THE MODERATOR – Summer 2001
K > 1
It’s just about time to go down into the BRMA wine cellar and pull out that dusty case of champagne that I’m hoping we put away in 1991 when the group was officially organized. That’s right, we may soon have cause to celebrate, when one of the goals of the BRMA is realized—the Department of Energy is about to commit, formally and officially, to the preservation of B Reactor.
Now, don’t get carried away, I’m not talking about red carpets, a gift shop, and snappy uniforms for the tour guides. The pending milestone is simply that the DOE will be held to upgrading the reactor and making it safe for public access, as opposed to ignoring it or tearing it down. This will be the outcome if the EPA accepts the DOE’s preferred alternative (#3) in the Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis report (a.k.a. EE/CA) that is now before the EPA.
Yes, having the DOE commit to not tearing down B Reactor is a big deal, as they really haven’t done so in the past 33 years, since B Reactor was shut down. The opportunity just hasn’t arisen, nor has the DOE actively sought out an excuse to commit to preserving the historic reactor.
The upcoming EPA decision, an “Action Memo,” is due around mid-August. While you’re keeping your fingers crossed, why not put a pen in them, too, and write that letter to the EPA expressing your support for Alternative #3, to preserve B Reactor for future generations (the address is listed on the next page).
Another positive step along the EE/CA path is the advice being offered by the Hanford Advisory Board to the DOE and EPA. The HAB were interested in the process because it’s a cleanup action at Hanford, and a unique one at that. With the help of our own HAB member Madeleine Brown, the board’s advice was a resounding “do it!” to the DOE, in support of mitigating the hazards at B and making it accessible to the public. What sometimes can seem more like the Hanford Adversary Board gave their unanimous support for the EE/CA’s preferred alternative. Given the diverse makeup of the board, this was a very important step.
On June 26, the EPA held its public meeting at the library in Richland to discuss the EE/CA, and that turned out to be one more positive step. I had convinced myself that the library would be packed to the rafters. After all, the meeting had been discussed in our newsletter and in a separate EE/CA mailing to our membership, and in the Tri-City Herald and the Hanford Reach newspapers. Just to prove that I’m still a bit of a novice here, by the time the meeting started there were plenty of empty seats on hand. A complete surprise for me, and a bit of a disappointment.
Nonetheless, the meeting went very well. The DOE and the EPA briefly discussed the process, took some questions from the audience, and then opened up the meeting to public comments. Hard to believe, but I was the first one to speak (but only because I happened to get there early and signed up first).
I mentioned no specifics about the EE/CA document itself, but simply expressed the BRMA’s support of Alternative #3, to make the reactor accessible to the public. We can offer our specific comments in a future letter to the EPA (remember, we have until July 17 to comment).
All the speakers were in support of fixing up B Reactor for public access. Although I almost would have preferred to hear a little dissent to accentuate the issues, the speakers expressed a broad range of support that came from some pretty unique perspectives.
For example, Tana Bader Inglima from the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau spoke very well of the importance of making B Reactor available to the public, and how it would be a tremendous asset to the Tri-Cities. Jim Stoffels spoke as the chairman of World Citizens for Peace, saying that B Reactor stands as a monument to the introduction of nuclear weapons and the threat we have lived under ever since.
Bob Smith spoke with CREHST in mind, and how B Reactor would be an integral part of the Richland and Hanford stories. Del Ballard and Madeleine Brown, along with past presidents Lyle Wilhelmi and Gerry Woodcock, each gave their perspective on the importance of preserving B. Michele Gerber took off her historian’s cap to speak as a citizen who simply loved history and found B Reactor to be the most exceptional historical artifact she’d ever encountered.
