THE MODERATOR – Winter 1999

From the Control Room

Lyle Wilhelmi
President, BRMA

The organization is really cooking! Many of our plans became a reality in 1998, due to the help of a number of people. They see a need and step in to fill the void.

We have a small but active core of officers who grind their way through the tasks necessary to make the organization run smoothly. We have an active core of idea people who are not reluctant to help implement their ideas.

Ron Kathren brought us some very nice certificates to consider for B Reactor VIP visitors. Bob Smith spent his tour guide stipend on silk-screened “Historic B Reactor” baseball caps. Now Ron and Bob are exploring other suggestions for B Reactor promotional materials such as silk-screened clothing, buttons, refrigerator magnets, and the like.

Gene Weisskopf has kept our Web site up and running, and has suggested that we take advantage of this new medium with such things as a virtual B Reactor tour. Our Web site is getting attention, too. As Gene writes in this issue of the Moderator, we received feedback from two people who visited the site. Computer users are multiplying and finding the Web easier to explore. The computer and the Internet are very rapidly changing the way people do things and access information. With Gene’s help, we will use current technology to promote the objectives of BRMA.

We took delivery of several pallets of reactor-grade graphite blocks, which John Rector is anxious to examine to see if there is the possibility of making a demonstration core matrix.

After some study, the Radiation Buffer Zone designation has been lifted from some areas of B Reactor, permitting access to those areas. Other areas of B are being studied to determine ways to make them accessible to visitors. The building custodian is sympathetic to our efforts and is methodically helping to make things happen that benefit our cause.

We are in the final throes of wrapping up the B Reactor Historic American Engineering Record. That project has resulted in a healthy bank account that will permit us to expand our mission to promote and improve B Reactor so that someday it will be open to the public as a museum.

Now it appears that we have the opportunity to write another Historic Record about Hanford. If this pans out, the project will help keep our coffers full. If 1998 is any indication, it looks like 1999 will be a great year.

BRMA Board Members – 1999

President: Lyle Wilhelmi
Vice President: Jim Stoffels
Secretary: Gene Weisskopf
Treasurer: Roger Carpenter

Committee Chairs:

Health, Safety, & Engineering: Del Ballard
History, Artifacts, & Exhibits: Madeleine Brown
Membership: Joe Hedges
Public Relations: Jim Thornton
Editor: Gene Weisskopf

B Reactor HAER Update

Gene Weisskopf

The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) that we’ve been working on since last spring is finally in the pipeline to be reviewed by the DOE and the National Parks Service.

As reported in the last issue of the Moderator, before the HAER document could get to this point, it first had to pass muster with the people who review DOE documents for security reasons.

It seemed hard to believe that a discussion of a 1944-model graphite-moderated natural uranium nuclear reactor could be of any practical interest but, in fact, there are still similar reactors in operation in other parts of the world.

Judging by the length of time that the scrutinizing took, we suspect the reviewers really enjoyed our document and probably passed it on to friends and family. In the end, nothing was excised, although the reviewers did remind us of the general guidelines covering nuclear information (now we may have to ask a good number of BRMA members to let us know if they plan to travel outside the USA!).

So in the weeks ahead, the B Reactor HAER document will be reviewed by Tom Marceau and his colleagues, and passed on to the NPS for their review. (Okay Tom, back to work.)

It’s interesting to note that the time it will take for this document to be written and reviewed may just about equal the year it took to actually build the B Reactor. Of course, they didn’t have computers back then.

Find the BRMA on the Internet

Gene Weisskopf

What does it take for someone to find the B Reactor Museum Association? Not much if you have access to the Internet. Simply go to:

For everyone who isn’t a member of the BRMA, doesn’t see the Moderator, doesn’t know anyone in the group, or doesn’t know such a group even exists, all it takes to find our address is a quick visit to just about any search site on the World Wide Web.

For example, our site shows up when you search for “B Reactor” or BRMA (which also finds the British Railway Modellers of Australia). The utter simplicity of this electronic sleuthing is hard to comprehend when compared to the techniques we had available in years past.

I recently had two telling examples of this when visitors to our site sent us e-mail messages. The first was from Lee Montgomery, who now lives in Corvallis, Oregon. He worked at Hanford from 1949 until 1971, and was in the 100-B Power Department throughout the 1950s. He was quite enthusiastic about our mission to make B Reactor into a museum:

It was with great pleasure that I located your Web site on the Internet…I have often thought about those years I earned my living at B Reactor, and would like to revisit it and restore my memory of the reactor plant and the coworkers that were my friends there.

The other visitor who got in touch with us was Mike Dooley in Seattle. He’s a friend of Jim Acord’s and a fellow rock cutter. Mike was asking about Jim’s whereabouts (as have so many others), and was pleased to see that there was a BRMA:

Was curious as to whether anyone knew if Jim Acord was still around and carving stone. He used to stop in to the Fremont Foundry and check on the local carvers… This was while he was carving the atomic sculpture, “Requiem for the Atomic Age.” I owe my hard rock carving enthusiasm to him. He was very good at kicking my ass if I wasn’t doing the job right. Ha! Please pass on greetings if anyone knows of him. Kudos to the work with BRMA; Richard Feynman would be proud!

I’m not sure why Mike says Richard Feynman would be proud, but it’s great that he thinks so.

Being able to make ourselves accessible to the world at virtually no cost still seems like science fiction. But wait, it’s 1999, and this is exactly the science fiction we used to read. It’s just that by the time the future arrives, it never really seems like what we expected. When pocket calculators premiered in 1973, we were still using them in our 1965 Dodge pickups.

In fact, what were you driving to work in 1950 to your job at the world’s first production-scale nuclear reactor? We take it all for granted so quickly. With or without the technology, we’re still just people pursuing the things we think are important.

The Internet is pushing the computer revolution to new heights, changing virtually everything we do. For the BRMA, it provides us with an inexpensive and completely effectual way for the world to find and communicate with us. In the future, I hope we can expand our Web site so that anyone on the planet can visit the B Reactor and learn about its remarkable place in history.

Coming to a Head Near You…

If you grew up before 1950, you learned that you were just not really dressed unless you were wearing a hat. Thanks to Bob Smith, the BRMA will no longer be hatless.

Bob went to Sun West Screen Prints in Richland and ordered a couple dozen baseball (tractor) caps with a logo and “Hanford B Reactor” emblazoned on the front. He brought a batch to the December meeting where they made a big hit, and were promptly bought up by the attendees.

There will be more hats available at the January meeting and in the future, as well. Bob’s efforts have spurred us on to get moving with other B Reactor-related paraphernalia, such as shirts, jackets, refrigerator magnets, and lapel pins. Many thanks Bob, you are a BRMA volunteer extraordinaire.