THE MODERATOR – Winter 2002
K > 1
There’s so much to report that I’d like to say “things have really been moving along in the BRMA and at B Reactor,” but I won’t because I heard that phrase so often in the early years of my association with the Association that I feel uncomfortable saying it. Nonetheless. . . the year 2002 bodes well for the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor and, I hope, for the BRMA, as well.
First, the BRMA held its annual elections at the December meeting, with the usual crush of nominees (meaning that we only had to vote for a single suite of candidates). We found ourselves with a new secretary—thank you Betty Gulley for stepping forward to take over the post from Madeleine Brown. We appreciate your interest in both B Reactor and the BRMA. And thank you Madeleine for taking over the post of Editor after serving as our secretary for the past two years. I look forward to our newsletter having a different set of skills, nerves, opinions, and perspectives behind it.
For B Reactor, the year 2002 will bring a lot of structural and systems improvements. According to Dru Butler, the B Reactor point person at Bechtel (or the “B Czar” as we know her), the DOE has budgeted about $1.3 million for work at the reactor in fiscal year 2002 (October 2001 through September 2002). This will finish a lot of the mandated cleanup and move the reactor further along the path to becoming safe for public access (not as a museum, but a building that would be suitable for becoming one).
This budget influx comes, in part, as a result of the Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) process that was recently finalized between the EPA and the DOE. Covering a period of 10 years, the DOE has committed to cleaning up the reactor in-place rather than by tearing it down (now there’s a major milestone).
The bad news is that there are no plans pending to open the reactor publicly so that anyone can visit it. In fact, since September 11, the reactor (along with the rest of the Hanford site) has been off-limits to the public for reasons of security. In theory this is a short-term situation while security procedures are evaluated, but it is a huge step backwards in terms of making the reactor an internationally renowned monument. It is still not known if the few summer bus tours of Hanford and B Reactor that the DOE has scheduled will take place. In November we wrote to Keith Klein, DOE’s Hanford manager, with our concerns for the future of public access to the reactor, while also recognizing that, under the circumstances, it’s certainly relevant to evaluate site-wide security measures.
Finally, our election in December was also marked by cries of “Throw the bum back in!” and the start of my third term as president of the BRMA. A distinctive honor that ranks high on my list of lifetime achievements. But I have to say, I was less enthusiastic than in earlier years. For all the progress that has been made at B Reactor, it still sits behind barbed wire, closed to the public, and essentially unknown throughout the United States and the world. In the coming year, I’d like to see our efforts go beyond the borders of the Tri-Cities, so we might ignite a flame of interest in other quarters.
BRMA Board Members – 2002
President: Gene Weisskopf
Vice President: Jim Stoffels
Secretary: Betty Gulley
Treasurer: Warren Sevier
Health, Safety, & Engineering: Del Ballard
History, Artifacts, & Exhibits: Lyle Wilhelmi
Membership: Joe Hedges
Public Relations: Jim Thornton
Editor: Madeleine Brown
Come give your input on the cleanup agreement for B Reactor
DOE and its regulators, EPA and Washington Department of Ecology, have negotiated some changes to the cleanup plans for the 100 and 300 Area, and want public input on those changes. The plans for cleaning up the B Reactor are in this package.
Remember last summer’s Environmental Evaluation/Cost Analysis? Its outcome was a preferred alternative to fix the reactor up to improve public access.
According to Dennis Faulk at the Environmental Protection Agency, the work for B Reactor will be a surveillance and maintenance plan that is part of or a deliverable for the Removal Action Plan DOE will submit to EPA on March 29, 2002.
EPA also is contemplating setting a milestone to lock in DOE’s commitment to a final configuration determination (i.e., a museum decision!) by 9/30/2005.
Please tell the agencies we want the reactor cleaned up for public access! The 45-day comment period is tentatively set to start on January 22. You can contact them directly (Chris Smith at DOE-RL, and you can do so via a workshop next week.
The Hanford Advisory Board is planning a public workshop to do this work, plus some harder work to gather and articulate broad-based values to guide cleanup in the 200 Areas.
The workshop is Tuesday January 15 (all day) and Wednesday, January 16 (a.m. only). It will be in room W180 in the Columbia Basin College Advanced Technology Center. Access to the center is either from the North Campus Loop road or from Argent Road.
At the December BRMA meeting I told members the workshop was January 8-9. But planners put it off a week, so it’s after our January newsletter and this here newsletter.
Regional activists have urged the Hanford Advisory Board, and the agencies, to make sure a wide range of public interests are included in this process. Let’s make sure our voices are heard.