So it appears that the EPA got a very positive earful at the meeting and, evidently, in the letters they have received so far. That all bodes well for the acceptance of the DOE’s preferred alternative, which will be a milestone worthy of a glass or two of champagne
BRMA Board Members – 2001
President: Gene Weisskopf
Vice President: Jim Stoffels
Secretary: Madeleine Brown
Treasurer: Warren Sevier
Health, Safety, & Engineering: Del Ballard
History, Artifacts, & Exhibits: Lyle Wilhelmi
Membership: Joe Hedges
Public Relations: Jim Thornton
Editor: Gene Weisskopf
Have you Seen Oppenheimer?
BRMA member Peter Edinburg has been looking long and far for this 7-part BBC series from 1982. Directed by Barry Davis and starring Sam Waterston, it appeared on PBS in the American Playhouse program. If you know where to find this video, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a Whole New Ballgame
Past President, BRMA
Large enterprises, either private or government, are essentially covert operations. If you don’t believe that, try to discover who in such a system made the decision for an action with which you either agree or disagree. Or, if you want to initiate an action, to whom do you address your plea?
That has been a BRMA problem since the beginning. Of late, we have made substantial progress, because our communications have been to DOE top management. With DOE cooperation, their Bechtel contractor has helped immensely to make 105-B a better place for visitors. In past years, the path forward was never clear, and we took solace in every little sign that B Reactor would become a museum.
In the last two years, two regulatory requirements have been addressed—Hazards analysis and the EE/CA—that clarify what needs to be done to allow the reactor to be opened to the public. But where do we go from here? The path forward is not defined. When DOE is asked, we are told that “there is no plan,” and that the problem has not been addressed. Whether that is part of the covert operation or really true, it constitutes a problem for BRMA. Where do we go for an answer? We have found that letters to Keith Klein initiate action. It is time we mapped the path forward to a full-blown B Reactor Museum.
When the EE/CA is completed, most of the unknowns of the past will be known. That prepares the way for a timeline with task milestones. It is necessary for DOE budget requests and for general site planning. Let us issue a plan so that everyone necessary to that process is alerted. Then, everyone who must be involved can plan what is necessary to facilitate the plan.
ASCE Tour of B Reactor
[Editor’s note: Del is a founding member of the BRMA who spent just about all of his working career at Hanford. As an engineer and, at heart, a farm boy, he can figure out just about any mechanical problem, and is always ready and willing to do so. When it comes to the ebb and flow of Hanford rules, regulations, and organizations, however, Del’s skills are about as rudimentary as the rest of ours.]
Is there really a fixed and easy procedure for getting authorization for a tour of B Reactor? I don’t believe there is.
Officers of the Columbia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) asked me, an ASCE member and the local section Historian, to arrange a special tour of the reactor for their members. I sent a letter to Keith Klein, DOE Manager, asking for authorization and help in getting visitor badges for any unbadged ASCE members or their guests. Our plans succeeded and we had the tour on Saturday, June 23, much to the delight of the 35 participants—but not without much trial and tribulation. [This is where I would normally chime in “Oh, you’re new around here, aren’t you Del?” But, in deference to Del’s somewhat frayed nerves, I’ll refrain from the refrain. –Ed.]
The letter to Mr. Klein was apparently sent on to Fluor Hanford, the contractor that handles the “site tours,” because it was erroneously thought that the ASCE group wanted to take a bus tour of the entire Hanford Site, but not specifically into B Reactor. Such a tour would have been a copy of the 10 “public tours” being held on various Saturdays this summer. I was told by the Fluor personnel that such a tour was not possible due to budget limitations. I explained that ASCE had not asked for a site tour, only access to B Reactor.
This meant that the tour request had to be handled by the Bechtel folks, since they are the Landlord and Keeper-of-the-Keys for the reactor. Then the hassle started of how the security badges were to be approved and issued. ASCE was informed that a formal Badge Request Form, #BHI-HR-012 (12/99) must be filled out for each tour participant and submitted five days prior to the visit. Much to the chagrin of the ASCE planners, this request was complied with and the forms submitted (thanks to Raj Rajagopal, who did all of this work). A limit of 20 participants was imposed until our good friend (and B Czar) Dru Butler intervened and had this limit removed. ASCE was also presented with the privilege of providing their own transportation, which was not problem, as all participants were eager to get there any way possible (and it avoided yet more paperwork and cost codes).
