THE MODERATOR – Winter 2004

From the control room

Del Ballard
President, BRMA

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I hope you all had a great holiday season and are now ready to tackle the challenges of the new year. I believe that 2004 will be an especially challenging one for the organization.

In 2004 we will need to push even more diligently toward our goal of a public museum. As pleased as we were in seeing our congressional delegation initiate the legislation to authorize studies by the National Park Service, that step is only the first one down the path of obtaining a partner and operator for the facility. Congressional approval of an NPS study is not enough. Although we have been told by Doc Hasting’s staff that the Park Service can cover costs from their annual budget, we also know that this is very likely not the case. The Park Service has for the past several years complained that they are severely restricted due to funding shortfalls. I understand there is only $500,000 available to the NPS for such studies nation wide. Adequate funding for the study must still be provided; all members are asked to contact their legislators in this regard.

Other challenges include developing relations with new personnel and a potential change of the on-site contractor that manages the reactor building and our tour guide service contract. Bechtel’s contract has currently been extended to February 04, and the resolution of the new contract is still in limbo. We were disappointed to learn of the loss of our ardent supporter Mike Hughes, BHI President, although we do congratulate Mike on his transfer/promotion to president of Bechtel Jacobs Col, in Oak Ridge. The departing B-Czar, Dru Butler, was duly replaced by Bob Potter last year.

Another serious concern is that the DOE is currently asking Bechtel to initiate work on a “final EE/CA” document in March 2004. Such a document would presumably determine the ultimate fate of the reactor. The current EE/CA provides for 10 years (thru 2012) of surveillance and maintenance thereby leaving the facility open for tours. We believe that no more studies should be undertaken by DOE until the Park Service has made their evaluations. The Tri-Party commitment of reaching a decision on the final disposition by September ‘05 should be modified to coincide with actions by the NPS.

In particular I intend to push hard to complete goals identified last year that were not finished. The preparation of the forms for National Landmark nomination hit a snag last year. However, near the end of the year new breath was instilled into the job when Gene Weisskopf, our past president, took over the task. He now has that work nearly complete. Progress toward involvement by the park Service has made a great stride forward with actions from our legislators as indicated above. The extension of the BRMA contract for supplying tour guide service has been extended through February 2004 coinciding with the Bechtel contract. Further action is pending. Our major new work for ‘04 will be the planning and holding a function to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the initial operation of the B Reactor, September 26, 1944 (see page 3).

The December elections have reinstated some of your officers, including me at the helm, Hank Kosmata as VP, and Warren as Treasurer, and have added new blood in some committee positions. We are very pleased to have Gene, past President of the organization, returning to the fold as Secretary (p. 2). New and returning committee chairs are as listed herein. I’m confident that our officers and all interested members can successfully carry forth this year in meeting the organization’s goals.

Back In the Saddle Again!

Gene Weisskopf
Secretary & Past President, BRMA

The question many of you might like to ask me is why I’m returning to the board of the BRMA after an 18-month hiatus. You might wonder if I am a) losing my memory about my previous eight years in the BRMA; b) bored and seeking adventure; c) intimated by Del Ballard’s “request” that I consider returning to the board; or d), just plain dumb.

Well, there’s a little truth in all of those answers, but I think a more accurate answer would simply be that as long as I’m living in Richland, it’s impossible not to be involved with B Reactor and the history that flowed through it. More broadly, if one is going to live in eastern Washington State, one ought to be involved in the nuclear history that began here. Actually, anyone living on planet Earth ought to be interested and involved with this history, because it’s one of the most notable threads to have popped up in a long, long time.

So I’m back, this time as Secretary for the second time. I’m happy to be here, and I thank you for showing continued support for my abilities and sincerity and, perhaps, my gullibility!

A couple of projects are currently on my BRMA plate: The draft of the T Plant HAER document (Historic American Engineering Record) is still circulating through the intricacies of the DOE organization.

