Part of the top secret “Manhattan Project,” Hanford Engineer Works emerged from the tumbleweeds against long odds. Only a handful of workers understood their true mission. In a world pre-dating computers, engineers finalized designs using slide rules. Scientists perfected calculations in record time.
The world’s first full scale nuclear production reactor produced a powerful new element. Hanford plutonium helped end World War II and ushered in the Atomic Age.
“If the Germans had got it before we did, I don’t know what would have happened to the world. Something different.”
- Leona Marshall Libby, a scientist
On August 9, 1945, “Fat Man” exploded over Nagasaki with the power of 20,000 tons of TNT. The explosion spewed a ball of fire and a towering mushroom cloud. Trees snapped. Concrete buildings toppled. More than 60,000 people died.
“I realize the tragic significance of the atom bomb, [but we] have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.” - Harry Truman
Among survivors and environmentalists, the bomb and ensuing plutonium production at Hanford remain controversial. For many Americans, however, the B Reactor stands as a landmark to lives saved. Development of the atomic bomb also resulted in Yttrium 90, a medical isotope used to treat cancer.
Main background image: Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration. Image of bomb: Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.