Registration will open at 6 p.m. Monday for all site-wide tours this year of the Hanford nuclear reservation, and Tuesday registration will open for tours just of Hanford’s historic B Reactor.
Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis, and seats for the free tours, particularly of Hanford, go quickly.
The nuclear reservation is closed to the public and the tours are the only chance most tourists, Hanford-area residents, retired Hanford workers and workers’ families have to see the site.
Hanford tours will include a bus trip through the nuclear reservation, where plutonium was made during World War II and the Cold War for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
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Visitors will learn about its historic role in the birth of the atomic age, its work during the Cold War and progress being made to clean up extensive environmental contamination.
Stops for briefings are planned at the Cold Test Facility, where technologies are tested to empty radioactive waste from huge underground tanks; the Plutonium Finishing Plant, once a heavily guarded facility where plutonium liquids were turned into metal buttons the size of hockey pucks, and the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a huge, lined landfill for low-level radioactive waste.
The visit also includes a brief walking tour inside B Reactor, the world’s first production-scale nuclear reactor.
New this year is a look at the outside of Hanford’s newest and most sophisticated groundwater treatment plant, the 200 West Groundwater Treatment System.
Visitors who want an in-depth look at B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale production reactor, should sign up for the separate tours that go only to the reactor.
They include a guided tour and time to explore the public areas of the reactor, which look much like they did during the race to produce plutonium during World War II.
New this year for the B Reactor tours is a drive along the Hanford nuclear reservation’s river route to learn more about the wartime creation of Hanford, when residents were forced to leave their homes to make way for the secret nuclear reservation.
The route passes the old town sites of White Bluffs and Hanford.
Registration for the site-wide Hanford tours begins at 6 p.m. March 3 at www.hanford.gov. Only online registration is offered.
The tours are restricted to U.S. citizens and visitors must be at least 18.
Registration requires names to match the driver’s license or other approved government identification that must be carried on the tour. No photos are allowed on the site-wide tours and participants are asked not to bring cell phones.
Tours are offered April 8, 9 and 10; May 6, 7, 8, 20, 21 and 22; June 3, 4, 5, 17 and 18; July 29, 30 and 31; and Aug. 12, 13, 14, 26, 27 and 28.
Tours start at 8 a.m. each day and on some days a 10 a.m. tour also is offered. Tours last between four and five hours.
They are offered weekdays to allow visitors the best chance of seeing cleanup work in progress.
The in-depth tours of B Reactor do not have a citizenship requirement and children as young as 12 may visit with their families. Middle school and high school class tours also can be arranged by calling 509-376-1647.
Cameras are allowed on B Reactor tours.
Sign-up starts at 12:01 p.m. March 4 at www.hanford.gov, by calling tour headquarters at 509-376-1647 or in person at 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland. The office usually is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays but may close later March 4, according to the Department of Energy.
The tours will be offered April 1, 2, 3, 5, 15, 17, 19, 29 and 30; May 1, 3, 13, 14, 15, 17, 28 and 31; June 10,11, 12, 14, 24, 25 and 26; July 8,10, 12, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 26. Aug. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 16, 18, 19, 20 and 23; and Sept. 2, 3, 4, 13, 16, 17 and 18.
Tours will be offered at 8:15 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. or both, depending on the date. They last four to five hours.
Visitors will catch a bus for both tours at the B Reactor Tour Headquarters at 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland.
Since DOE opened B Reactor to tours in 2009, almost 40,000 visitors from all 50 states and 68 countries have visited the reactor.
More information, including frequently asked questions, is posted at www.hanford.gov.