New website to give Hanford visitors self-guided tour of reactor

New website to give Hanford visitors self-guided tour of reactor
Hanford "B" Reactor - file photo.

ATOMIC HERITAGE FOUNDATION NEWS RELEASE -- Heritage tourists around the world will now be able to tour the historic B Reactor and learn about life at the Hanford site on a new website, “Ranger in Your Pocket,” launched today at RangerInYourPocket.org. The website features dozens of first-hand accounts of working on the top-secret Manhattan Project from solving the mysterious “poisoning” of the B Reactor to enduring the “termination winds.”

The Atomic Heritage Foundation has created a powerful new interpretive tool called “Ranger in Your Pocket,” based on a BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” strategy. This technology-based tool represents a fundamental shift in engaging visitors by empowering them to use their personal smartphones or tablets to create their own tour experience.

Congress is currently considering legislation to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park with sites at Los Alamos, NM, Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA.  Led by a strong bipartisan Manhattan Project delegation, the legislation could be enacted before the end of 2014.

The new park is expected to generate 500,000 or more tourists at these sites over the next decade. In anticipation of the park, officials at the National Park Service have enthusiastically embraced this new technology. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in central Idaho and Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson, NJ are in the vanguard of having “BYOD” tours which have been very popular with visitors.

The “Ranger in Your Pocket” website will allow visitors to take self-guided tours of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor.  The B Reactor tour takes visitors through each major room in the reactor. Visitors can listen to Manhattan Project scientists and workers explaining how the reactor works and the various components that were essential to its operation.

At the Control Room stop, Leona Woods Marshall describes the fateful start-up of the reactor. “You could see the water getting hot, going through the brown recorders, and hear it rushing in the tubes. You could see the control rods coming out and out and out. And then something happened. There wasn’t any reactivity. The reactor was dead, just plain dead! Everybody stood around and stared.” Well after midnight, Enrico Fermi drove while they headed back to Richland arguing about what went wrong.

Another stop focuses on General Leslie R. Groves. As his son Richard recalled, his father was “very, very competitive. He played games not to play games, but to win. You didn’t want to play a game with him, because you were probably going to lose. If you didn’t, he’d come back until he beat you.”  With extraordinary ambition, savvy and stamina, Groves was the Manhattan Project’s “indispensable man,” as historian Robert S. Norris explains.

Other selections depict “Life at Hanford.” Henry Petcher recalled, “I was in charge of the box lunch department, a 24-hour operation. I had about 370 some odd people, mostly women who were wives of construction workers. At my peak we were making anywhere from 50,000 to 55,000 box lunches a day.”

Burt Pierard remembers walking to the Village Theater as a five year old. “The Saturday matinee cost twelve cents for two cartoons, two main features, a newsreel, and a serial, like Superman or Rocket Man. I can remember as a five-year-old walking all the way across town with my dime and two pennies in my pocket.”

AHF plans to develop a suite of Manhattan Project tours on the “Ranger in Your Pocket” website. One tour in the works will feature Hanford’s prewar history, the T Plant and 300 Area operations, and expand on life at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. Another will focus on Bathtub Row, Fuller Lodge and the former Technical Area in downtown Los Alamos, NM. A third will address the extraordinary scientific and engineering innovations that came out of the Manhattan Project and their legacy for today.

For the B Reactor tour, AHF is very grateful for the support of the City of Richland and the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Thanks, too, to the B Reactor Museum Association for its invaluable contributions as well as the Department of Energy-Richland, Mission Support Alliance, TRIDEC, Hanford Communities, the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center and members of the Hanford History Project. AHF worked with 4Site Interactive Studios to design and develop the “Ranger in Your Pocket” website.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) is a nonprofit in Washington, DC, dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project and Atomic Age and its legacy. AHF has been working to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park with a coalition from the Manhattan Project sites and national organizations. AHF works to preserve historic sites and develop educational programming for students, teachers, and the general public. For more information about the Atomic Heritage Foundation, please visit www.atomicheritage.org