Newton Stapleton worked for the legal department at DuPont when he was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project. He became responsible for security and secrecy at Hanford, WA. He describes the security procedures in place, including how background checks were conducted and badges were issued. He discusses the emphasis on secrecy and how DuPont’s leaders urged workers to keep quiet about their work. Stapleton recalls the challenge of getting a four-bedroom home in Richland and bringing his family out to Richland.
Stephane Groueff: Hello. Colonel Matthias, if you can tell me the story of how the plutonium was shipped.
Colonel Franklin Matthias: Is this good enough.
Groueff: Yeah, it is good enough. The plutonium was shipped from Hanford to—?
Matthias: To Los Alamos.
Groueff: To Los Alamos.
Carl Higby: My name is Carl Higby. Last name spelled H-I-G-B-Y. Carl with a C.
Tell us how and when you came to Hanford.
Higby: Well, in 1950 when I graduated at Washington State University, a recruiter was visiting the WSU campus and made a job offer. It turns out that was the only job offer got, so I came here. Had to wait after graduation until I received my security clearance, that was an essential first step. That came through and I arrived here on my birthday, in July 1950.
After graduating Washington State University in 1950, Carl Higby was recruited to work at Hanford as an operations supervisor for the reactors. Higby discusses some of the problems that arose when the reactor was online, and explains how impurities in the coolant water could plug some of the sensor tubes and force them to shut the reactor down.
[Interviewed by Cynthia Kelly, Tom Zannes, and Thomas E. Marceau.]
Gabriel Bohnee: My name is Gabriel Bohnee. I'm Nez Perce tribal member, work for the Nez Perce’s tribe Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Office as an environmental specialist.
How'd you first learn about the Hanford site?
Gabriel Bonhee is a Nez Perce tribal member and an environmental specialist at the Nez Perce Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Office. Bonhee became involved with the effort to clean up the Hanford site after learning about the site as an intern in 1993. Bonhee discusses his tribe’s connection with the land surrounding the Hanford site and the importance of the Columbia River and its resources for the Native Americans indigenous to the area.
Jack Keen: My father was an engineering draftsman at Hanford. I was—depending on what the months were—probably three or four years old.
Richard Rhodes: When you went there?
Keen: Right, when I lived there in one of those big, duplex houses. My mother, father and I lived in those duplexes for a time when I was a little kid.
Rhodes: What was his name?
Keen: His name was Lester Orlan, O-R-L-A-N, Keen, K-E-E-N.
Rhodes: And what was your mother’s name?
Jack Keen is the son of Lester Orlan Keen, an engineering draftsman at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. He was three when his father took the job at Hanford and spent a couple years at the Hanford site as a young child. In this interview, Keen talks about his childhood memories of Hanford and his family’s living situation at the site. He discusses his father’s work and dedication to secrecy. Keen also reminisces about visiting the Hanford site as an adult and learning about the environmental impact as well as the sheer scale of the project.
Stephane Groueff: Okay, now it’s recording. Dr. Foote, you started telling me from the beginning—
Frank G. Foote: Knowing nothing about the uranium, and this was supposed to be my new business; I’d go over to the library to find out what was known.
Groueff: In 1942?
Frank G. Foote and James F. Schumar were metallurgists who worked on the Manhattan Project. Foote worked in metallurgy at the Metallurgical Lab at the University of Chicago, while Schumar developed procedures for cladding metallic uranium fuel rods with aluminum for Hanford’s B Reactor and Chicago Pile-3. In this interview, they discuss the challenges of working with uranium metallurgy, from safety issues to the strange properties of uranium metal. They explain their involvement in designing the slugs used in early nuclear reactors.