Former nuclear sites to welcome tourists and nature

29 August 2008

The Hanford B Reactor in Washington State - the world's first industrial-scale nuclear reactor - has been designated as a US National Historic Landmark. Meanwhile, the former Fernald uranium production site in Ohio has become a nature reserve.

Hanford B Reactor 
The Hanford B Reactor (Image: DoE)
On 25 August, Lynn Scarlett, deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior (DoI), and Jeffrey Kupfer, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Energy (DoE), announced the designation of the B Reactor at the DoE's Hanford site as a National Historic Landmark. The water-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor, built between 1943 and 1944 as part of the Manhattan Project, produced plutonium used in the atomic weapon that was dropped on Nagasaki in Japan in 1945. It also served as a model for all US nuclear reactors until 1952. The reactor was shut down in 1968.

The B Reactor "has a special feeling and association - as a landmark should. For its role in the events that ended World War II, the B Reactor holds a powerful historic significance," Scarlett said. She added: "Scientists, engineers, and skilled workers showed the power of human ingenuity and enterprise in serving at this significant point in US history."

Kupfer commented, "The men and women who worked on the B Reactor made their mark on history with an extraordinary technological and human achievement. Preservation of the B Reactor will ensure their groundbreaking role in American history remains visible for future generations to see."

The designation of the B Reactor as a National Historic Landmark signifies the site as one of national historic significance. There are currently fewer than 2500 sites designated as such in the USA. Four other Manhattan Project sites have already been designated as historic landmarks: the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge, the Trinity Site in New Mexico and the Chicago Pile I.

The DoE has said that it will increase public access to the B Reactor in response to growing public interest. The reactor currently holds up to 50 public tours annually. However, between March and October 2009, the DoE plans to open the site to the public three days per week.

Back to nature at Fernald

The restored Fernald site (Image: DoE)
Meanwhile, the site of the Fernald uranium processing plant, which produced uranium for nuclear weapons between 1951 and 1989, is about to open as a nature reserve following a $4.4 billion clean-up.

Fluor Fernald, the contractor responsible for the environmental clean-up and restoration of the site received formal acceptance from the DoE in January 2007 that its clean-up of the site was complete.
As part of the clean-up and restoration effort, workers safely demolished hundreds of contaminated buildings, treated and disposed of millions of tonnes of radioactive waste, and performed extensive soil and groundwater remediation.

Following soil clean-up, environmental engineers developed nearly 160 hectares (ha) of woodland, over 130 ha of prairie, over 56 ha of open water and wetlands and 13 ha of savannah to restore the property to an undeveloped park with an emphasis on wildlife and education.

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