Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hanford, the Bomb and...Madagascar

B Reactor National Historic Landmark, Hanford, WA
In 1944 construction began on Hanford Engineer Works (  This portion of the Manhattan Project was designed to build large quantities of plutonium along the Columbia River in Washington State.  What had once been a desert quickly became the home to around 51,000 workers -- the fourth largest city in the state was built in matter of months.
Hanford Control Room
Most of these workers had no idea what it was they were laboring on.  Some thought that they were building parachutes for the war effort.  They knew that it was highly secret.  Hanford supplied the plutonium that was used for the Trinity test in Los Alamos, New Mexico in July of 1945.  Hanford also supplied the material that was used for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 (see,,,  Six days after the second bomb was dropped Emperor Hirihito announced the surrender of Japan via radio.
PEACE breaks out!
After the bomb was dropped the local paper in Richland / Hanford summed it up: "PEACE!  OUR BOMB CLINCHED IT!  Plant Will Not close!  Japs Surrender"
B Reactor Core, Hanford, WA
Many people know about the atomic bomb and Hanford's role in creating it.  Very few, however, know that the Hanford facility was ironically itself the victim of a Japanese balloon bomb attack in March of 1945.  The Hanford Engineer Works was briefly shutdown after a Fu-Go bomb launched from Japan struck the high tension wires of the Bonneville Power Administration that supplied the plant.  It marked the only time in history that an American nuclear power plant was shutdown due to enemy action.

Even fewer are aware of the surprising connection between Hanford and Madagascar.  No, it has nothing to do with escaped lemurs!

In the Madagascar chapter of America Invades we detailed the astonishing link between Madagascar and the A-bomb...

"It was the French who ultimately became the Western power dominating the island, which meant that in 1942, with Vichy France in control of Madagascar, strategically located near vital Allied supply routes, the Allies had a problem. The result was the British invasion of Madagascar in that year, Operation Ironclad. Now we didn’t play much of a role in that, at least not openly, but it is interesting to note that almost as soon as the invasion was complete and successful, we sent in people to start shipping graphite from Madagascar to America as a crucial component of the project to create eventually an atomic bomb. The first nuclear chain reacting pile was built towards the end of 1942 and used four hundred tons of graphite. The second was built in the spring of 1943 with the first graphite shipment from Madagascar. Some have even suggested the acquisition of this graphite was at least one of the motives for the invasion in the first place."  (Source: America Invades,
America Invades with a bomber escort of Bombshell Red
Airfield Winery, Sunnyside WA
The graphite that was used to construct the plutonium inside Fat Man (the bomb used on Nagasaki) came from Madagascar.  Without Madagascar's graphite, the Allies might not have been able to  "move it, move it" in WW2!
Go Richland Bombers!
Richland, the largest city near Hanford, remains basically proud of the role they played in world history.  Richland's High School Football team is called the "Bombers" (  In a world run amok with political correctness, the Bombers have refused to buckle and deny what is part of their core historical identity.
Look Ma, No water and no Plutonium since 1968!
The Hanford plant stopped producing plutonium in 1968 and has never re-opened except for tourists.  According to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty re-affirmed by the Russians in 1995, we have a right to inspect Russian nuclear facilities and the Russians have the right to inspect ours.  Every summer a group of Russian officials descend upon Hanford's B Reactor to verify that it is not producing any plutonium.  They soon adjourn to some of Washington's wineries to sample the delicious local product.

America Invades Hanford
Travel Notes: The National Park Service now operates free tours of the Hanford site  Registration is required and photography is permitted.  The tours leave from a location in Richland and take about four hours including two 45 minute bus rides to the plant.  Some amazing wineries can be found near Richland. Here are three I enjoyed... and  But very few three-eyed glowing fish!

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