Hanford

Sign up now to tour Hanford national park. Here’s what’s new this year

Celebration of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Chip Jenkins, Deputy Regional Director with the National Parks Service, talks about what it means to have the B Reactor dedicated as part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Hundreds of people, including students from White Bluffs
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Chip Jenkins, Deputy Regional Director with the National Parks Service, talks about what it means to have the B Reactor dedicated as part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Hundreds of people, including students from White Bluffs

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park’s 2019 tour season at Hanford starts April 1, with registration opening today.

Participants can sign up for a tour of historic B reactor or a tour to learn about life at what’s now Hanford before homeowners and settlers were evicted to make way for the secret World War II bomb-building effort.

Land along the Columbia River north of present-day Richland was seized in 1943 to produce plutonium for atomic bombs.

The Department of Energy also is offering a limited number of tours unrelated to the national park to allow visitors to learn about the environmental cleanup of Hanford. Cleanup has been underway since plutonium production stopped at the end of the Cold War.

People who want to take a bus tour onto the usually closed nuclear reservation to see cleanup work should be prepared to sign up at hanford.gov when registration for those tours opens at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Seats for only 20 cleanup tours go quickly.

But that’s not the case for B Reactor and the other historical tours of Hanford, with registration already opened.

Register all year for park tours

More than 300 of those tours are planned this year, allowing visitors to pick the day that works best for them throughout the season.

“There is an urban myth that these park tours are nearly impossible to get on,” said Colleen French, DOE program manager for the national historical park at Hanford. “But we are actually meeting the demand with tours six days per week through the summer.”

DOE and the park service also will schedule separate tours for schools and other groups with a minimum of 20 participants.

This year organizers are trying some new specialty tours of B Reactor.

Tours are planned with information and activities specifically for children on April 13, May 11, June 8, July 6, Aug. 3, Sept. 14 and Oct. 12.

Another group of tours is planned to emphasize technical information. They are set for April 27, May 25, June 22, July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 28 and Oct. 26.

Holiday tours also are scheduled for Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, including the holiday weekends.

B Reactor tours

Hanford is one of three primary Manhattan Project locations used during WWII for the top-secret mission to beat the Nazis in the race to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park also includes sites in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M.

More than 50,000 people came to Hanford during the war to design, construct and operate a massive industrial complex to produce plutonium in nuclear reactors.

Hanford’s B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale production reactor, built in just 11 months.

It produced the plutonium used in the Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert in July 1945 and the “Fat Man” atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war days later.

The tour of B Reactor, which takes about four hours, includes transportation to and from the reactor and a walking tour inside it.

Tours will be offered of the unheated facility from April 1 to Nov. 16, with tours starting at various times in the morning.

Pre-Manhattan Project tours

The second national park tour includes a look at the few buildings remaining from the farms along the Columbia River and the small towns of Hanford and White Bluffs.

Buildings include the stone Bruggemann Warehouse, the remains of the 1916 Hanford High School, the tiny First Bank of White Bluffs and the 1908 Hanford Irrigation District Pump House.

The pre-Manhattan Project tours, which take about four hours, include bus transportation and a short walking tour at each site. They are scheduled from April 5 to Oct. 26. Tours start at 9 or 10 a.m. on different days.

The National Park tours are open to people of any age and nationality and are free.

For more information or to register, call 509-376-1647 or stop by the park’s visitor center at 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland. Tours begin and end at the visitor center.

To register online or find out more about B Reactor tours, go to manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov.

To register online or find out more about the pre-Manhattan Project tours, go to tours.hanford.gov/historicTours.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.


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