I’m in the process of finishing a draft of the National Historic Landmark nomination for B Reactor, which I’ve found to be more difficult than I expected. Just about anyone can explain the national significance of B Reactor in a short paragraph, but the arguments have to be discussed within the framework provided by the National Park Service’s guidelines. So it’s a bit complex to try covering all the bases when the ball has already been knocked clear out of the ballpark.

It would have been better if B Reactor had been nominated back in 1992, when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The arguments were just as notable then, and the Landmark status automatically places the nominee on the Register, as well. Nonetheless, there should be little debate about the reactor’s national significance, especially when three other sites from the Manhattan Project already have that status:

  • The V Site at Los Alamos, NM, a district (1965)
  • The Trinity Site at Bingham, NM, a district (xx)
  • The X 10 reactor at Oak Ridge, TN, a structure (1965)

So, I guess we’re saving the best for last, but it does feel a bit strange to have to explain the significance of B Reactor.

I’ll also be helping the group put together the reactor’s 60th anniversary celebration this coming fall. It will be a great opportunity to shine the spotlights on B Reactor and, once again (and again), present it to the public.

Finally, I must say that at times in the past year I’ve enjoyed not being a figurehead for the BRMA. When I needed to speak my mind on issues of critical importance, I didn’t have to worry that someone might think I was speaking for the BRMA. I’ve always been sensitive to, or at least aware of, what it means to represent a group. On the other hand, since you’ve swept me back into office, maybe my concerns were misplaced, after all. Nonetheless, I still have my 105-B license plate, and wear it proudly on my car.

B-Reactor to Commemorate 60th!

The BRMA plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the day that “B” went on line. It was September 26th, 1944 when the reactor went critical for the first time, an event that culminated two years of frantically hard work by a huge number of people, helped end World War II, and forever changed the world in which we live.

The planning for this commemorative event is still in the early stages, but it appears as if the Richland DOE will allow BRMA to host the event, with many, if not all of the activities to be held directly on site at “B”. The focus of the event is two-fold: 1) to commemorate the events of that day and time: the whirlwind of activity that led to the reactor’s rapid completion and what it was like to be there, and 2) to help others to remember the legacy of “B” for generations to come by furthering the effort to convert the reactor to a permanent museum status.

Many events are being planned, but the BRMA along with the AHF (Atomic Heritage Foundation) plans to invite both local and national dignitaries, several “old timers” (or their descendants) who experienced or contributed to the creation of “B”. The BRMA also plans to invite other individuals or organizations that are (hoped) to be a part of the reactor’s future: the DOE, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, the city of Richland, CRESHT (the Columbia River Exhibition of Science, History & Technology) and others.

Planning is still in the early stages, but clearly any one who wishes to volunteer for this grand undertaking is encouraged to participate. All BRMA members are encouraged to be part of this big event. Please contact Tim Johnson or Gene Weisskopf.

DOE’s Recommendation on the Final Fate of B Reactor Could Be Made as Early as September 2005

Bob Potter
B-Reactor Project Manager
Bechtel Hanford, Incorporated

The ultimate future of B Reactor will be determined through the federal Superfund regulatory process, and the commitments and milestones in the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) that drive the timetable for the process. A recent change in the TPA now requires DOE to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a recommendation for B Reactor’s final configuration by September 30, 2005. Should that recommendation include the “cocooning” of B Reactor, the preservation of the reactor as either an interpreted historical facility or a museum would be lost. However, recent events demonstrating continued support for the preservation of B Reactor could help save the reactor from being “cocooned”.

Regulatory decisions for decommissioning Hanford’s reactors

The 1993 regulatory Record of Decision (ROD) determined that the preferred decommissioning alternative for eight of Hanford’s surplus reactors (excluding N Reactor) was to place the reactors into interim safe storage for up to 75 years. After the safe storage period, the reactor cores are to be transported in one piece to a specially prepared burial site on Hanford’s central plateau. To meet the requirements of this ROD, “cocooning” was developed and approved as the method for providing the 75 years of interim safe storage for the Hanford reactors.

