William Baumgartner Oral History

Dublin Core


William Baumgartner Oral History


Hanford Atomic Products Operation
T Plant


An audio oral history interview with William Baumgartner for the B Reactor Museum Association. Baumgartner was a 200 Area Chemist at the Hanford Site during the early Cold War. Interview is split into two parts.


B Reactor Museum Association


Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project.





Oral History Item Type Metadata


Gene Weisskopf


William V. Baumgartner


Home of William Baumgartner


Interview of William V. Baumgartner
on audio tape (not video)
at his home in Richland, WA
April 11, 2001
Interviewed by Gene Weisskopf, BRMA

Keywords: “200 Area”, “T Plant”, chemistry


WEISSKOPF: Can you give me your name and…
BAUMGARTNER: My name is William Vincent Baumgartner.
WEISSKOPF: And today’s date.
BAUMGARTNER: Today is what, April 11th, the year 2001.
WEISSKOPF: I don’t care what direction we go, I am interested in maybe, just, how about briefly what were you were doing before you came here?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh, I came straight out of school. Got my degree on June 11th and I signed on on the 15th.
WEISSKOPF: Did you come here specifically from your degree?
BAUMGARTNER: Yes. I had two job opportunities. One was DuPont back east. The other one was Hanford here, with GE here. I didn’t have enough money to get back east so I took this one.
WEISSKOPF: What was your degree in?
BAUMGARTNER: Which you would expect.
WEISSKOPF: ____(unclear) been a lot of work here?
BAUMGARTNER: Right. When we came in, we were tech rads. There were 500 of us.
WEISSKOPF: Every year there were 500?
BAUMGARTNER: No, because they were stocking chemists for REDOX.
WEISSKOPF: And what year was that?
WEISSKOPF: Was that the fall or?
BAUMGARTNER: We came in June and REDOX went online, I think, in ’52 or ’53, and so they were getting us prepared. Think about it, all of these were Q-cleared people so it took several months in my case. It took from June until the end of August. At which time we then went to, I went to T Plant and I was in T Plant from August of ’51 until November of ’52. And at that time we had a lot of changes, a lot of new supervision. The supervisors were changing because B Plant was shutting down or shut down, and so we were picking up those supervisors plus all the new chemists that were wandering through. In the original, from 1945 until at that time, there was only one shift chemist and we had four shifts, you know A, B, C, D shifts, which means we were working 7 days a week from the clock. The plant never shut down, it didn’t even shut down for holidays.
WEISSKOPF: But you were working normal 8-hour days.
BAUMGARTNER: Normal 8-hour days 5 days a week, and see you’d work swing, days, and graveyard.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, and they rotated them rather quickly right?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, it would be like 7 graveyards…
WEISSKOPF: 7 weeks or 7 days.
BAUMGARTNER: No 7 days. Every 28-day was a cycle.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah. I think they have changed that since then.
BAUMGARTNER: Well, it depends. They might be working 10-hour shifts. We don’t have anything now “operating” that needs to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At that time no one wanted to shut the plants down. We were going into, at that time, the cold war and things were getting really sticky because we knew that the Russians had weapons and they were making lots of them. So we were just in the process of making more and better than anybody else.
WEISSKOPF: So when you arrived, things were gearing up?
BAUMGARTNER: We were gearing up for REDOX. B Plant shut down. T Plant was going to shut down as soon as REDOX got going because REDOX was built to handle not only all of the material that our reactors could produce but what Savannah River could produce; it was that big a plant.
WEISSKOPF: Were they going to ship stuff out here?
BAUMGARTNER: They did. They actually did. Our material that we made here had what was called the lowest MWd material, megawatt days per ton, that was a unit of measurement. Our plutonium was what we call 500 megawatt days per ton. Savannah River reactors were quite large and they couldn’t give us any material that had less than 1,000 megawatt days per ton, and so we had to end up blending to ours in order to get a weapon that… What do you know about plutonium?
WEISSKOPF: More than the general layperson.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, plutonium as it comes from the reactor, what you really want is plutonium 239 and you don’t want 240 and 241. The higher the MWd the more 240 and 241 is in the plutonium, which is not a weapon.
WEISSKOPF: And it ends up in your finished product…
BAUMGARTNER: Right, and you can separate that out easily. You just can’t, not with what we’ve got. That’s plutonium and we use a chemical reaction to get the plutonium separated from everything.
WEISSKOPF: Would a 1,000 megawatt day have more…
BAUMGARTNER: 240 and 241, and that’s not a good weapon material so we blended it with our 500 and basically ____ (unclear) 750 megawatt days per ton which was our weapons. And the material that we got from the reactors would sit out in the reactor, in the basins, or in 200 R Area basin for at least 60 days for cooling off. So the law of the short half-life materials were gone and then we would bring it into T Plant cask. 1,500 pounds of metal, dissolve that up, separate the plutonium out of that at T Plant using a bismuth phosphate ____ (s/l coprecipitator) in the front end of the canyon and then we would transfer it over to 224, and then they would use allantoin. Allantoin brings now more plutonium for less. In other words, the precipitation is such that there is more plutonium per pound on the ____ (s/l precipity) than there is with bismuth, but bismuth doesn’t bring down fission products in uranium, where as lanthanum would have a tendency to bring out some of these other things. To give you a little insight, at the time when we were running this we were literally using up all the bismuth that was being mined in America. Does that tell ya? So, in other words, we were using a lot of bismuth.