In spite of all those complications [We call this “process,” Del. –Ed.], when the day of the tour arrived, things went smoothly. The group met at the Bechtel headquarters at 3350 George Washington Way, where the members and guests were asked to view a 10 minute Hanford training film, and read and sign a document called “General Radiological Training for Visitors, Course #105651, Rev. 1.”
Visitor badges were issued by Peggy Summers to each unbadged participant (several of the folks were Hanford employees and already badged). We all hopped in to six vehicles and headed out to B. We were greeted by BRMA tour guides Roger Rohrbacher and Larry Denton, who did their usual excellent job in hosting the visitors and describing the arrangement and operation of the reactor.
ASCE would like to extend their thanks to all of the Bechtel folks and the BRMA tour guides who helped to make the tour such a pleasure and a success. Special recognition is given to Roger and Larry of BRMA, Dru Butler for her facilitation in the process, and to Don Eckert and his crew at Bechtel for having the reactor in such a polished and presentable condition. More special thanks to Bechtel for having the “extended tour route” open for display (the valve pit, fan rooms, accumulators room., and the fuel storage basin viewing room).
DOE, please simplify and standardize the procedure for B Reactor tours!
Wanna Take a Tour?
In spite of Del’s trials and tribulations, the DOE and Bechtel have been trying to streamline the tour-going process. Take a look at the system at:
Is it really possible to arrange a tour for a group “by special arrangement?” Del did, although with a bit more legwork than “streamline” might imply!
BRMA Day at B Reactor
We had a very successful BRMA Day at B Reactor on Saturday, June 9. This was evidently the “2nd Annual BRMA Day,” which bodes well for similar events in the future.
We comfortably filled two buses with BRMA members and their friends and families, and an assortment of DOE, EPA, State of Washington, and Bechtel dignitaries, almost-dignitaries, and czars. Although the day might have looked like an effortless event, it actually took several thousand hours (it seemed) of planning, phone calls, e-mails, computer work, and general running around. Fortunately (for me, especially), we had lots of help and everyone seemed to know the routine.
First, Michael Inglima of Bechtel volunteered to handle the badging in downtown Richland, which was no small task and a critical one. He managed to get everyone through the system in a timely manner, and the two buses pulled out pretty much on schedule at 12:30.
On the first bus, Tom Marceau volunteered to handle the loudspeaker and point out a few highlights on the trip to the reactor. He did far more than that, given the number of compliments I heard from the passengers on that bus, and especially so considering that the microphone on his bus was in the same working condition as the one on the second bus—not working. Those on the second bus generally talked and laughed and pointed out the highlights among themselves. One of the highlights was the coyote sighting as we pulled around the 100-B/C Area.
When the buses arrived at the door of B Reactor, we were greeted by a majestically flapping Old Glory on the new flagpole out front, thanks to Bechtel and the DOE who helped raise the flag (and pole). It’s amazing how a moving, colorful banner really stands out in front of the gray, drab, motionless edifice of B Reactor.
The reactor was absolutely sparkling and ready for Prom Night. Don Eckert and his crew have not just taken care of problems, but in the process have made the place look presentable. As in clean, orderly, well-marked, and generally fit to show off to one’s parents (as Tom Marceau and several others did that day).
We all gathered in the work area of the reactor, with the reactor’s front face serving as a most suitable backdrop. With microphone in hand, I got to play emcee for 45 minutes, welcoming the visitors and introducing them to the reactor as we were seeing it that day—on the path to being made accessible to the public via the EE/CA, and with the help of DOE and Bechtel joint efforts to make progress on the myriad small and large mitigation tasks.
The event was marked by the convergence of all three of the Tri-Parties, each of which talked for a few minutes and offered their perspective on the upcoming EE/CA and B’s future. Bechtel President Mike Hughes spoke from his position as the contractor in charge of B Reactor, and our B Czar Dru Butler, the B Reactor Project Manager, spoke about the progress being made there.
