Few Tri-Citians realize that they have a national historical park in their backyards! But…they do. The Manhattan Project Site Selection (1942) approved by Leslie Groves, chose three locations that would be successful in keeping their science and operations in secrecy as it constructed reactors that could produce plutonium. One of the three locations selected was the Hanford, Washington site, north of today’s city of Richland. By June of 1943 the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor ever built, was under construction and went critical for the first time in September of 1944.
In 1992 the B Reactor was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2008, the National Park Service designated it a National Historic Landmark. And, along with the site at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, the site became part of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park. These designations have opened the doors to the public having access to free tours guided by The United States Department of Energy.
Dates to join these interesting tours are listed at manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov. Planned tour dates for 2023 started in early April (hopefully some students were able to participate during their spring break) and end mid-November. This link also offers direct registration. The tours have no age restrictions or citizenship requirements. The bus ride takes about 45 minutes from the take-off point at 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland (Highway 240). The tour takes a total of four hours, with about two of those hours at the B Reactor.
Teachers and tour leaders can make a request to accompany groups (minimum of 20) at [email protected]. The tour guides can focus on areas of study or interest, such as a specific scientific interest or possibly a technical interest. Some might be interested in the history of how the lands were acquired, who was displaced, what the cultural impacts occurred in the acquisition of the area and the subsequent construction of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Requests for special group purposes can be submitted and will be honored on a first come/first serve basis and based on availability.
For those interested the area of land and the historical buildings that remain on the Hanford Reservation, there are tours focusing on this part of the National Historical Park. Like the B Reactor Tours, these tours are free. If this is of interest, visitors would sign up for The Manhattan Project National Historical Park: Pre-War Historic Sites at tours.hanford.gov. These tours will focus on the history of the mid-Columbia before the acquisition of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and will include visits to still-standing buildings of the Bruggemann Warehouse, the Allard Pump House, First Bank of White Bluffs, and Hanford High School. This tour will last four hours and departs from 2000 Logston Blvd. in Richland.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation weighs significantly in the history of the Tri-Cities. A free visit to see this U.S. National Historical Park in your backyard is a must!