WEISSKOPF: And throwing it out each batch?
BAUMGARTNER: That was all going into the waste tanks.
BAUMGARTNER: Every bit of it, that’s in the waste tanks. One of these days, we’ll mine that.
BAUMGARTNER: You know cause it’s… Anyway, T Plant, then the canyon building had the bismuth extract from the dissolver, and the volume. The final volume of the plutonium was, I think, something on…. if you can get a hold of a C-Manual.
WEISSKOPF: I’ve got it.
BAUMGARTNER: Have you? It is a very large book
BAUMGARTNER: That will tell you chemically everything you need to know. That was classified TS in 1950. Only a few people got a chance to read that, I was one of them.
WEISSKOPF: When you came here did they sit you down with something like that, or?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, I was in a very interesting position. When I went to T Plant, the laboratory 222-T, my first assignment…Now we had three chemists instead of one, so my first assignment was to go to 271-T laboratory, which was a “cold” laboratory. In other words, we weren’t handling any of the reactor materials. This was cold solutions that we were using to make these strikes, you know, as we were going up the process. There were like six solutions that we had to make up for this process. Recognize the C-Manual was written from test tube chemistry to this 1,800 foot long canyon building, and so in the early days when they got to operating they didn’t hesitate to make two or three bismuth strikes to get all of the plutonium out, because they wanted the plutonium. But as time went on, making multi-strikes when a single strike should work is what they were going for and when I got there they were averaging three strikes to get all of the plutonium out of a batch.
WEISSKOPF: Another word for strike is…
BAUMGARTNER: Is where you precipitate down with bismuth and you ended up having to use three times before you could get all of the plutonium out. Okay, then I went into 271-T Laboratory where we did the cold chemistry. Read the C-Manual, and it turns out that in the C-Manual, if you look at it very carefully the variance on the chemicals that you could use, when it said 6 normal it didn’t mean
4-1/2 or 5, it meant say like 5.8 to 6.2. Well, what was happening is that we weren’t quite as careful, our laboratory had gotten dirty over the years and so we were walking outside the limits. Even though we were saying it was 6.0, it really wasn’t for a lot of reasons. One is dirty tools, dirty laboratory, and the other is our standards weren’t good, weren’t as good as they could have been. I got in there and I got the dubious job of trying to figure out how we can get it so we can get down to one. And we did that, it took me about a month and we cleaned up all the chemical, all the glassware, went down and got a brand new set of calibrations that was really very fine, that had to meet the specifications. And then when that happened, we went down to a single strike and we were able to get the plutonium out. When that happened, operations then glommed onto me and says “ We can’t take any more chances, this guy is going to do that all the time.” So I ended up making solutions for about three or four months.
WEISSKOPF: Your talking about major gallons of solutions ____ (unclear)?
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, yeah yeah approximately.
WEISSKOPF: The cold chemicals that they were using.
BAUMGARTNER: Right, the cold chemicals that were used right. And they have to be made up to specification. Yeah, we made like 500 gallons at a crack, type of thing. Ferrous sulfate, we only made like 50 gallons and we used 50 gallons. That was not something that you could leave hanging around, which they did and then therefore the ferrous sulfate solution wasn’t as strong as it should have been, even though yesterday or the day before we measured it and it was like say, so much normality, and it turns out the next day if you leave it sit in the same ____(unclear) it is gonna be a lot less. That was part of the problem and we got that cleaned up, and when we did, then they decided oh golly, we’re now one strike per run, well let’s see if we can’t make a run, a real just see how much this plant could really have produced. And they never had in the earlier days, you know when they only had F, H, and D, in the very early days, the reactors. See and then the R came on and B Plant, you know and F, B, and C Plant, and then the two. When they came, you know as they got more and more, then these B and T Plant they didn’t have to be efficient because they had enough capability to process it all. However, when they were going to go to REDOX they just wanted to see what the plant could really do, and it turned out they could do a lot more than they had thought.
WEISSKOPF: What was the turn around time when you got there, generally, for when they dumped the fuel into the dissolver until it was ____(unclear)
BAUMGARTNER: I don’t know is that declassified yet? In other words, each run was equivalent to a half a piece.
WEISSKOPF: When you say run your assuming 1,500…
BAUMGARTNER: Grams, 1,500 grams of plutonium.
WEISSKOPF: From 1,500 tons.
BAUMGARTNER: From 1,500 pounds.
WEISSKOPF: A ton and a half.
BAUMGARTNER: A ton and a half…
BAUMGARTNER: …well about a ton. I don’t know about the halves, about a ton of metal. Depended on the…
WEISSKOPF: Metric tons or English tons? Yeah…yeah, I’ll have to look this up.
BAUMGARTNER: You have to look in the, C-Manual will tell you.
WEISSKOPF: They go back and forth even in there.
BAUMGARTNER: I thought the C-Manual will say 1,500 pounds.
BAUMGARTNER: In a batch.
WEISSKOPF: That sounds right to me.
BAUMGARTNER: And so it wasn’t quite a ton, it was about ¾ of a ton. Anyway, that’s, look at the C-Manual and it will tell you. You know, for the specific amount.
