RICHLAND, Wash. – History buffs, engineering enthusiasts and science aficionados are all taking aim at one of Washington state’s hottest tickets: a tour of the B Reactor National Historic Landmark.
Constructed during World War II, the B Reactor is the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor.
The 2023 public tour season began the first week of April, when the EM Richland Operations Office opened free registration. The B Reactor and other Manhattan Project National Historical Park facilities on the Hanford Site will be available for public tours through Nov. 18.
The park also includes historic properties at the DOE sites in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico, where EM also conducts cleanup work. The park preserves and interprets the story of the Manhattan Project and the dawn of the atomic age. Created in 2015 following congressional action, the park is jointly administered by DOE and the National Park Service. DOE’s national park mission is to own and preserve its historic facilities and provide public access to them.
“It is so exciting to be back this year with a full public tour schedule,” said Colleen French, DOE program manager for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Hanford. “We have tours six days a week through the summer, including the holiday weekends, and they are already going out completely full. I’m not sure who is more excited — the visitors coming in the door, or the staff and docents!”
The park includes the B Reactor, which produced the plutonium used in the Trinity test in July 1945 and one of the atomic bombs used to help bring an end to the war in the Pacific. Park facilities also include the remains of a turn-of-the-century high school, bank, pump house and fruit warehouse that were part of the agricultural towns taken over by the government in 1943. EM contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company and local subcontractor Lucas Engineering and Management Services work together to maintain the park facilities and keep them accessible to the public.
The National Historical Park at Hanford gets up to 15,000 visitors each year. Since tours began in 2009, visitors have come from all 50 states and more than 90 countries. The tours also have a positive economic effect on the surrounding communities, bringing several million dollars each year in hotel bookings, restaurant visits and purchases.
The free tours last about four hours and offer a guided experience and an opportunity to self-explore interpretations and reflect on the global effect of the Manhattan Project. The tours are wheelchair accessible and offer assistance to hearing-impaired and sight-impaired visitors. To register or for more information, visit the tour website.
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