Then a very nice transaction transpired. Mike and Dru presented the BRMA with a $1000 check as a token (a rather large token) of their appreciation for and their strong support of our efforts. After expressing our thanks, I was able to present each of them with a personalized expression of our thanks for all their support with a B Reactor Museum card (hand-made, I might add) for each of them. The applause by itself was more than enough. Of course, we have to add an extra “Thank You” to Dru, Mike, and Bechtel for doing so much to make this day possible. It wouldn’t have happened without their help and support.
Then Doug Sherwood spoke for the EPA, the organization that will be passing judgment on the EE/CA and helping to define the path ahead for making the reactor available to the public. Doug has been a very strong supporter of B Reactor, which only helps to ensure that the EE/CA will be formulated and executed with precision and care. The BRMA thanked Doug, along with his sidekick Dennis “Mr. EE/CA” Faulk, with a personalized card of appreciation. I also pointed out to Dennis’s parents, who were with us that day (although Dennis couldn’t be), what a great supporter Dennis has been, and that his interest carries him far beyond the bare necessities of his job.
Following Doug, Ron Skinnarland was introduced, from the Washington State Department of Ecology. He mentioned that the state wasn’t directly involved in a lot of the Hanford processes, but instead lets the DOE and EPA deal with the details, and that the state steps in when and as needed. We gave Ron a card, too, saying that someday Washington would hopefully be “stuck” with B Reactor, a national treasure that would be a grave responsibility (as well as an asset, of course).
Then the final third of the triad took the microphone. Mike Schlender is the Deputy Manager of the DOE’s Richland Operations office. He said that Keith Klein had family matters to attend to (it was, after all, a Saturday during school graduation time), but that he was glad to have the opportunity to participate in a B Reactor event.
He was very gracious in his talk. He read a few tidbits from our B Reactor history document, and generally made us feel comfortable that the DOE is very much involved with B Reactor’s future. We gave him a card, too, saying that we hope he returns to B Reactor, and that he’s here when the Grand Opening ribbon is cut (at some indeterminate date in the future). We also gave him a card for Keith Klein that actually had a length of ribbon inside, saying that we hope Keith is the lucky Manager who gets to cut the ribbon when B is one day opened officially.
We finished the sit-down portion of the day by thanking several others, again with beautiful hand-crafted cards. Tom Marceau was recognized not just for his bus narration, but for his daily vigilance and care in dealing with B Reactor and especially with us in the BRMA. We recognized Steve Ruisi, who’s done a lot of the instrument work and paperwork to get various rooms at B Reactor posted appropriately (radiologically speaking).
Finally, we thanked Don Eckert, Bechtel’s “maitre de” at B Reactor (the manager of the 100 Areas). Although he seemed a bit shy with all the attention, he was gracious in accepting our hand-crafted card, and pleased and surprised when we included a $25 gift certificate at the Spudnut shop in Richland.
With that, we invited the audience to tour the reactor. Several BRMA members wore their BRMA caps and were ready to answer questions or explain various aspects of the reactor, including Del Ballard, Joe Hedges, Dee McCullough, Bob Smith, Everett Weakley, and Jim Williams. Dru Butler had made copies of a floor plan of the reactor, showing the tour route in color with small photographs of the important areas (valve pit, control room, fan rooms, etc), and we had a similar information sheet explaining the key areas.
I stayed behind in the work area and kept up a lively discussion on a wide range of reactor topics, from the EE/CA to nuclear fission to sleep-overs at the reactor to nuclear Armageddon. In fact, I never did get out to see the fuel storage basin viewing room that had only recently been opened up by Eckert & Co.
