Preservation at Hanford
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Preservation at Hanford

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Brief History

The B Reactor at HanfordThe B Reactor at Hanford

The Hanford reservation in eastern Washington State was over 600 square miles with 50 miles of the Columbia River running through it. Selected in 1942, its mission was to produce plutonium. The B Reactor was the world's first plutonium production reactor, and was designed by Enrico Fermi and other scientists at the University of Chicago. The Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the entire project for the government and hired the DuPont Company for its expertise in large industrial operations to design, build and operate the facilities.

Crawford Greenewalt, a 40-year-old engineer for DuPont who witnessed the Chicago Pile-I in December 1942, was initially the liaison between the University of Chicago scientists and the engineers in DuPont's headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. With exceptional engineering, management and diplomatic skills, Greenewalt was an effective director of the Hanford project for DuPont.

Without the successful operation of Hanford's plutonium production reactor, there would not have been enough nuclear material to produce more than one bomb by August 1945. As wartime intercepts recently published by the Central Intelligence Agency attest, the Japanese had anticipated that Kyushu, the southernmost of the main islands, would be the site of the Allies' planned invasion. If the atomic bomb had not brought an abrupt end to World War II, countless lives would have been lost on both sides.

Perhaps the most significant Manhattan Project properties are the B Reactor, the first plutonium production reactor, and the T Plant that together produced and separated the plutonium for the "Fat Man" bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The B Reactor has been a museum since the mid-1980's but it may be entombed in the immediate future if a partner is not found to "co-own" the facility with the Department of Energy. Other portions of the Hanford site could become part of a tour route.

Preservation Efforts 

The Bruggemann ranch house today.The Bruggemann ranch house today.AHF is involved in a plethora of preservation efforts at Hanford, WA. Our most notable accomplishments include our work on the B-reactor in Hanford, WA. We are currently developing new exhibits for display at the B Reactor, including a model of the 100-B Reactor area as it was in 1945, a display of graphite blocks assembled in the same manner as those in the core of the reactor, and vignettes on the history of the B Reactor and the Hanford area.

To view a map of the historic districts and sites in Hanford, please click here.

For more information about the trains and cask cars at Hanford, please click here to download a pamphlet.


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