill Richardson. This should be a good precedent for the Hanford events.

Editor’s Note: The full text of Senator Cantwell’s remarks can be found at her web site at BRMA thanks Senators Cantwell, Murray and Congressman Hastings for their ongoing support of this important legislation!

Letter to Congress

An Opportunity to Preserve and Present United States History

Gene Weisskopf
Secretary & Past President, BRMA

Near the end of March, the BRMA sent a one-page letter to every member of Congress, explaining the importance of two upcoming bills (H.R. 3207 and S. 1687) that would direct (and hopefully fund) the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on the preservation of historic sites of the Manhattan Project for potential inclusion in the National Park system.

On the Hanford site, B Reactor would be the prime candidate, and the 221-T “canyon” building would certainly be looked at as well, although it is still in use, while B Reactor lies waiting for its doors to be opened to the public.

The bills are named “The Manhattan Project National Historical Park Study Act of 2003.” The two bills are essentially the same, with the House bill being sponsored by Congressman Doc Hastings, and the Senate bill by Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM) and, as co-sponsors, our own Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. You can read the details of each bill by going to Thomas Legislative Information on the Internet:

You’ll need to search for the bills in the 108th Congress (last year – 2003). You can read the text of the letter on our Web site:

Nomination for National Historic Landmark Status

Gene Weisskopf
Secretary & Past President, BRMA

Around the middle of March, I sent off a draft of our nomination for B Reactor as a National Historic Landmark. The application went to the National Park Service (NPS) in Seattle, where it will get a preliminary review. Suggestions will be sent back to us, and then we’ll submit the final draft with appropriate photos, maps, floor plan, and the like.

The reactor is already on the National Register of Historic Places, having been entered in 1992 via a nomination by the BRMA. The Landmark status is quite similar to the National Register, except that a property must have national significance. It’s not hard to see how B Reactor deserves such status, but you can’t imagine how difficult it can be to say so in a dozen different ways. It really should only take a couple of paragraphs to explain the significance. It’s all so obvious, and the reader’s own knowledge of our history can fill in the rest. But the nomination form has its own way of asking for information, and one can’t just say “and the rest is history” and expect them to approve it.

So we’ll see what happens. It was good to send in the nomination, but it’s a long, long way from getting through the process. The real trick is that the owner of a property being nominated is included in the process, since some owners might not want the Landmark status being given to their properties. In this case, the owner of B Reactor is the Department of Energy, and I have no idea what route the Landmark nomination would take through that organization. I doubt that we’re talking weeks or even months.

Nonetheless, we’re planting the seed and I hope some fruit comes forth in the not too distant future. Granting National Historic Landmark status to B Reactor would not only be appropriate, it would undoubtedly lubricate the wheels of long-term preservation and public access.

What’s been going on since January 2004

An unofficial log of happenings from BRMA leaders

1/4 E-mail sent to Doc Hastings asking for help in: (1) obtaining funding for NPS study, (2) rescheduling DOE directive to BHI to initiate (Mar. ’04) a new EE/CA on B Reactor, and (3) request DOE not include “cocooning” of B in work scope for new River Corridor Contract.

1/4 Bob Bowersock reported on meeting with Sen. Murray during her Tri-Cities visit. Bob informed her of BRMA’s 60th anniversary of B startup plans, and extended an invitation.

1/6 Received message from Cindy Kelly, AHF, inquiring if BRMA would commit to supporting (and partnering) with her organization in preparing exhibits on the “Hanford Story”. Input from the BRMA Board was requested, and a tentative “yes” sent to Cindy.

1/7 After polling BRMA Board members, Cindy Kelly (AHF) was informed that BRMA is willing to Partner with the AHF in the development of exhibits about Hanford, and that we would be able to support the effort with a “few” (unspecified) thousands of dollars.

1/8 Received call from Doug Stout, Doc Hastings’ Administrative Assistant in D.C., in response to recent e-mail to Doc. Doug acknowledged that a special appropriation will be needed, but emphasized that gaining the authorization first is the top priority.

1/12 January membership meeting held at the Richland Library with 16 attending. Block of funds authorized to support AHF in developing exhibits for 60th anniversary.

1/13 Bob Bowersock and Del attended Sen. Maria Cantwell’s public meeting on “prescription drug” legislation. Found opportunity to discuss NPS study bill of Manhattan facilities. Staff man Kurt Beckett indicated that they would “see that funding” is provided to cover the study. BRMA needs to give them early notification of fall celebration at/on B Reactor.

