So Dad, Uncle Andy, Uncle Clifford and I got to tour the Nuclear Reactor Facility in Hanford today. Dad picked me up yesterday evening and we drove ~4 hours to Richland. It was so special to be able to get some time just as the two of us. It's not very often that I get to talk to my Dad and have his full attention these days. Hanford is a decommissioned nuclear facility. It is no longer producing anything. It is now being actively cleaned up and decontaminated.
It would be impossible for me to recount everything I learned on the hour tour. We weren't allowed to bring cameras into the facility (security related), so I ended up doing a lot of fast sketching.
One of the stops that we all agreed was one of the main standouts was the B Reactor. From my understanding, this reactor was were the refined Uranium was produced that ended up in Fat Man and Little Boy, the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I had a hard time not crying as I stared up at the MASSIVE reactor core that would ultimately take so many lives. What amazed me was that people were able to make such refined machinery without the aid of computers. Seeing the control room for the B-Reactor made me really appreciate my job as a barista. I could not imagine the stress involved with controlling a reactor that if you made a mistake, the best case scenario would be that you would ruin a billion dollar machine, and worst case scenario you would kill everyone in the surrounding area. It puts "I'm having a rough day" into perspective.
Sketch of the B Reactor Exterior and the face of the reactor itself:
The Hanford site was chosen for its close proximity to the Columbia River. All of the reactors were cooled simply by spraying water through small tubes that run through the graphite cores. When the tour guide was trying to explain just how HOT it got in the reactor core when it was runnning, he said that the water entered one side of the reactor at river temperature and shot through the 30'+ of graphite in 1.5 seconds and arrived at the other side just below boiling temperature. Maybe GE should use this technology to make stoves that heat water even faster!
Another sketch of the B-Reactor:
We also toured the cleanup site of the twin K-Reactors. Many of the other reactors we saw on our tour were "cocooned" meaning they had been wrapped in concrete and are just waiting for the nuclear material within them to deteriorate enough so that the workers can clean it up safely. The K-Reactors must have passed that test, because the workers were braking down the buildings and mining out the contaminated soil.
Sketch of K-West Reactor and the hazardous waste materials container that the contaminated soil was being put in:
Sketch of K-West again:
All in all, I learned more than I ever thought possible about nuclear reactors and the devastation that building nuclear bombs causes. I was impressed with all the safety precautions that the Hanford employees underwent to maintain human safety while protecting the environment at the same time.
Uncle Clifford, Dad and I:
The Brothers (missing Doug, of course)--Cliff, Ron, Andy:
Dad and I were able to stop on the road out of town and snap a picture of one of the reactors. We didn't stick around long because we were afraid that all of Hanford would rain down on us and condemn us for being photo takers.