THE MODERATOR – Winter 2005

From the control room

Michele Gerber
President, BRMA

The year 2005 promises to be a busy and important one for BRMA. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, an event made possible in August 1945 in large part due to the successful operations of B Reactor. I hope that BRMA will celebrate this crucial year in two ways. First, we can expect that several news media will want to do stories looking back at the end of the war. I think we can use those opportunities to talk to the media about our cause — preserving B Reactor. We need to leverage the past to serve our present goal — always weaving the B Reactor preservation message into any story, interview, or historical feature about the war’s end.

Second, I think we should have a fun event ourselves — perhaps a picnic at a local park pavilion with family members and a few special guests — somewhere near the date of August 14, 2005. Let’s keep this event simple, so that it can be fun and relaxing for our members, and not consume our energies with extensive planning.

I have two priority goals for 2005: (1) to obtain funding for the National Park Service (NPS) feasibility study of B Reactor, and (2) to continue our integration with the Hanford Reach National Monument Visitor and Heritage Center being built at Columbia Point. All of us can participate in both of these endeavors. These topics will be on the agenda for all of our general membership meetings in 2005, and we’ll let all members know what they can do to help. We’ll also closely follow the status of the Landmark Nomination for B Reactor, and the DOE EE/CA (engineering evaluation and cost analysis) report on the final disposition of B Reactor.

In terms of initiatives, I’d like to emphasize more publicity! I think we need to get our message out far and wide, especially to political and economic leaders. To help obtain more publicity immediately and without spending additional money, I’m proposing a periodic e-letter to a list of political and economic figures, including all of our elected officials, TRIDEC folks, city and county managers, Hanford Site leaders within the DOE, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Departments of Ecology and Health, and others. I welcome your suggestions of who should be added to the list to receive the e-letter. Also, I hope we can develop a few targeted presentations giving the B Reactor message, and take on the goal of presenting to some public group at least once a month. Of course, the B Reactor tours are our greatest asset for good publicity. We’re doing a great job with tours, but more tour guides, to be trained by Roger, would always be welcome.

We also have a number of interesting special events coming up in 2005. Dr. Ernest Wilkins, a Manhattan project physicist, will visit the Hanford area on February 24, and we will discuss ways to welcome and interact with him. We’re hoping DOE will approve a tour of B Reactor for Dr. Wilkins. In March, Bob Potter will travel to Washington, DC, as BRMA’s delegate, to attend the national “kick-off” meeting of the effort to secure funds for the NPS study. During the last week of September, and going into the first of October, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will hold its annual conference in Portland, Oregon. Having this conference in our region is a fairly rare occurrence, and gives us the opportunity to participate with at least an exhibit, and maybe to be a part of one of the discussion and/or presentation sessions. At our January membership meeting, we’ll discuss and vote on how BRMA would like to participate.

In conclusion, let me tell you how honored and pleased I am to be your new President. You have entrusted me with a great responsibility, and I’ll work hard to earn your respect this year. Thank you.

Hanford Reach Visitor Center Planning currently underway

Hank Kosmata
Vice-president, BRMA

The designers of both the building and its exhibits held a progress meeting in Richland in December and gave interested parties an opportunity to comment on the design, which is currently about 35% complete. The primary exhibit space will be housed in ~12,000 square feet of room called the Permanent Gallery. Upon entering this section of the building one will see a very large replica of a production reactor front face suspended overhead in the distance, but one starts the tour by entering a very large area (about 2500-3000 square feet) called the White Bluffs Theater. The theater is designed to give a brief (12 to 15 minute) visual summary of what lies ahead. As one leaves the theater one starts his/her way through four major exhibit sections: The Land Takes Form, Living on the Land, The Land Transformed, and Saving the Reach.

The primary thrust of the exhibits is to tell the visitor how the reach was formed, what the first plant, animal and human life was like, how the Manhattan Project impacted the Reach, and the current activities to preserve the Reach.

The Manhattan Project section captures the secrecy and the magnitude of the work and then opens into a representation of a control room. This area is located behind the reactor front-face-replica so that now one has the feeling of being “inside” a reactor as he/she looks up into a visual display of the moderator, the fuel channels and the control rods. The displays carry on through the various periods beyond the first construction and operation all the way through the last of the production reactors and fuel fabrication and separation plants into final shutdown and treatment of the waste.