1/13 Tim and Dawn Johnson host planning meeting for the 60th anniversary event with nine BRMA members present. September 25th selected as tentative date. Plans discussed.

1/16 Del learned that Cindy Kelly has a schedule conflict on Sept. 25 and will not be able to attend an event at Hanford on that date. Also, Congress is likely to still be in session on that date. BRMA will therefore reconsider the schedule.

1/21 Del met with Bob Potter of BHI and obtained copies of DOE/Bechtel documents pertinent to recent decisions on the future of the B Reactor.

1/22 Tour by 18 members of the Advisory Board to the WA State Historical Preservation Commission and Battelle. Attendees expressed much interest and were very appreciative of the tour. Roger Rohrbacher, Del and Bob Egge acted as guides.

1/25 Del discussed with Bob Larson, Port of Benton Commissioner, the possibility/potential for passenger rail service to B reactor for our Fall ‘04 event. Randy Peterson of the Tri-City Railroad Co. has expressed serious interest in initiating rail service on Hanford Site.

1/27 Second planning meeting for the 60th Anniversary event. A new date of Oct. 9 was selected as the day for public tours at B. A new letter to DOE will be formulated to outline overall plan and what is desired from DOE and the contractors.

1/28 Del and Gene met with Nick Ceto, Hanford Project Manager for the U.S. EPA. Purpose of meeting was to request a delay in current commitment date of Sept 05 for DOE to recommend a final disposition of B Reactor. Mr. Ceto is amenable to such a delay, but cannot make that request to the DOE; he suggests BRMA make request to Keith Klein.

2/? Telephone conversation with Keith Klein, DOE Richland Operations Manager

2/9 February Membership meeting with 18 members and guest attending

2/10 Del contacted Joyce Olson of Doc Hastings’ office asking status of NPS legislation. She indicated she would contact the D.C. office and let them answer my questions.

2/11 Del contacted Doug Stout, Doc Hastings’ DC staff person to discuss NPS Legislation status. Doug still expects this stand-alone bill to be acted on this year in the Congress. We discussed “commitment date” of September 05 for decision on disposition of the reactor.

2/11 Cindy Kelly has returned to work from a two week vacation to “down under”, and will continue to pursue the task of preserving the history of the Manhattan Project facilities. She called to exchange information with Del and thanked us for rescheduling the 60th anniversary events at the B Reactor so that she could attend.

2/24 Roger Rohrbacher and Del met with Susan Bower and Tim Ledbetter (PNNL) at their request. They have a contract with the DOE Office of Security Protection, to explore the historical aspects of the B Reactor as it may relate to current national security concerns. Further meetings and/or input may be requested.

2/25 BRMA board meeting. Agreed to issue letters to broad list of Federal legislators asking for support of NPS Study bills. Decided 1) letters to dues-delinquent members will be mailed, 2) BRMA will ask for transfer and use of large display case from 300 Area, 3) the historic furniture from Richland “Pre-Fab” houses sold to Bert Pierard for $100.

2/26 Completed arrangements for BHI to transport display case from 306 E building to 105 B.

3/2 BRMA received notification and request from Senator Cantwell’s office to submit written testimony in support of bill S.1687, NPS study.

3/08 March membership meeting was held at the Richland Library, with Hank Kosmata presiding. Bob Potter reported on his meeting with Cindy Kelly in Wash. DC.

3/09 Cindy Kelly presented testimony to NPS Committee of the Senate on the Study Act for the Manhattan Project facilities, including B Reactor. Sen. Maria Cantwell also presented testimony, including that contributed by Del Ballard.

3/09 Hank met with Kristin Eby, Senator Cantwell’s Staff, for updates of progress of “Study” legislation and progress toward the preservation of the Reactor.

3/11 BRMA meeting held with Keith Klein and staff members to discuss request for DOE support of events planned for 60th anniversary of the B Rx start-up. Klein wants input from Headquarters, and promised an answer to our requests in no later than 4 weeks.

3/26 Our Bechtel contact, Bob Potter, retires from his position with Bechtel Hanford. We welcome Bob to the world of retirement and “full time” BRMA support.

3/30 Gene Weisskopf completed letter asking for support of NPS legislation, and submitted copies to Columbia Industries for processing and mailing to all U.S. Senators and Representatives.

4/1 Del obtained update on status of NPS legislation from Senator Cantwell’s office. -Expected to clear the “Energy Committee” at their April Meeting, and, if approved, placed on the Senate Calendar. Cantwell hopes for action this session of Congress.