Saints visit Hanford’s B Reactor

Jessilyn Dagum, Staff Writer


On Nov. 10, 2017, CHM395, COM395, IDS301, SOC395, and WRT320 classes all traveled to Eastern Washington to visit the REACH museum and Hanford Nuclear Reactor. You might be wondering how so many classes could possibly go on the same field trip. The answer? It’s because they’re all the same class. On paper, the class is called Ethics in Writing, but this semester it is officially titled, “Atomic Narratives,” a name coined for the elective by co-instructors, Arwyn Smalley, Ph.D., and Nathalie Kuriowa-Lewis, Ph.D. The cross-listed class explores the science and rhetoric involved in the development of the atomic bomb and the decision to drop two on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In short, within the theme of the atomic bomb, there’s something that appeals to almost every discipline. One of the most highlighted features of the class is a field trip to the nuclear reactor used to make the atomic bomb.

At approximately 8:00 a.m., the class set out from Saint Martin’s to Richland, Wash. where their first destination was the REACH museum. Four hours and a few bathroom stops later, the class arrived at the museum and after a brief introduction by the museum’s staff, students were free to explore. From basalt lava flow simulations to historical artifacts from the Manhattan Project, students were able to immerse themselves in the rich history of the area and its role in the creation of the atomic bomb. Students, faculty, and their family members explored the museum’s four galleries which included the entry hall’s artwork and information as well as an outdoor exhibit of other large-scale displays. As the sun started to set, the group took a walk along the Columbia River which neighbored the museum and learned more about the role the large body of water played in Hanford’s nuclear reactor. The group spent the night at one of Richland’s downtown hotels where students and faculty were able to enjoy the lights of the Columbia river’s bridge. The next day’s adventure was a visit to the Hanford site.

That Saturday, the group drove to the Manhattan Project B Reactor Visitor Center where they viewed several displays and an introductory video on the nuclear reactor. The group was also joined by a team from VICE News who were covering the day’s tour for an episode on HBO. A thirty-minute drive out through  Hanford’s empty fields and the group arrived at the B reactor. Today, guarded by a single gate, the once top-secret building was used for the production of plutonium-239 as part of the Manhattan Project, the United States nuclear weapons development program during World War II. At the doors of the reactor the group was greeted by the staff and those who would be presenting on different areas of the reactor, including a more in-depth history of the reactor and the reactor’s control room. After a general presentation, the group was free to explore the different rooms of the colossal building. “It was like stepping back in time,” remarks Paige Miller, a senior. Each room had been refurbished to look as it did during the time of production and artifacts were kept in a pristine condition. Although meant to look like the past in almost every room there were photographs of what the reactor had looked like back in the day. In one room hung a collage of atomic warning signs that used to be posted all around the site once again reminding the group that they were only a few feet from highly radioactive material, but were, of course, safe. Miller went on to say, “The trip was really fun. We got to see a national landmark and learn about the reactor’s role in the war effort as well as the atomic bomb.”

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