It will be a very dramatic and interesting opportunity for both residents and visitors, and the plan is to excite the visitors to the extent they will leave with a high degree of interest, hopefully leading into a desire to see “the real thing” at the B Reactor exhibit.

A National Historic Landmark

Del Ballard
Treasurer, BRMA

Why hasn’t the B Reactor already been designated a National Historic Landmark? A good question, so let’s take a look at where we are in this regard.

The B Reactor was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, but has never been designated as a National Historic Landmark (NHL). Properties listed on the National Register are primarily of state and local significance, whereas National Historic Landmarks are exceptional places, structures, or facilities that have a special meaning to all Americans. While there are some 76,000 places in the USA listed on the National Register of Historic Places, only about 2,300 of these that have been designated as NHL’s. Landmarks have been recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as possessing national significance. Nationally significant properties help us understand our history and illustrate the nationwide impact of the events or persons associated with the property, its architectural type or style, or information potential. The Manhattan Project and the B Reactor certainly meet these criteria.

The process for listing a property in the National Register is different from that for Landmark designation with both different criteria and different procedures. Some properties are recommended as nationally significant when they are nominated to the National Register, but before they can be designated as National Historic Landmarks, they must be evaluated by The National Park Service’s National Historic Landmark Survey, reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior.

Work to nominate the B Reactor for NHL status was begun by Bechtel Hanford in the late 1990’s, but was subsequently terminated by DOE when funding was cut. Then in 2003 the BRMA decided to take the bull by the horns and proceed with preparation of the nomination documents on its own. The requisite forms were prepared and a draft version was given to the National Park Service (NPS) for preliminary review in December 2003.

The standing policy of the NPS is that they will not proceed with work to process a nomination without the owner’s concurrence/support. (That is, the Secretary cannot designate the property as an NHL without the owner’s permission). On November 5th 2004 BRMA sent a letter to the local Department of Energy (DOE) office asking them to provide their concurrence to the NPS. To date the DOE has not seen fit to give this concurrence. We have been told that the decision must come from DOE HQ in Washington DC. Consequently, the BRMA work on this nomination for NHL status is in limbo until that hurdle is crossed.

The apparent overriding concern within the DOE is related to the recently passed federal legislation directing the NPS to study certain Manhattan Project facilities, including the B Reactor, as potential Park sites. The BRMA is considering how to strategically move forward with the application considering the pending NPS Manhattan Project study.

March meeting in D.C. on National Park Study

Cindy KellyPresident
Atomic Heritage Foundation

The Atomic Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Washington DC dedicated to the preservation of the Manhattan Project, is working with the National Park Service, the Department of Energy, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Congressional staff to present a workshop in Washington, DC on Tuesday, March 8th, 2005. The meeting is being coordinated with the Energy Communities Alliance to ensure that local government officials from the Manhattan Project sites will be able to attend.

The meeting will be a “kick off” for the National Park Service’s implementation of the “Manhattan Project National Historical Park Study Act” that was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush on October 18th, 2004. The Study, called a Special Resource Study, is the first step in creating a unit of the National Park Service. The legislation calls for consideration of the three major Manhattan Project sites at Hanford, Oak Ridge, TN, and Los Alamos, NM, and possibly others. Warren Brown, a National Park Service official responsible for Special Resource Studies, will help participants understand the process, the National Park Service’s initial plans and the possible roles of other Federal, State, tribal, and local governments, private and nonprofit organizations, and other interested parties.

Pam Brown, Bob Potter and others are expected to represent the Hanford community.

Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins to visit Hanford

The African American Community Cultural, & Educational Society (AACCES), a local non-profit group, has invited physicist and mathematician Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. to visit Hanford, the place where his nuclear energy research was applied to the Manhattan Project.

Dr. Wilkins is well known for his studies on gamma-ray penetration and the development of shielding against gamma radiation. During his career, Dr. Wilkins published roughly one hundred papers and reports on mathematics, nuclear engineering, and optics.

On Thursday, February 24, 2005, WSU Tri-Cities is hosting an informal technical exchange and luncheon with Dr. Wilkins at the WSU-TC Consolidated Information Center from 11:30am – 1:00pm. Contact Patricia Wright, 372-7325, if you would like to attend.