Doug Sherwood leaves EPA helm
February 8 will be Doug Sherwood’s last day with the Environmental Protection Agency. Doug told me it was a simple story. The river corridor negotiations are just about finished, and it has been a major goal of his to get the river corridor cleanup done. (River Corridor is the new Hanfordspeak for the cleanups along the river) Now what is left there is the pick and shovel work. The leading and negotiating parts are over.
Doug will go into business for himself and hopes to continue contributing to Hanford’s cleanup.
If this is news to you, then I’m relieved I was not the last to know, just nearly so.
Doug Sherwood has managed the local office of the EPA, Region 10, since 1993. It is a testament not only to the importance of cleaning up Hanford but also of Doug’s strong and sensible leadership that Region 10 was the first satellite office for an EPA region.
We’ve always felt that Doug had a firm grasp of his responsibilities toward the Hanford cleanup, while also holding a keen appreciation for the historical importance of B Reactor and its unique position in the context of Hanford cleanup.
Doug has supported the efforts of the BRMA for years. We have always counted EPA as one of our allies. While we are confident we can continue to have EPA’s support, we’ll miss the Project Manager we’ve learned to respect and admire.
B Reactor Project Update October- December 2001
Bechtel Hanford, Inc.
A team manages and operates the B Reactor. Bechtel Hanford, Inc. (BHI) is the contractor responsible for the management of the B Reactor. Mr. Chris Smith of DOE-RL is the Project Manager and owner for B Reactor. EPA is the lead regulator for B Reactor. We appreciate the active role that BRMA plays on our team, by providing advice, conducting tours and recording the technical and human parts of the remarkable history of B Reactor. The FY02 work plan for B Reactor has a budget of approximately $1.3 million. This money supports tours, access and historic preservation, regulatory compliance, hazard mitigation subsequent to the June 2001 Environmental Engineering/Cost Analysis (EE/CA), and routine surveillance and maintenance.
The first quarter of fiscal year 2002 (October—December 2001) included these highlights:
Tours, Access and Historic Preservation
October was an active month, signaling the end of our so-called tour season. Some of the groups to tour B Reactor were the Macdonald Douglas Hanford Reunion, WSU faculty, a DOE-RL Public Road Tour, BHI environmental leads, DOE-HQ NEPA Managers.
A new tour brochure was prepared, which explains the history and tour route, and showcases BRMA tour guide Dee McCullough providing a tour in the control room.
BHI has a new tour coordinator, Glenda Brunson. Glenda has replaced Lauren Parchen who has been promoted within BHI. Glenda will work with Pauline Mix to be ensure that tours are scheduled, tracked, and that visitor and tour guide badging is supported.
Due to the heightened security on the Hanford site, non-essential visitors and tours are restricted. We expect this level of restriction to be temporary, and a DOE-RL Public Road Tour series should resume in the spring.
Two representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Michael Houser and Greg Griffith, met with BHI and DOE-RL managers and toured the B Reactor in November. The hazard mitigation work scope outlined in the EE/CA was reviewed. The SHPO will be further consulted regarding the structural assessment of the building and stack, which will begin this month.
The Action Memorandum that formalizes the alternative selected in the EE/CA (June 2001) has not yet completed the signature process. DOE-RL and EPA must sign this agreement. Once signed, all the stakeholders and agencies that provided comment on the EE/CA will be officially notified. Completion of the signature process is expected in the near term.
A Surveillance and Maintenance Plan for B Reactor is required by the Tri-Party Agreement. A Removal Action Work Plan is required by CERCLA to implement the EE/CA (it basically controls how waste that is generated from the hazard mitigation work will be managed). In order to streamline the paperwork, both documents have been combined and are being prepared for EPA review.
Hazard Mitigation/Surveillance and Maintenance
Ongoing Surveillance and Maintenance keeps the reactor in a condition that is safe for visitors and workers.
The reactor has been closed since early December for electrical breaker maintenance. The breaker has been serviced and will be re-installed in mid January. The power will be restored and life can return to the B Reactor.
Preparations continue for FY02 hazard mitigation upgrades, including front face fall hazard protection (netting), electrical system improvements, roof panel repair, valve pit tripping hazard improvements, and upgrades to the fuel storage basin viewing room.
The Time is Short
All regulatory requirements to make B Reactor a museum have been met. The Hazards study and mitigation plan are completed, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency-required EE/CA. But no plan has been started to move B Reactor towards a museum open to the public. A plan for the final disposition of B Reactor is due in 2005. If no comprehensive plan for its operation as a museum is made by then, B Reactor will surely go the way of the other old reactors.
