This program was recorded at the 25th anniversary of the construction of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, in Hanford, WA. Leading Manhattan Project scientists, including Glenn Seaborg, John Wheeler, Lombard Squires, and Norman Hilberry, as well as its military leaders, General Leslie R. Groves and Colonel Franklin Matthias, participated in the ceremony. They discussed the start of the Manhattan Project, how the reactor’s site was chosen, the challenges of building the reactor and the chemical separations plant, and the different processes that were considered to separate plutonium. They also recalled the relationship between the military and civilian scientists and why they became involved in the Manhattan Project to help win World War II. They philosophized on the significance of nuclear power and its potential for future projects, from agriculture to space exploration.
Colonel Franklin Matthias was the officer-in-charge at the Hanford site. In this interview, Matthias discusses his early life and his placement as the officer-in-charge at Hanford. He also talks about the relationships between DuPont and the military and the scientists, as well as how cooperation was essential. Matthias remembers the various problems that plagued the Hanford site and how he and his colleagues overcame them.
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.
Daniel D. Friel was a chemical engineer for the DuPont Company who joined the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago in 1943. Friel was assigned to design the optics for remote operations in Hanford’s T-Plant, a state-of-the-art chemical separations facility. Under Charles M. Cooper and George Monk, Friel invented equipment based on preexisting military technology to see behind walls at the separation plant and the B Reactor. Friel discusses the use of television and periscopes, describing how challenging it was to create a completely new technology without any precedent to refer to. After the war, Friel continued working for DuPont and making inventions.
In this interview, General Groves discusses the start of the Manhattan Project. He remembers the troubles he had working with Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner and the importance of redundancy in designing the bomb and plants like the T-Plant. He recounts how the Project came about in the first place, and the early discussions about how to proceed with uranium enrichment, plutonium production, and bomb development.