Manhatten Project


We set the alarm today and after we ate we were out the door and headed for Richland.  I had scheduled a tour for 10:30.  We would be going to the Hanford Project and in particular Reactor B.

We had to report to the visitor contact center in Richland by 10:15.  This is part of one of the newest National Parks.  Called The Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  Besides here at Hanford, it includes Oakridge, and Los Alamos.  What a day to visit the National Park Service is 100 years old today.


We met Bill our docent and he gave us an introductory talk on what we would be doing.


Then we boarded a nice bus for a 45 minute ride out to the Hanford Project area.  The area is over 600 square miles and was a huge industrial area.  At one time over 50,000 people were involved in building the reactors and support buildings.


Bill kept filling us with facts and stories and soon we arrived at Reactor B.


This was the first full size nuclear reactor and was built in about 15 months to produce Plutonium for Atomic Weapons.  It produced the material for the Trinity Project and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki and was the nations first full size reactor.  It operated until 1968 without any safety incidents.


The offices and locker rooms were off of this entrance hall.


This is the front wall of the reactor.  There are 2004 cores that were once full of fuel rods.  The reactor produced a lot of heat and thats why it was built on the shores of the Columbia River.  It used a lot of water.


This is one of the water manifolds on the side of the reactor.  High pressure water made a single pass through the reactor surrounding the fuel rods.  The water temperature rose over 100 degrees during the one second it took the water to pass through the reactor.  It then went to a holding pond to cool some before it was returned to the river.


There were also 6 large fans that kept the air cool and also clean.  Three were driven by electric motors and three by steam as a backup.


The air vented thru this huge stack in the event the air was contaminated by the reactor.


This is the valve pit.  Two sets of 6 large pipes, one set was a backup.  The valves have been opened up so they are inoperative.  As part of some nuclear treaties the Russians still come every year to inspect the reactor.


Some of the old signs were on display.


This is part of a safety system to insert the control rods into the reactor to shut it down.  The power for this is supplies by the weight of a bunch of rocks.


This was the medical facility.


Leona Marshall Libby was the only woman in the facility she had worked with Dr Fermi.


In the control room was interesting.  All 2004 tubes had to be monitored constantly, manually by real people.  This panel monitored the direct pressure at the input to each fuel rod and tube.


This monitored the temperature in the reactor.


Notice they used vacuum tubes and batteries


Notice this is pre-plastic ty-rap days.  This is all cable lacing and the wire is all covered with cotton insulation.  Reminds me of my Navy days.  I used to be able to do this.


This panel also monitored pressure and if it got out of tolerance and not corrected it would SCRAM the reactor.  Shut down the reactor quickly.  Legend has it that SCRAM stands for Safety Control Rod Axe Man.  Where a man with an axe would cut a rope and drop the Rods into the reactor and shut it down.  The switches in this panel had mercury in them so a good bump could shut down the reactor.


After the control room talk we boarded the bus for the trip back.  The tour was about 4 hours, was very informative and very interesting.  Having worked around these weapons in the Navy I was surprised how open everything was and how much detail they provided on the operation of the reactor.

We visited the Colonel at Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home for supper and enjoyed that.  We had a good day and enjoyed the tour.


Well late last night we decided to book another tour down at Richland of the Hanford area.  Then we both slept in later than planned so we ended up canceling our plans for a trip up to Yakima today.  Instead Bonnie did wash and we stayed close to home.

I got a call from the office and the replacement sewer elbow showed up from Camco.  I went up and picked it up.  The box seemed small.  When I opened it I see that they have redesigned the parts and it is smaller and has a much different seal for the swivel joint, hopefully it won’t leak.

We have an early morning so hope to get to bed early tonight.


We were up at 6:00am this morning, wow thats early for us.  We were headed to Richland again for another tour at the Hanford Project.  This one called Pre-Manhattan.  It was about the people and towns that were here before the project took all the land.

We met Joe and Gene for our orientation in the meeting room.


