Hanford’s Legacy – U.S. Technical History of Plutonium Production for the Manhattan Project

In September 1942, Glenn Seaborg and his team isolated nearly 3 micrograms of plutonium (the first weighing of any synthetic element in history), and in early 1943, General Leslie Groves and his staff had a desolate area along the Columbia River scouted as the location which would become the Hanford Site.  Within 30 months, these two individuals led the nearly insurmountable effort of designing and building the first large scale plutonium production capability in the world.  The nine reactors on the Hanford site were operational from 1944-1987 and generated 67 metric tons of plutonium including the plutonium used for the Trinity test and the Fat Man bomb resulting in the global nuclear deterrent posture that exists to this day.  In addition to its ongoing plutonium production mission, the Hanford Site also served as a scientific testbed for the development of the nuclear power industry and the separations of nuclear isotopes used in industry and medicine. The legacy of Hanford is typically associated with the millions of gallons of nuclear waste still isolated and protected in underground tanks on site; however, the author will contend that the work accomplished during the Manhattan Project transformed the global geo-political, economic, and technological landscape like no other singularly focused effort has before or since.

Key dates:

Registration deadline:

26 October 2020 (17:00 BST)