Hanford B Reactor Tour

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.

WCWS Roadtrip: Los Alamos, New Mexico

After I left Chimney Rock, I headed south through Chama where we stopped to stretch our legs and then continued south towards Los Alamos. I’d never been to the Atomic City but it seemed as good a time as any to check it out.

I started at the Los Alamos History Museum first thing the next morning. I knew a little bit about Los Alamos but only in the vague sort of way where I remembered that it was important from AP US History and what I gleaned from Elizabeth Church’s excellent novel The Atomic Weight of Love.

I certainly knew nothing about the history of the Los Alamos Ranch School and my New Mexican history in general is pretty shaky. I was pretty shocked by the pretty impressive list of alumni and other attendees.

Even though I knew a little bit more about the development of the bomb, it was really interesting to learn more about Oppenheimer and the rest of the scientists as well as how the social order worked in the early days. The museum gives an excellent concise but powerful picture of Los Alamos’s role in ending the war and the development of the atom bomb.

After I finished with the history museum, I headed down to the Bradbury Science Museum. Affiliated with Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Bradbury is free but honestly, I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the history museum. The displays felt really busy which made reading them and following the story difficult. It was loud and I really just couldn’t focus so I decided it was time to move on.

Among the serious things I learned at the history museum I also learned this fun fact: Oppenheimer, called “Oppie” by peers, made a mean martini. I made sure to get a photo with him.

Weather Station

Last winter we noticed that the National Weather Service forecasts for Mullan, were actually for an elevation of 4,648′. We actually live closer to 3,200′. Generally last winter we could expect for the temperature outside to hover just above the predicted values. Really not a big deal but in a house that also obsessively watches Snotel and all its associated products somewhat obsessively it was sort of upsetting.

Forrest contacted NWS about volunteering to host a weather station at our house. They were very happy about the idea of getting another station in the valley. Mark from the Spokane branch of NWS paid us a visit in September to look at the site and was quite pleased. There were some siting criteria compromises but nothing that would prevent the use of data from our station to improve modeling of weather in Mullan.

Today, the weather station was installed!

Weather station. (Daily rain/rain water equivalent tube, total snow ruler, and temperature sensor.)
Daily snow measurement pad (and Forrest's skull collection)

We have to report the daily maximum and minimum temperature as well as the daily precipitation totals. I’m working on automating the temperature reporting and possibly including some sort of readout on 3UpAdventures.

Temperature logger

I Just Knew…

F called me at yesterday and asked me to meet him at the cabin after work. I tried to explain that I didn’t have a real coat with me or near enough layers to be happy up there. He told me that he’d brought a coat up for me from the house.

I knew he hadn’t brought me a coat. Because I knew he’d done this:

That would be single wall pipe going directly through the roof.

How did I know this? (And I swear he didn’t tell me.) I’ve lived with Forrest for two and half years. I’m marrying him. I think I’m qualified to make that call. Continue reading “I Just Knew…”

Nerdy Snowmelt Goodness

I’m pretty much a nerd.

A chemist by education (and now trade!), I’m a well rounded nerd. My nerdiness is not constrained by any given field. There’s a structural geology textbook on my desk (which I really want to get back to reading), someday I’ll have amassed a seriously awesome local history library, and I do thinks like make spreadsheets of our cabin expenses (we bought the place in partnership with Forrest’s brother and need to keep track of who spent what). It goes way deeper than that and I’m sure those who know me could continue to make lists of how absurdly nerdy I am (baseball stats!, geography!, NPR!) but you get the idea.

This morning, geeking out met melt-damn-snow-melt. And this is what I found:

I love the National Weather Service. Melt rate in inches per hour? Sweeetttt!

(Less sweet: snow water equivalent at Lookout is 329% of normal for June 2nd. Melt snow, melt!)