To top it all off, Lyle and Madeleine catered the event, with two glorious B Reactor Museum cakes, sodas, and various noshes. Lyle drove out to the reactor in the morning with the various foods and supplies, and set up the PA system in the work area, too (our many thanks to both of them). So with the food, the reactor, the camaraderie, and the sparkling bathrooms, everyone left pretty contented. The main thing is that many of our members were able to see the reactor or, just as important, show off the reactor to their family and friends.
What’s Been Going on Since April 1, 2001
4/7 Atomic history article appears in the New York Times, by Patricia Leigh Brown. Also appeared during the next couple of days in somewhat condensed versions in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Spokesman Review, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.
4/13 Warren Sevier and Gene get together to do three months worth of bookkeeping. We keep all our checking info both in a normal hand-written paper register, and also on Gene’s computer in the bookkeeping program named Quicken. The computer makes it much easier to collate data over several years, such as was needed for our tax return.
4/16 Gene finishes and mails off our 501(c)3 tax return to the IRS. Although we owed no taxes, we were required to file a return because of the income we received for the HAER projects.
4/16 Gene faxes a letter to the New York Times Opinions Editor regarding the Hanford article on 4/7. No response ever came back.
4/26 Long-time BRMA member Bill McCue passes away.
5/1 Lyle, Madeleine, Del, and Gene meet with several from the local Audubon chapter to discuss the Bush administration’s request for comment on the need to revise the boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument. This might be an appropriate time to formalize our thoughts concerning B Reactor and its neighbor the Monument lands. Interesting discussion, but no clear path for BRMA at this point.
5/3 Tour at B Reactor for Umar Salikhbaev, the Deputy Director of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, Institute of Nuclear Physics, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Gene and John Rector serve as guides.
5/8 Lyle, Madeleine, Del, and Gene meet with Greg Hughes of Fish & Wildlife regarding the Hanford Reach National Monument and B Reactor. After talking for an hour, it appears that there is certainly no clear path for the reactor, at least in the short term, as there are benefits and detriments to having it included in the Monument. The DOE can turn over “cleaned up” Hanford lands to the Monument under Fish & Wildlife, but currently there is really no mechanism for doing so, and will B Reactor ever be considered “cleaned up?”
5/9 Gene talks with Senator Murray’s office, first to see if she’d be in area for our June 9 day at B Reactor, and second to try to find out about funding for B. There have been several references in the newspapers about the $950,000 that Senator Murray helped make available for B Reactor in the current budget. We’d like to find out just how much of that the DOE has spent, because we know it’s not even close a million dollars. The Hanford budget seems like a deck of cards that gets shuffled a dozen times before being dealt, so that funds can head off in new directions.
5/15 The Hanford Advisory Board “River and Plateau Committee” meets in downtown Richland, with B reactor & the EE/CA. report on the agenda. Chris Smith from the DOE and then Dennis Faulk from the EPA speak briefly about the EE/CA process, and then take questions from the board. The general consensus from the board is that the DOE’s plan is okay, there are no objections. The board will await tomorrow’s “Public Involvement” committee meeting and then formally issue advice to the DOE and EPA. Madeleine Brown is the HAB member who is formulating the advice after input from the other members.
5/15 Gene has a phone conversation with John Kuhn about John’s experience at Hanford. He was working for DuPont when he was sent here in early 1944. John was an instruments engineer for construction, not operations, and was on the 4:00–12:00 shift when B Reactor was first started in September. When the war ended, he returned to Wilmington and a long career with DuPont.
5/16 Gene is part of a conference telephone call regarding the flagpole going up at B Reactor, including Tom Marceau (Bechtel), Dee Lloyd (DOE), and Greg Griffith (State Historic Preservation Office). Right off, Greg expressed his hesitation at introducing a prominent feature right smack in the middle of the building’s main façade (about 15 feet from the north wall near the main entrance). He understood the BRMA’s perspective that the flag was very desirable to the membership of our group, and that we also understood that a more appropriate spot might be picked for the flag in the future.