Cocooning consists of demolishing the entire reactor facility outside of the reinforced-concrete shield walls and installing a galvalum-coated (aluminum and zinc) steel roof. The cap-type roof and the concrete shield walls, with concrete back-filled into all penetrations in the shield walls, form a safe storage enclosure around the reactor core. The resulting cocoon places the reactor core in a safe condition for up to 75 years, requiring only periodic surveillance inspections at selected 5- or 10-year intervals.

C Reactor was the first reactor cocooned in 1998. Since then, DR and F Reactors have been cocooned, with D and H Reactors scheduled for completion in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Should B Reactor be cocooned, any opportunity to preserve B Reactor as an interpreted historical facility or museum would be lost.

An “Interim” regulatory decision has so far saved B Reactor from cocooning

b&c_cocoonBecause of BRMA’s preservation efforts, B Reactor has avoided the cocooning alternative for safe storage. In June 2001, a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process used an “interim” Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) to evaluate alternative removal actions for radioactive, chemical and industrial hazards identified in B Reactor as potential threats to human health and safety and to the environment. In March 2002, an Action Memorandum resulted from the EE/CA that identified “interim actions” to mitigate hazards and allowed public access along a designated tour route for up to 10 years (through 2012), with surveillance and maintenance on the reactor also continuing during that period.

This “interim” regulatory approach was approved by the regulators and DOE in order to preserve the physical possibility of converting B Reactor into an interpreted historic facility or museum sometime in the future; allow safe, ongoing public access for tours in a cost-effective manner; and provide time for an appropriate museum/interpreted historic facility operator (e.g., the National Park Service) to assume responsibility or create a partnership with DOE.

Additions to Tri-Party Agreement will accelerate decision on B Reactor

In order to support DOE’s plans to complete the interim safe storage of all Hanford reactors by 2012, the TPA was amended in April. A TPA milestone (M-093-25) was added for DOE to “submit an engineering evaluation of the final surplus reactor disposition to EPA and the Department of Ecology” by September 30, ‘05. This will be an evaluation of alternative options to transporting the reactor cores in one-piece for disposal on the Hanford central plateau that was included in the original 1993 ROD.

A related addition to the TPA was a commitment to “complete final configuration determination for B Reactor and submit recommendation to EPA by September 30, 2005.” Although the 2002 Action Memorandum for B Reactor provides for hazard mitigation, surveillance and maintenance, and public access for escorted tours until 2012, this new commitment will accelerate the decision for the final disposition of B Reactor. DOE is currently planning to have BHI begin another “final” EE/CA-type engineering evaluation of various “final configuration options” for B Reactor in March 2004. It is expected that cocooning will be included as a final configuration option being evaluated.

Recent events demonstrate continued support for preservation of B Reactor

Two recent events demonstrated continued support for the preservation of B Reactor that could help save the reactor from being “cocooned”. In 2001 DOE designated B Reactor as one of the “Signature Facilities of the Manhattan Project”, and in 2002 DOE commissioned the Atomic Heritage Foundation to develop a plan for preserving the history of the Manhattan Project. To obtain input for the plan, the Foundation conducted a public workshop, “Preserving the Manhattan Project Heritage at Hanford” in Richland on April 30 and May 1.

Two of the recommended actions from the workshop could directly impact the preservation of B Reactor:

  1. the Foundation was asked to encourage Congress to fund a National Park Service (NPS) Special Resources Study to evaluate the feasibility of creating a National Park unit for Manhattan Project sites at Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos; and
  2. DOE agreed to include a “preservation option” as an evaluated alternative in the regulatory decision-making process for the final configuration for B reactor.

In 2003 bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for the NPS study and the House and Senate conference committee included the NPS study in the Energy Bill that passed the House but failed in the Senate in the last session of Congress. Congressional leadership has announced they will be taking up the Energy Bill as priority legislation in the January 2004 session of Congress. With support from Senators and Representatives from the states of Washington, Tennessee and New Mexico, it is very likely that legislation authorizing the NPS study will be passed during the next session of Congress. Should an NPS study result in recommending a Manhattan Project National Park that includes B Reactor, it would identify the NPS as a possible operator for the facility.

