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New OPB Documentary Explores History of the Hanford Nuclear Site

OPB | Aug. 21, 2013 1:38 a.m. | Updated: Dec. 11, 2013 11:20 a.m.

Oregon Experience special airs Sept. 16 at 9:00 p.m. on OPB TV; Special Advance Screening in Richland, WA on Sept. 12

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) will premiere a new Oregon Experience special “Hanford,” which gives viewers an up-close look at the history of the nuclear reservation located near Richland, Washington during World War II and through the Cold War years. The one-hour special premieres Monday, September 16 at 9:00 p.m. on OPB TV.

What once was the nation’s largest producer of plutonium for America’s nuclear arsenal, the Hanford nuclear site is now the nation’s biggest environmental clean up project—generating recent attention, discussion and debate.

“Hanford” gives audiences a look at the history of the nuclear reservation, beginning in 1943, as World War II (WWII) raged in Europe and the Pacific. During this time, thousands of men and women from across the United States began arriving in a remote part of south central Washington State. The U.S. Government had hired them for a very important project to support the war effort—but they knew very little about it.  

It was a project that would change the world forever. Hanford Engineering Works, as it was called, was one of three major components in the top secret Manhattan Project – the project to build the world’s first nuclear weapon.

After an American chemist identified the new man-made element plutonium in 1941, the Hanford site was selected as the place to build the massive plant needed to manufacture it on an industrial scale. The task seemed impossible: Build the world’s first full scale nuclear reactors and hundreds of other buildings that would be needed. The project was based on scientific theory. No one knew exactly how to do this or if it would succeed because it had never been done before.

On August 9, 1945, a bomb armed with plutonium made in Hanford exploded over Nagasaki, Japan effectively ending WWII. After the war ended, many thought Hanford would close down; but in the late 1940s the Cold War began. Hanford then got bigger as America began stockpiling a nuclear arsenal.  

Shot on location, “Hanford” tells the story of the early history of the nuclear site largely through the words of people who worked there during World War II and during Hanford’s expansion during the Cold War years. Several participants in the program are also local Richland residents.

Viewers of the program will see early archival film shot at Hanford and remarkable photographs taken over the years. “Hanford” also goes inside the B-reactor—the first full-scale nuclear reactor in the world—that is now being preserved as a National Historic Landmark. 

In advance of the Sept. 16 documentary, OPB is hosting a special “Hanford” screening event on Thursday, Sept. 12 at the Richland Public Library. The event is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the screening will begin at 7:00 p.m. There will also be a Q&A with the program’s producer immediately following.

On Monday, Sept.16, OPB’s daily radio show “Think Out Loud” will also dedicate its one-hour program to a discussion on Hanford, where Host Dave Miller will discuss with guests the current Hanford environmental clean up effort and more. For more information, please visit www.opb.org/thinkoutloud.

Oregon Experience’s “Hanford” will air on Monday, Sept. 16 at 9 p.m. on OPB TV. Before, during and after the special, followers on social media can use the hashtag #HanfordHistory to comment and join a conversation about the program.  For more information, please visit http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperience   

 

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About Oregon Experience

Oregon Experience is an exciting history series on OPB TV that brings to life stories that help us understand this place where we live and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. Co-produced with the Oregon Historical Society, the series draws upon the Society’s skilled researchers and extensive photography and moving-image archives. The program also incorporates OPB’s own film and video resources and the expertise of some of Oregon’s finest historians. Each episode features captivating characters – both familiar and forgotten – who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. This program is supported in part by the Robert D. and Marcia H. Randall Fund for Lifelong Learning, the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, the Oregon Cultural Trust, Kay Kitagawa & Andy Johnson-Laird, and The Clark Foundation.


About OPB 
OPB is the largest cultural and education institution in the region, delivering excellence in public broadcasting to 1.5 million people each week through television, radio and the Internet. Widely recognized as a national leader in the public broadcasting arena, OPB is a major contributor to the program schedule that serves the entire country. OPB is one of the most-used and most-supported public broadcasting services in the country and is generously supported by members across Oregon and southern Washington. For more information, visit www.opb.org

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