That evening, Dr. Wilkins will be recognized at a dinner in his honor, at the Richland Red Lion Hotel. Social hour begins at 6:00 pm followed by dinner at 7:00 pm. Seating is limited. For reservations, call Barbara at 376-8457.

This event is hosted by the African American Community, Cultural & Educational Society and community partners— Bechtel, Fluor, Lockheed Martin Information Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection.

What’s been going on since July 2004

An unofficial log of happenings from BRMA leaders

7/9 A tour of B by representatives of The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, news media, Tim and Thom Cowan, and friends, ~25 total participants, was a big success. Roger and Del acted as tour guides and were assisted by the McCullough brothers, Dee and Bill.

7/9 Senator Patty Murray’s staff member Shawn Bills informed Del that the schedule for Congress still does not permit them to positively commit to attending our Oct. 9th celebration.

8/11 Sheryl of Secretary Abraham’s office called to acknowledge our letter inviting the Secretary to Oct. 9th event. Due to commitments, neither the Secretary nor historian Skip Gosling can attend.

8/28 Amy Hadden March, an independent reporter writing an article for Orion magazine, held a 1-hour conversation with Del regarding BRMA, the reactor, and our reasons for wanting to preserve B as a museum. Many issues and historical aspects of Hanford site were discussed.

9/06 Received and signed Supplement #5 to the Bechtel contract for providing tour guide service for B Reactor tours. This $1500 supplement will cover an additional 12 tours through March 31, 2005, which corresponds to the current BHI contract extension date.

9/15 Doc Hastings’ DC office called to report that the House Resource Committee had passed H.R.3207, the Manhattan Project Park Study bill, and it will now advance to floor of the House.

9/16 Great News: Learned via the Tri City Herald that the Senate passed bill S-1687, The National Park Service study bill. Both the House and the Senate bills are so close that a conference will probably not be required.

9/17 Del sent request letter to City of Richland regarding the $10K funds authorized by the AHF in support of 60th anniversary events (funds may be channeled through the City of Richland).

9/28 House passes bill authorizing NPS study of Manhattan Project Facilities as Park Sites.

10/1 Del sent message to Annabelle Rodriguez asking DOE to inform the NPS that they support the processing of the BRMA prepared nomination of B Reactor as a National Landmark.

10/4 Roger and Del conducted two tours: First was an audio walking tour of B by Rachael McDonald of NW Public Radio, second a group of ~15 from Russian Nuclear Industry and the DOE.

10/8-9 This was the weekend of the big events celebrating the 60th anniversary of the initial operation of the B Reactor. Read all about these very successful happenings in the Fall MODERATOR.

10/14 Del spoke before the WA State Park Commission Board. Comments were given on highlights of the reactor’s historical significance, current status, and the legislation for an NPS study. A resolution by the State Park Commission was requested asking for support and cooperation. Their director, Rex, indicated they would consider such a resolution at their December meeting. Reaction from their Board appeared positive. Marsh Taylor (budget officer) is very interested and will keep us apprised of their actions. Larry Fairleigh was original contact for presentation.

10/15 Letters prepared and sent to all Sponsors and other primary participants that supported the various events of the 60th anniversary celebration.

10/18 Received the good news from Doc Hastings D.C. office that the President has signed the “Manhattan Project National Historical Park Study Act”.

11/12 Received copy of letter from EPA to DOE (dated Nov. 10) giving their reaction to draft EE/CA on final configuration of 105-B. EPA believes the evaluation must include the museum option, and chides the DOE for not including that evaluation in the new EE/CA. BRMA has not, to date, been provided a copy of this draft of the EE/CA.

11/12 Del called Nick Ceto of EPA, thanking him for a copy of his letter, and expressing our whole-hearted support of the position stated in his letter.

11/22 BRMA issued letter to DOE, Keith Klein, to express the endorsement of BRMA of EPA’s position in the above mentioned letter to: 1) include an alternative in the final EE/CA which preserves the B Reactor as a museum, and 2) delay the issuance of the EE/CA and the decision on the final configuration of B Reactor until after the National Park Service (NPS) museum feasibility study.