Pending NPS study makes final B Reactor configuration study premature

It could be credibly argued that it would be premature to complete the final configuration determination study for B Reactor and make a recommendation to EPA until after the NPS study is complete. The results of the NPS study could have a significant impact on what final configuration should be recommended to EPA. If the configuration evaluation and recommendation is completed prior to the completion of the NPS study, there is a risk of having to revisit the evaluation and recommendation based on the NPS study results. It could also be argued that it is equally premature to complete the final configuration study and recommendation for B Reactor prior to completing the reevaluation of the 1993 ROD for the final disposition of all the reactor cores as required by the new TPA milestone M-093-25.

Fortunately the regulatory process and the commitments and milestones in the TPA can be influenced and changed through public involvement. Therefore, it would be appropriate for BRMA to request that the parties to the TPA agree to delay the final configuration determination for B Reactor until it is determined if the NPS Manhattan Project National Park study is approved in the next session of Congress. And, if the NPS study is approved, then delay the final configuration determination for B Reactor and recommendation to EPA until after the results of the NPS study are determined.

What’s been going on since October 2003

An unofficial log of happenings from BRMA leaders

10/22 Hank Kosmata and Del met with two of Senators Cantwell’s Washington Staff, Kristin Eby and Jennifer Griffith to discuss the recently introduced legislation for an NPS study on Manhattan Facilities. We provided them with a copy of the B Reactor HAER document, two copies of the view-graphs on our recent POWERPOINT presentation, two BHI booklets on B reactor, and several fliers on BRMA.

10/22 Invoice for tour guide service through September 30 was submitted to Bechtel.

10/25 Del attended the one-day “Conference on Territorial Life, 1853-1889”, held at CBC in Pasco, and sponsored by Pacific Northwest Historians Guild. The conference focused on life, transportation, and conflicts pertaining to our region of the NW between becoming “Washington Territory” and the State of Washington. The final session covered “Research Resources” – where state history records are kept and how they are accessed.

10/29 Received call from Cindy Kelly to discuss recent happenings at B and what BRMA priorities are for projects that may be funded by resources obtained from her “Report to Congress”

11/10 Lance in Kelly’s office indicated that the $1M for preservation of Manhattan History has passed the Senate and appears to be “in the bag”.

11/10 November membership meeting for BRMA

11/20 Tour of B Reactor by Bechtel corporate board members, including senior Bechtel management. Roger Rohrbacher and Mike Hughes served as hosts.

11/24 Cameras allowed at B Reactor after convincing DOE. This is relative to upcoming tour scheduled for 12/2.

12/2 DOE provided transportation for a tour of some 15 guests from the Benton/Franklin Council of Government, including County Commissioner, Leo Bowman. This was a Hanford-wide tour; speakers included Todd Nelson of BHI and Steve Burnum of DOE. Roger R. and Del B. assisted at the 1-hour stop at B reactor.

12/8 Monthly membership meeting held at library, twenty in attendance. Election held for officers and committee chairs for 2004. Birthday cake and party to celebrate Dee McCullough’s 90th birthday.

12/10 Del participated with Bechtel in hosting representatives of the National Park Service on a tour of B. A total of 4 individuals attended from the NPS, including Keith Dunbar (Mgr. Planning) and Hank Florence (Historical Architect) all from the Seattle Office. Bob Egge of BHI acted at the principal guide at the reactor. Hopefully our story of the need for the NPS was well received – that appeared to be the case.

12/12 BRMA mailed letter to Keith Klein, DOE Manager, to request approval and access to B Reactor for a 60th anniversary commemoration at the reactor in Sept. ‘04. Copy coverage given to WA State congressional delegation, management of the NPS, and others.

12/18 Mary Goldie, DOE tour coordinator, called regarding the recent BRMA letter to Klein on the 60th anniversary “party”. She is working on the Security implications for the event. I told her that we have yet to make any specific plans.