Registration begins at 9 a.m. March 9 for Hanford tours this year, with initially a choice of two tours.
Visitors can choose between a tour focused on Hanford environmental cleanup, which includes a look inside B Reactor, or a more in depth tour of B Reactor, which will include a drive past pre-World War II sites on the nuclear reservation.
In April registration will start for a third tour to be offered for the first time this year. It will focus on the sites where settlers lived before they were forced to give up their farms, homes and businesses for the secret Manhattan Project to produce plutonium in WWII.
The tours this month will begin and end at the B Reactor tour headquarters at 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland off Highway 240. The free tours will last four to five hours.
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B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, producing plutonium for the world’s first nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert and the bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan, helping end World War II.
The environmental cleanup tour also includes stops at the Cold Test Facility, where technologies to empty Hanford tanks of high level radioactive waste are tested; the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a massive, lined landfill for low level radioactive and hazardous chemical waste; the central Hanford plant for treating contaminated groundwater and the vitrification plant being built to glassify waste now in underground tanks.
The tour bus will drive past other sites as participants hear about the progress of cleanup and some of the site’s WWII and Cold War history, when Hanford made much of the nation’s plutonium for its nuclear weapons program.
Participants for the environmental cleanup tour must be U.S. citizens and at least age 18. A Washington or Oregon driver’s license is adequate identification for the tours, but visitors from some other states may be required to show a second form of government-issued identification.
All tour slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis through the online registration system at www.hanford.gov. Registration may only be done online for the environmental tours. Seats on the tours are usually snapped up quickly.
The tours will be offered at 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. April 21 and 22; May 5, 6, 19, and 21; June 2, 3, 4, 16, and 17; July 28, 29, and 30; Aug. 11, 12, 13, 25, 26, and 27. The tours are scheduled on weekdays so visitors are more likely to see work being done.
The tours of B Reactor and other historical sites include a guided tour and exploration time inside B Reactor and then a return trip along the Columbia River past the former towns of Hanford and White Bluffs.
Two remaining buildings there — the old Hanford High School and White Bluffs bank — may become part of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, along with B Reactor.
Tour slots for B Reactor are available on a first-come, first-served basis through an online registration system at http://manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov/ or by calling 509-376-1647 or stopping by the B Reactor Tour Headquarters.
Families with children at least age 12 may take the tours. Middle school and high school class tours can be arranged by calling the tour headquarters. A limited number of group tours also are available this year.
Citizens from all countries are welcome on the B Reactor tours and may bring cameras.
Tours will be offered on the following dates: April 7, 8, 11, 18, 28, and 29; May 2, 12, 13, 16, 27, 28, and 30; June 9, 10, 11, 13, 23, 24, 25, 27, and 30; July 1, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, and 25; Aug. 3, 4, 5, 8, 17, 18, 19, 22, and 31; and Sept. 1, 2, 5, 15, 16, 19, 29, and 30.
B Reactor tours depart each tour day at 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
Since DOE began its B Reactor public access program in 2009, about 50,000 visitors from all 50 states and more than 70 countries have visited the reactor.
The third set of tours, with registration details yet to be announced, are expected to include stops at the Hanford High School, the White Bluffs bank, the Bruggemann warehouse, the Allard farmstead and the White Bluffs ferry crossing.