The days are gone forever when we celebrated the introduction of a budget item for the next in a chain of ill-defined requirements. We must have a plan to work to with an absolute completion date in four years.
Now decisions need to be made about what B Reactor will look like, how the museum will operate, how the public will get access to it, who will operate it, and what will be the cooperative arrangement with DOE surveillance. We need a specific plan so that the large task of making it into a museum in the next four years can be started soon. Four years is a short time and an entrepreneurial process needs to prevail to assure its timely completion. Since B Reactor is a national treasure it seems only appropriate that a Federal agency should operate the museum. That kind of decision is not made quickly by any branch of the Federal government.
Indeed as each new administration takes charge in Washington, D.C. the museum concept is liable to new threats. DOE-RL activities to make B Reactor into a museum seem to be at a standstill, which may indicate that the present administration is cool to the idea and the museum idea should be left to languish. If that is the official policy we need to know now so that we can work to turn the decision around.
We must muster political forces that will insure there is enough pressure to insure the future of B Reactor in its present form as a museum. The decision to aggressively pursue a plan to make B Reactor a museum must come from higher in the food chain than DOE-RL. A committee needs to be formed of stakeholders including Washington State Historical, BRMA and DOE personnel. The DOE museum committee referred to in the draft RFP may be assuming that function. By stakeholder I mean those interested in making B Reactor a museum and not those who might see B Reactor museum as competing with their projects for DOE property and dollars. That would be an inexcusable conflict of interest.
What’s Been Going on Since July 1, 2001
10/2 Dee Lloyd, the DOE’s Hanford Cultural Resource Manager, announces that he’s leaving his job and being “reassigned for one year to work on a new Hanford Site Interpretation Plan and…to improve the Cultural and Historical Resources Program.” His replacement is Annabelle Rodriguez (372-0277).
10/18 The BRMA has 50 copies of the B Reactor HAER printed for our own uses.
10/31 Gene and Del Ballard attend a meeting to discuss and provide input for the Hanford Reach National Monument’s advisory panel via Michele Gerber, who is the panel’s point of contact for issues relating to historic resources within the monument lands. The advisory panel was established to provide public input to the Fish & Wildlife Service (F&W) for the development of a management plan for the Hanford Reach lands. The meeting was scheduled on this day so that Dave Nicandri, the director of the Washington State Historical Society, could attend.
The meeting provided an opportunity for us to present the BRMA’s interests in the Reach, namely that B Reactor is a neighbor of the monument but not actually within its borders, so we’re therefore very interested in how F&W plans to manage the northwest portion of the Reach. We envision regular public access to B, including via the road from Highway 24 near the Vernita Bridge, which could obviate the need for security badging for the public.
This meeting was the first of what will hopefully be several opportunities to learn about and provide input for the management plan for the Hanford Reach.
11/28 We receive a query from Brad Stephenson, asking if any of us has information about his grandfather, re Hayden H. Rector, who worked at Hanford between 1943 and 1946 as a lawyer for the Corps of Engineers or DuPont. Yes, we’ve already talked to John and June Rector, who remember this other Rector but are not related to him.
12/10 In a conversation with Dave Harvey and Darby Stapp of PNNL, we learn that the material we provided to Darby back in February of last year went towards the draft of the “Phase I Interpretive Plan for the Hanford Site Manhattan Project and Cold War Landscape.” The document is in the custody of the DOE, but there are no plans for formalizing it. We’ve asked to get a copy when or if it’s available.
12/19 Gene, Del, and Lyle Wilhelmi meet with Bechtel’s Dru Butler and Tom Marceau for lunch and a bit of end-of-year update.
12/21 In a conversation with Dennis Faulk of the EPA, we learn about the progress of the post-EE/CA process. Dennis says that the Action Memo that formalizes the plan for B has been signed by the EPA, but not yet by the DOE, although it should happen soon. The Memo was expected to be completed last fall, but B Reactor issues were rolled up with those for all the 100 Areas, so it’s taking longer. The resulting document will be called something like the “Tentative Agreement for the River Corridor,” and will go out for a 45-day public comment period. Stay tuned.
The next step will be the creation of a Removal Action Work Plan, which will have two commitments: a surveillance and maintenance plan and a final configuration determination, which is due by 9/30/2005 and will describe how B Reactor would be used once the cleanup work is done. “Used” as in “museum”, perhaps. Between now and 2005, DOE will probably be able to finish the cleanup work at B, perhaps as soon as the end of 2003.
Welcome to the new members who have joined the BRMA in the past few months.
Raiford B. Everett Sale City, GA
James Paglieri Richland