Tom Marceau explained that there’s a short-term benefit to having the flagpole so close to the building, because it’s inside the 25-foot buffer zone where no excavation will take place during site cleanup (Bechtel is currently digging out the effluent line that ran from B to the 107-B retention basin and then to the river). The consensus is that it’s nice to have a flagpole in front of this historic structure, but that it will likely be moved to a more appropriate place if/when a site plan is developed for a B Reactor Museum.
5/16 Gene takes a few photos of the houses at the west end of Taylor Street in Richland, where John Kuhn remembers living during his stay here in 1945. He includes a copy of the Hanford construction movie (video) to jog some memories, a map of this part of Richland, and, of course, an invitation to visit B Reactor if John should head this way.
5/18 Tour at B Reactor and a visit by Peter Essick, a photographer for National Geographic. Gene drives out with three of our “authentic” Hanford guys—Dee McCullough, Roger Rohrbacher, and Paul Vinther. After the tour, Dee, Roger, and Paul take turns sitting at the main control panel so Peter can shoot their portrait. It will be interesting to see how those photos are used, because Peter is out here for an article about nuclear waste, to be published some time next year.
5/18 The B Reactor HAER document has been issued an official DOE document number, and is now printed and official. As we find out several weeks later, the standard method of reproducing DOE documents does a very poor job on photographs, so we should find our own method of making copies.
5/30 Gene attends Dee Lloyd’s Hanford Black History meeting in Kennewick. Only a few people show up. This is an effort by the DOE to document and disseminate information about the role that black people played during Hanford’s construction and 55 years of operations.
6/1 Tour at B Reactor for Congressman Doc Hastings. Roger Rohrbacher, Lyle, and Gene are there as tour guides and B promoters. They first give a tour for a small group of ORP people, and then Hastings, Keith Klein, and Mike Hughes of Bechtel arrive. The tour goes well; Gene makes a few small pitches for the place while Roger provides the commentary and stories. The Congressman really hadn’t seen the reactor before. Gene gives him a couple of pages with a dozen B-related topics, just in case there’s an opportunity for an impassioned speech on the floor of the House.
EVACUATE!! Soon after the tour is over, we have some real excitement—we are told to evacuate the 100-B Area! While we harkened back to the good old days, when such an order would’ve found us 100 yards outside the fence line in no time, this time it was a weather-related warning. A series of thunderstorms had ignited several range fires in the northwest portion of the Site, and the fire department was asking everyone to leave, just in case. We passed several burned areas on the way out, with fire trucks moving on to the next burns.
6/7 The Hanford Advisory Board takes up their advice regarding B Reactor. Gene speaks briefly during the public comment period, supporting their proposed advice to the DOE and EPA for preserving B Reactor. He also mentions the dichotomy of their including the statement about the need to move the reactor block to the 200 Area in 75 years, which would essentially negate the purpose of preserving the historic building.
Later, Madeleine presents her advice for discussion. There’s a good round of reasonable comments that didn’t stray from the subject, and the HAB advice was eventually approved and in support of Option #3, to clean up B Reactor for public access.
6/9 BRMA Day at B Reactor (see article in this issue of the Moderator).
6/18 An article in the Tri-City Herald about B and the EE/CA process, by Hanford veteran journalist John Stang.
6/19 Gene prepares and prints the EE/CA letter to be sent to BRMA members. He gets help from Lyle and Madeleine, along with their daughter Rose and her friend Rebecca, folding, taping, stamping, and addressing the letters.
6/26 B Reactor EE/CA public meeting at the Richland library (see article in this issue of the Moderator).
We welcome these new members who joined us in the past few months. You’re coming at a great time in BRMA’s 10-year history, when the DOE is actually committing to preserving B Reactor. What a concept!
Julie Atwood Selah
Bob & Phyllis Bowersock Richland
John Harris Richland Richland
Dave Harvey Richland
Ron Skinnarland Richland
Jonathan Wiles Richland
Anne Weaver Richland
Your interest and involvement will move our organization and our efforts that much closer to the critical mass that will ensure success..