The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Virginia Ballard's Interview

Virginia Ballard's Interview

Virginia Ballard was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Her parents immigrated to the US from Scotland. In 1944, Ballard’s family moved to Richland, Washington where her father worked for DuPont. After attending college, Ballard went to work for GE and Exxon Nuclear. Her last job before retirement was as executive secretary to the manager for Siemens. Ballard had two children – Bruce and Diane – with her husband Del. In this interview, Ballard discusses her family’s relocation to Richland and her experience living there as a teenager. In particular, she talks about the high school she attended and recreational activities for teenagers at the time. Ballard also describes the town of Richland and its economy. She explains social and economic changes that occurred before, during, and after the war. Commenting on the secrecy of the scientific activity going on at Richland, Ballard shares that the dropping of the bomb came as a surprise to residents of Richland, but their reactions were positive and they expressed great pride in the work of their fellow residents. She hopes that the Hanford area and B Reactor will be preserved as an important historical site.

John Price's Interview

John Price's Interview

John Price is an environmental manager who has been working on radioactive waste cleanup projects for more than 35 years. Currently, he is the Tri-Party Agreement Section Manager for the Washington Department of Ecology Nuclear Waste Program. In this interview, he discusses the Tri- Party Agreement and the role it plays in ensuring the cleanup of Hanford site. He also talks about the political and the technical problems the Department of Ecology, the US Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency face when trying to clean up the area.

Glenn Schweitzer's Interview

Glenn Schweitzer's Interview

Glenn Schweitzer is the director of the Program on Central Europe and Eurasia at the National Academy of Sciences. In this interview, Schweitzer discusses his distinguished career in international scientific cooperation. He began as a Foreign Service Officer in Yugoslavia before moving on to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and then the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Schweitzer later worked for the Environmental Protection Agency at the Nevada Test Site. From 1992-1994, he served as the first director of the newly created International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. Schweitzer extensively explains the lessons and legacies of these scientific cooperation efforts, including their applicability to dealing with current issues with Iran and North Korea.

Keith Klein's Interview

Keith Klein's Interview

Keith Klein has worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy since graduating from college. In this interview, he recounts the timeline of his tenure with the AEC and DOE. He held positions on their Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor program, nuclear waste disposal, and with Tritium production. Klein was active in the efforts to clean up the Rocky Flats plant site after the FBI raid in 1989 and coordinated the opening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He oversaw the DOE’s cleanup effort at Hanford, and was fundamental in establishing DOE’s Office of River Protection. Klein speaks to the current debate and myths surrounding nuclear waste cleanup, the challenges that remain and the progress that has been made, and his vision for the future.

Siegfried Hecker's Interview

Siegfried Hecker's Interview (2018)

Siegfried Hecker is an American nuclear scientist who served as the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997. Today, he is professor emeritus (research) in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University and a senior fellow emeritus at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. In this interview, Hecker describes how his family immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1956. He then discusses his time at Los Alamos, including his scientific work and directorship, which took place as the Cold War was coming to a close. Hecker reflects on the American-Russian collaboration funded by the Nunn-Lugar Act during the 1990s and 2000s, as well as the nuclear disarmament of former Soviet republics. He also notes the challenges that American and Russian nuclear scientists face in trying to collaborate today. Hecker also discusses his work on China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and North Korea, where he made seven trips between 2004 and 2010.

Dennis Faulk's Interview

Dennis Faulk's Interview

Dennis Faulk served as the project manager for the Environmental Protection Agency at the Hanford Site. He began working for the EPA in 1991. In this interview, Faulk explains the early years of Superfund cleanups in the 1990s, forming the Hanford Advisory Board, and the EPA’s relationship with the Department of Energy at Hanford.

John Fox's Interview

John Fox's Interview

John Fox is a mechanical engineer who worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Battelle. He later served as mayor of Richland, WA and president of the B Reactor Museum Association. In this interview, Fox recounts his experiences working at Hanford during the Cold War and the Korean War in the 1950s. He discusses the reprocessing ban instituted by the Carter Administration and the challenges that have caused delays in building the Vitrification Plant. He also describes the worker protections established at Hanford during the Manhattan Project, and his interest in environmental activities.

Robert Franklin's Interview

Robert Franklin's Interview

Robert Franklin is the assistant director of the Hanford History Project. In this role, he is the archivist and oral historian for the Department of Energy’s Hanford Collection and Washington State University’s collections on Hanford. He attended Washington State University in Pullman and earned his Master’s degree in history. In graduate school, he took a graduate-level seminar on the Hanford oral history project, which sparked his interest in Hanford and the impacts of the Manhattan Project on the rural, agricultural communities in Washington. In this interview, Franklin discusses the general history of Hanford, displacement of Hanford area residents during the Manhattan Project, and current efforts to preserve the site. He also describes some of the pre-Manhattan Project properties that can be visited today, including the White Bluffs Bank.

Martin Moeller's Interview

Martin Moeller's Interview

Martin Moeller is the Senior Curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., where the exhibition “Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project” opened in 2018. In this interview, Moeller describes the history behind the exhibition and its key themes. He focuses in particular on the role of the firm of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill in designing Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He also discusses how segregation was built into the Manhattan Project’s secret cities and the Manhattan Project’s legacies for American architecture.

Tom Carpenter's Interview

Tom Carpenter's Interview

Tom Carpenter is a lawyer and the executive director of Hanford Challenge, a nonprofit watchdog and advocacy organization focused on the Hanford Nuclear Site. In this interview, Carpenter discusses founding the Hanford Challenge, and the struggle to enforce safety and environmental protocols at reprocessing plants in Cincinnati and Hanford. He describes the challenges of the cleanup effort at Hanford, including the waste tanks and the problems that have plagued the construction of the Vitrification Plant. Carpenter also shares his experiences of visiting contaminated areas in Russia between the late 1990s and 2005.

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