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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The End, My Friend

Friends are interested in what’s in Hanford, Washington State and what it is Steve does here.  Hanford is the nuclear waste site for the approximately 100 metric tons of plutonium used in making weapons for the Cold War.  You remember the good ol’ fifties that Conservatives want to get back to.  We NEEDED that plutonium because the generals wanted to be prepared for 45 nuclear exchanges per hour.  Now, you might ask, what would be left after the first hour?  The answer is, I don’t know but not much. 

Steve works on hazard analysis at the Site.  That’s all I can tell you. I memorize one simplistic line about each project he’s worked on, and that’s it for this one.  Previous one-liners include:  measuring acid rain, working on methodology for cleaning up the Valdez oil spill, dismantling and storing material from Russian nuclear subs, securing nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union.  I know, right?  The only other thing I can tell you is that all his work happens in god-forsaken places, and here we are.   

More interesting to me is, why is Hanford called Hanford?  I’m going on a tour of the original reactor next week, so I hope I can to report the answer back to you.  (That would not be Reactor B.  Why isn’t it called Reactor A?  I don’t know that either. Was there a Reactor A, and, if so, what happened to it?)  The name makes no sense.  We’re here in the tri-cities [Richland (including West Richland), Kennewick and, across the bridge, Pasco].  None of the cities is called Hanford.  I know Hanford is the Hanford Reservation, but you’d think it would be called the Yakama Reservation because it is on, well, the Yakama Indian Reservation.  Yeah, I could Google the name, but what fun is that?

Meanwhile, I get up at 5:45 three mornings a week to take Steve to work.  Occasionally he needs the car to go to a meeting or go out to the Site, but ,otherwise, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I drop off and pick up him and his colleague, Jim.  Jim’s wife drives Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we each take our man the every other Friday that they work.  It’s taken me several weeks of this commute to notice the name of the office building they work in:  Omega Park.

I don’t know if there’s an Alpha Park; I haven’t seen it. (Maybe it went the way of Reactor A; who knows?) It would be fun, though to drive from an Alpha Park to Omega Park: from A to Z, from beginning to end. Well, all we have is Omega, the end.  We hope it’s the end as in, the Hanford Site is all safely cleaned up, and there’s no danger and no more work here; we hope it’s not the end as in, BOOM.

1 comment:

  1. You probably know about the Missoula Floods already just from being in the area but I find the entire idea amazing. 15,000 years ago repeated Glacial Lake Outbursts formed the general topology of the entire region you are in and carved the 100 mile long Columbia River Gorge through the Cascade mountain range. There are estimates of 200 foot high walls of water traveling from present day Idaho to the Pacific Ocean at speeds of over 80 mph. The rampaging torrent may have sometimes lasted for no more than two days while emptying 500 cubic miles of water. This seems to have happened between 25 and 40 times over thousands of years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods