I can’t believe it’s taken me months to get around to blogging about this trip! When I decided to go to Washington to tackle the project at Mom’s house, I realized that I had a big stretch of time to try to get tickets to the Hanford B Reactor tour. Tours have been offered at the reactor since 2009 and in 2015 it was officially added to Manhattan Project National Historic Park. I tossed out the idea on Facebook and Kamel, the husband of my long-time internet friend Lauren, agreed to make the trek to the TriCities.
I picked up Kamel, who I had never actually met, and we headed out for a three hour roadtrip to the tour site. The drive was great! I totally morphed into my Tour Guide Barbie persona and pointed out lots of landmarks to Kamel who had never been further east on I-90 than Snoqualmie Pass! (Tour Guide Barbie is a moniker that I was given in high school both as a tongue-in-cheek Barbie reference and very honest commentary on my perhaps annoying propensity to spout historic, geological, and other random facts while driving.)
Once we arrived at the visitor center, Kamel and I both entered full nerd mode as we checked out the introductory exhibits. There was a short introductory talk about what the village of Hanford was like at the time it was chosen for the reactor site. By the time we got on the bus for the ride to the reactor, we were positively giddy. On the bus out to the reactor site, we got some more history and orientation to the area.
If you haven’t heard the story of the B-reactor, it’s actually pretty nuts. In just 11 months, the reactor went from a plan to producing the plutonium that was used in the Trinity Test and in Fat Man, the bomb dropped in Nagasaki. The tour is really informative about how DuPont and the Army built the plant and how ambitious the project actually was.
The first look at the reactor face is so incredible. Sitting in front of this massive piece of engineering, we had another short explanation of how the reactor actually worked and then, basically, we were allowed to wander around the reactor.
It was really surreal.
There were lots of really great vintage signs.
The access to the whole reactor complex is really impressive. While there were some areas clearly marked with radiation warnings that were off limits, we really got to wander around lots of nooks and crannys.
Kamel brought along his medium format camera to make some photos (although he told me he was too distracted by the building and its history to make good photos, I would beg to differ).
It had started to drizzle when we arrived and there seemed to be a little break in the rain so we went outside to check out the reactor area from outside.
This tour is free (did you hear me, FREE?) and it is fantastic.