70 Years Ago: First Full-Scale Nuclear Reactor At Hanford Starts Up
Seventy years ago Friday, an 11-month frenzied construction project went hot. It all happened in the remote southeast Washington desert.
Scientists pulled the control rods out of the first full-scale nuclear reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The startup of B Reactor is one of the key moments in the dawn of the Atomic Age.
In 1944, the headlines this week talked about: the presidential race between FDR and Thomas Dewey, the price of butter and Prime Minister Churchill predicting WWII might stretch into 1945.
There wasn’t a single mention of the Manhattan Project.
The goal was to make a nuclear bomb before the Germans. And even though they called the large-scale reactor at Hanford “The B Reactor,” it was first of the kind.
The reactor made the plutonium that was used in the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Maynard Plahuta is a retired federal manager at Hanford and president of the B Reactor Museum Association.
“You can read all kinds of books and histories on why we should have or should not have dropped the bomb,” Plahuta said. “But anyways that was the war effort.”
The B Reactor muscled through to see part of the Cold War. Then sat idle for decades. Now, there’s a push to make the site a national park.
For the 70th anniversary, organizers are busing around 250 people past federal guards and gates for wine and music of the era -- including women from the Mid-Columbia Master Singers.
The event sold out in three days.