Reactor Museum Association Commemorative Sculpture Project

February 26, 2012

Archived from prior webpage:

One half century ago humankind entered the atomic age and the Hanford Engineering Works in Washington State, now the Hanford Site, played a significant role.  In 1943 Hanford was selected as the location for the world’s first full-sized production reactors.  Of the initial three reactors built, the B- reactor was the first to be finished, the first to achieve criticality and, most notably, the first reactor to produce significant amounts of plutonium.  Today, through the efforts of the B – Reactor Museum Association, this reactor has been officially recognized as a significant National Historic Landmark.  The Association has many plans for the preservation of the reactor and its legacy; from its conversion to a museum and interpretive center through the archiving and transcription of the continuing oral history/video project.  One of the B – Reactor Museum Association’s many current projects is the creation of a monumental sculpture.  It is an age-old tradition for civilization to delineate the historic significance of an event and place with art.  Sculpture is especially suited for such commemoration and James L. Acord, a member of the B – Reactor Museum Association since 1993 (?) and a sculptor for over 35 years, has accepted undertaking the creation of the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture.

Scope and Siting The B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture will serve as a focus to help mark and interpret B – Reactor itself.  Publicly accessible and in park-like settings, the primary elements of the artwork will be its location, its creation with materials and images which address B – Reactor, and supporting text relating the reactors history and relationship to humankind’s understanding of the nuclear age.  A principal and commanding element of this sculpture will be four monolithic upright stones that were originally produced as precision surface plates for Hanford and used for nuclear manufacturing applications.  These stones, donated to B – Reactor Museum Association by the Department of Energy in 1996 (?), will be carved in relief with images of the nuclear age and used to delineate the site along a fifty mile baseline.  Three of the stones will form a triptych in a land-formed berm near B – Reactor and the Vernita bridge, accessible from Highway 240.  This will be the principal location of the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture. Commensurate with the City of Richland being the home-site created for the men and women who built and operated B – Reactor, I propose that the fourth stone be located in Richland, preferably at or near the Science Center.  This solitary stone, relating to the major grouping at B-Reactor through its landscaped setting and its material and aesthetic components, will reflect the relationship between the people of Richland and the technology they created. Geographically, the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture will span the Hanford Site as well as the rich history of the B – Reactor itself.

The baseline created by the two sites, stretching between Richland and the Vernita bridge will define the parameters of the Hanford Sculpture Project, a larger plan in which the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture is both imbedded and is the first and principal part thereof.  In the future, additional sculpture sites will be created along this axis.  This sculptural grouping of sites, placed along the  B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture baseline and accessible from Highway 240, will address other aspects of Hanford’s history, its present and its future.  Upon completion of the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture, plans call for an earthwork site at the 200 area, a midpoint on the baseline, that will use twelve breeder-blanket assemblies (radioactive sealed sources) and native basalt stone for the upright monoliths.  This 200 area sculptural site will address the history of chemical separations and waste management practices at Hanford and contribute to that area’s environmental restoration.  Additional sites along the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture’s axis will involve other facets of Hanford’s history and contribute to and define its future use. Timeline and Sequencing The Hanford Sculpture Project, in its totality, is a complex artistic undertaking seldom rivaled in all time.  Many factors, besides aesthetics, will influence its success including political, social and economic considerations.  I propose that this overall project be planned sequentially with the first step being the completion of the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture in two phases.

Phase one will create the sculpture at the Science Center.  Phase two will be the larger sculptural grouping at B – Reactor, which will also become the baseline for the entire project.  Phase one, the Science Center site, is a logical beginning as the Association already possess the single stone to be used there, and securing site access should be reasonably achievable.  The scope of the work, including land-forming, is also manageable without incurring a great deal of expense.  The completion of phase one, estimated to take something less then one year, will offer a visually tangible and accessible demonstration of the vision of the B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture project.  Its excellence of execution will support fundraising for phase two and furthering all other goals of the B – Reactor Museum Association. Phase two is more complex and problematic due to uncertainties of site access as well as the much larger scope of the work.  I suggest that during the year needed to complete phase one, the B – Reactor Museum Association work to gain access to the Vernita/B – Reactor site, undertake the needed preliminary engineering studies, develop a budget and finalize the main design elements.  With adequate funding, site access and technical support from the community, phase two, and thereby the full B – Reactor Commemorative Sculpture, should be finished in two to three years from ground breaking.


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