Visitors will be welcomed to the Hanford portion of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park this year starting April 17.
Registration for the coming tour season opens online at 8 a.m. Monday at bit.ly/HanfordPark. People also may call the park visitor center at 509-376-1647 to register for scheduled tours or for information about tours for schools and private groups.
This year about 14,000 bus seats are available to tour either Hanford’s historic B Reactor or the pre-World War II historic sites at Hanford.
There are no age or citizenship restrictions for the tours, and visitors are free to take photos. However, visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and have a signed release form.
The prewar tours will take visitors to areas of Hanford inhabited by settlers and tribes before they were evicted in 1943 to make way for the secret weapons project. Hanford was one of three primary Manhattan Project locations where workers raced to create a nuclear weapon before Germany.
It’s now a cute little building that will remind us of times past and the folks who lived out there.
Kirk Christensen, Mission Support Alliance project manager
The tour will include stops at four buildings that remain from the days when about 1,500 people lived in or near the agricultural towns of White Bluffs and Hanford.
Tour participants will see the rehabilitated First Bank of White Bluffs, after extensive work over the last year to return it to the way it looked in 1907.
“It’s now a cute little building that will remind us of times past and the folks who lived out there,” said Kirk Christensen, Mission Support Alliance project manager for the B Reactor preservation project.
The 700-square-foot bank had one wall rebuilt, a new roof and a new floor.
Some finishing work still is being completed, but a month or so into the tour season visitors should be allowed to go inside the bank, said Colleen French, Department of Energy program manager of the Hanford portion of the new national park.
The bank was the only financial institution for the pre-war towns of White Bluffs and Hanford.
The tour bus also will stop at the historic Hanford High School, which served two generations of students. It was one of the most significant public buildings in the area, used not just for school but for public meetings and social gatherings.
The federal hiring freeze has delayed arrival of the park service’s site representative who will be based at Hanford.
The tour also includes the stone Bruggemann Warehouse and the Allard Pump House, which brought irrigation water to the desert.
The prewar tours will be offered at 10:30 a.m. many Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April 20 to Nov. 4. Some 9:30 a.m. Wednesday tours will be added from July to September.
The B Reactor tours are offered separately from April 17 to Nov. 18. Tours will be available Monday through Friday when they start up in April and also available many Saturdays through most of the rest of the tour season.
Monday and Tuesday tours start at 8 a.m., and tours will be offered at both 9 and 11:45 a.m. other days.
B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, ushering in the atomic age. It produced the plutonium used for the world’s first nuclear detonation, the Trinity Test in 1945, and the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end WWII.
Tours remain much the same as last year. The federal hiring freeze has delayed the arrival of the park service’s site representative picked for Hanford, and also the planned revamping of tour scripts to draw on the park services’ storytelling skills.
The park service tours leave from 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland. People also can visit the interim visitor center there to sign up for tours. It is open 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most Mondays through Saturdays.
The park service tours are separate from a third set of Hanford tours that focus on current environmental cleanup projects for the nuclear reservation. Registration for those tours starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday at hanford.gov under the rotating banner near the top of the page.