No video today just the safety talk and the list of items not allowed on the trip.  Then out side to board the bus.  Today we have the mini bus.  All 24 seats were full.  In fact Joe had to sit on the cooler that was full of cold water for us.  We met our drive LaHonda and were on our way.


Joe in the white and Gene in the blue did a tag team presentation.  They were full of information and once again filled our heads full of information.


The temperature was quite pleasant as we headed out but continued to climb all day and was soon in the 90s.  Once again it was about 45 minutes out to the site and we entered by the same gate as Thursday.  There were also at least two other couples on the tour that were with us on Thursday.  We soon arrived at the Bruggemann ranch building.  They call it the warehouse.  The outside is all rocks from the surrounding land.


They think this is the foundation of the barn.  When the government took over the land the 2500 people that lived on the 600 square miles were give 30 days to vacate their homes, not much time.  Evidently good records were not kept.  The houses were mostly razed and even the orchards were cut down after they were harvested that season.


I wonder how old this dead tree is.


The B reactor was visible in the distance.


From here we headed down to the river.  A pump house was built here by a rancher and pumped water up 50 feet to head gates that fed a 50 mile long irrigation ditch that brought water and life to the area so they could grow crops.  The dirt is very fertile here but there is not rainfall so irrigation is necessary.  This was state-of-the art back in 1906.  Notice how fancy the top edge is.


This is a first for the tour Joe took groups up to get a close look at the head gates.


Then we move to the site where the town of White Bluffs was.  This was the ferry landing and one of the few places that one could cross the river.  Since then several bridges have been built.


This is one of the few buildings that remains on the far side of the river at the ferry crossing.


Then we stopped at the Bank of White Bluffs.  It is being completely renovated and repaired and will be open for the tour later on.


One last stop was at the Hanford High School.  This was also the sight of the camp that was later built to house over 50,000 workers.  The original town disappeared and was replaced with dormitories, bathrooms, showers, cafeterias, movie houses etc.  There was even a 5000 space trailer (camper) park.  The trailers did not have kitchens or bathrooms.


That was our last stop before we headed back to Richland.  Dupont also had to build housing and infrastructure in Richland.  These houses were to house the permanent workers that would run the plants and reactors at Hanford.  The houses were called Alphabet houses as the floor plans where given a letter and varied by the size of your family and your position within the company.

After the tour we decided that we were close to the The Reach Museum so we headed over there.  But first we stopped at the  Sageport Grille for lunch.  Turned out to be a biker place but a pretty friendly group.  I really liked my sandwich but Bonnie thought here fish was overdone.  Then off to the museum.  This is a very well done museum.  One gallery is all about the geology and ecology of the area, the second gallery was all about the Manhattan Project, and the third is a small gallery where they rotate displays.  We were both tired, I fell asleep during one video and we did not do the museum justice.  It is well worth the visit but don’t go after a 4 hour tour and a nice lunch.  I did manage to get a picture of the trailer that they used at the Hanford camp.  Remember no kitchen or bathroom.


After this we headed home.  But first a stop at CVS to pick up some vitamins.  On the highway we could see lots of dust in the are as it had gotten quite windy.  In fact we have a RED flag warning for heat and wind which raises the fire danger.

The campground has really filled up looks pretty full, lots of families have fun before the summer ends.


We overslept this morning and got up too late to make it to church.  So we have just taken it easy today.  A steady stream of rigs pulled out of the campground today, headed back to work and school I guess.  Bonnie did put the sheets in the wash and we are waiting for them to finish so we can make the bed.  I have been reading and Bonnie has been sewing.  So a nice laid back day for us.  Nothing else planned for today so I will get this posted.  We are here for 9 more days.

Thanks For Checking In.



  1. Pretty impressive tour of the reactor facility, except for the medical room. Seemed rather skimpy.

  2. Very interesting. Enjoyed the chronicle.

  3. Great history lesson, Thanks Bob & Bonnie

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