A few months back I spent a day in Richland, Washington exploring the town’s high school mascot “The Bombers” and what that meant to the community. Richland borders the Hanford Site where they produced plutonium used in the atomic bombs dropped in Japan. You can read more about this here: http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia/2015/7/richland-washingtons-atomic-legacy.html


Hanford’s B Reactor, pivotal in the development of nuclear technology, occupies a footprint of 14 by 12 meters (1,750 sq feet) and is approximately five stories tall. The reactor core itself consisted of an 11-meter-tall (36 ft) graphite box measuring 8.5 by 11 meters (1,008 sq feet) and weighed 1,200 short tons (1,100 tons). It was penetrated horizontally through its entire length by 2,004 aluminum tubes and vertically by channels for the vertical safety rods.

The core is surrounded by a cast-iron thermal shield, enclosed on its top and sides by masonite and steel plates, forming a biological shield for radiation protection. The bottom of the thermal shield is supported by a 7-meter-thick (23 ft) concrete pad topped by cast-iron blocks. The graphite composition was selected to moderate the nuclear reaction fueled by 200 short tons (180 tons) of uranium slugs, each approximately the size of a roll of quarters. The slugs were sealed in aluminum cans and loaded into the aluminum tubes.

Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960. The N Reactor is in the foreground, with the twin KE and KW Reactors in the immediate background. The historic B Reactor, the world’s first plutonium production reactor, is visible in the distance
The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, operated by the United States federal government. The site has been known by many names, including Hanford Project, Hanford Works, Hanford Engineer Works or HEW and Hanford Nuclear Reservation or HNR. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

This Month in Atomic History

As we begin a fresh new year, it seems fitting to ponder some past events that set the stage for nuclear weapons in today’s world. Here’s January, in atomic history:

January 1945

First plutonium reprocessing production run at the Hanford Site in Washington. The site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world.

January 1950
Klaus Emil Julius Fuchs, a German-British theoretical physicist and atomic spy, confesses to giving atomic secrets to the USSR.

Photo credit: Truman Presidential Museum and Library

President Harry S. Truman (pictured above) gives the order to proceed with building the H-bomb. The directive is said to have come in response to evidence of an atomic explosion occurring within USSR in 1949.

January 1954

U.S.S. Nautilus is launched. She is the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine.

January 1966

U.S. B-52 bomber crashes near Palomares, Spain carrying four unarmed H-bombs. Of the four hydrogen bombs, three were found on land near a small fishing village. The non-nuclear explosives in two of the bombs detonated and contaminated a 2-square-kilometer area by radioactive plutonium. The fourth (pictured above) was recovered from the Mediterranean Sea intact after a 2½-month-long search.

January 1967
Outer Space Treaty is introduced to ban nuclear weapons being placed in orbit.

January 2003
North Korea announces it will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Let’s put the past behind us and work for a future without nuclear weapons! You can support nuclear disarmament by signing the Cut Nukes petition.

Home sweet Radioactive home. ;)

We made #10 on most radioactive places mapped out.

10. Hanford, USA

The Hanford Site, in Washington, was an integral part of the US atomic bomb project, manufacturing plutonium for the first nuclear bomb and “Fat Man,” used at Nagasaki. As the Cold War waged on, it ramped up production, supplying plutonium for most of America’s 60,000 nuclear weapons. Although decommissioned, it still holds two thirds of the volume of the country’s high-level radioactive waste — about 53 million gallons of liquid waste, 25 million cubic feet of solid waste and 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater underneath the area, making it the most contaminated site in the US. The environmental devastation of this area makes it clear that the threat of radioactivity is not simply something that will arrive in a missile attack, but could be lurking in the heart of your own country. More information available at the Hanford Site, Department of Energy website”

The Hanford Site is a place in my state that I’ve been meaning to check out for quite a while. It’s still extremely radioactive, but not enough to discourage a look around. The site was a major player in the Manhattan project, and without it nuclear weapons development would have probably been set back another 5-10 years. The last reactor of the several on site was decommissioned in 1987.



The B Reactor at the Hanford Site was the first large-scale nuclear reactor ever built. The project was commissioned to produce Plutonium-239 by neutron activation as part of the Manhattan Project, the United States’ nuclear weapon development program during World War II. The B Reactor was fueled with metallic natural uranium, graphite-moderated and water-cooled. It achieved criticality in September of 1944, and the Atomic Energy Commission directed its shutdown in January of 1968. The U.S. Department of Energy announced that the B Reactor would be open to public tours in the spring, summer, and fall in 2009. In July of 2011, the National Park Service recommended the B Reactor to be included in a national historic park commemorating the Manhattan Project.

*While the B Reactor’s design was similar to the design of the RBMK reactors in the Soviet Union, it is important to note that this reactor was used specifically for production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, while the RBMK design was used specifically for production of plutonium and later modified to generate power, making the RBMK design the only graphite-moderated, water-cooled reactors used for power generation.

Western U.S. turned into “radiant wasteland” by nuclear-related facilities

Moab, Utah: Beauty and the Nuclear Feast

The [uranium] tailings made Moab [Utah] glow —and not in a good way. For nearly 30 years, the various companies that operated the facility dumped ton after ton of the radioactive sandy byproduct into an unlined…

View Post

The Tragic Tale of Atomic Man: Life as a Radioactive Human

For the first time since the accident in 1976, workers at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington are planning to clean out the room where chemicals exploded in Harold McCluskey’s face, showering him with radiation 500 times the occupational limit and embedding radioactive americium in his skull, turning him into the Atomic Man.

Nuclear Waste Leaks From Underground Containers In US

WASHINGTON – Underground tanks filled with nuclear waste leaked at the Hanford storage facility in Washington. Clean up crews at Hanford site check for additional radioactive material leaking from underground tanks. Photo Credit: Photo News Washington’s governor Jay Inslee expressed…