WEISSKOPF: From the time that you put it in until the time it was heading out of the 200 Area, or lets say out of…
BAUMGARTNER: No, out of the back end of T Plant before it went down to 231, 234-5 building it would, when I first got there it would take about a day, three shifts.
BAUMGARTNER: When we did our master run, it didn’t take a shift.
WEISSKOPF: When you fine-tuned it and got it down to one ____ (s/l precipity).
WEISSKOPF: So that’s like, we’ll call it eight hours, that you could…
BAUMGARTNER: About 10 hours is what it was actually.
BAUMGARTNER: Boy that was a lot of stuff. So the old plants could have produced a lot, we wouldn’t have needed REDOX, but REDOX just had so much capability. Then REDOX had its problems and it wasn’t very long when we found out what its problem was because the hexone got nitrated.
WEISSKOPF: No chemist had predicted that?
BAUMGARTNER: No they hadn’t, they didn’t think that trinitro hexone was going to do what TNT does, but it did. And so we had some pops in some of the vessels. And so when that happened, well then we went to PUREX.
WEISSKOPF: When you were at T Plant, basically, they had fine-tuned the process over those years.
WEISSKOPF: Not to what you really could have done.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: Right. They were willing to take basically one run per day.
WEISSKOPF: And that was taken care of…
BAUMGARTNER: That was taking care of everything needed, which they knew that wouldn’t be the future, but it was enough to satisfy the military needs. You know, when you had B and T, so that basically gave you a weapon a day.
WEISSKOPF: So you were spending most of your time in a lab, and not a hot lab.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah well, I lasted there two months up in the cold lab. Then they says well Bill you gotta come on down to the hot lab, we can’t let you stay up there forever. So what we did then is we moved the cold lab over to 222 T so I could do that hot work and the cold work.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, they put them both together.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, well, we cleaned off one side and we put all the cold chemicals in there so they went and brought all the samples over to the T, you know 222 T, and then I at the same time got the chance then to do the hot stuff. And it turned out that the two things that I ended up doing, I hadn’t educated from, because everything is pipetting.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, and the final solution was based on 5 lambda, so you weren’t allowed to go very much over the mark and just exactly to the mark, and then you had to make double dilutions. So you were making some very interesting high-dilutions in order for the counter to count and you had to be within a fairly narrow… And we were having a hard time without reruns running the final solution, you know that went down to 231, just to get the right count for the accountability, because that was the first accountability.
WEISSKOPF: How many samples would you do in one batch as it went through? That’s what you’re talking about now?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, one sample. Well, you had many samples from the batch because you would have the dissolver solution, and then you would have the first strike, and then you would have the first strike waste because you…
WEISSKOPF: What would you test in the dissolver? I mean, wasn’t that just ____ (s/l dissolvent and dissolve) it and move it on and that’s it?
BAUMGARTNER: No, the dissolver solution was where we tried to get the first guess at how much plutonium was in the metal. Because see…
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: And so that when you got it at the back end of the process it had better match.
WEISSKOPF: Back up one step farther, the people at the reactors had estimates of what should be in based on the number of hours in the reactor.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, but it depended on where in the reactor it was.
WEISSKOPF: Right, how close was that? And when you guys did the first test in the dissolver, that was your first chemical analysis ____ (unclear)
BAUMGARTNER: That’s the first.
WEISSKOPF: Were they usually close to estimates? Did you argue with the reactor guys about what was in there?
BAUMGARTNER: All the time…
BAUMGARTNER: …all the time.
WEISSKOPF: In what way?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, when you’d get 1,100 grams instead of 1,500 grams.
WEISSKOPF: At the end…
BAUMGARTNER: Or when you’d get it in the dissolver, what happened to the other 400 grams? You know. Did we lose it? You see, then when the discrepancy was too large then you had to rerun everything. Gotta go back and get another sample of the dissolver solution and then see what the hell…and then if it matched what you took the…Because remember now sampling is a real art.
BAUMGARTNER: These guys had some, you know your only taking two drops and you know that has got to be representative of what’s in there, and…
WEISSKOPF: Against how many gallons? .
BAUMGARTNER: Like 500 gallons. So, right off of the bat you’ve got an interesting problem. At that time, not too much was statistics and known. We had arbitrary limits and they were as arbitrary as they thought we could meet ‘em based on the laboratory, you know, having a test tube type technology versus 500 gallons is a whole different world. And so we were having our sweats, so that when you fell out of the limits, and that should be in the C-Manual, those numbers… I know what they are but I am not sure if it’s always… If it’s in the C-Manual you can publish it real easy. I hate to give you information that I am not absolutely sure…
BAUMGARTNER: …has been released.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, and to tell you the truth the specifics are less important then the generality.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh, I got you okay.
WEISSKOPF: Always more better than…just to get a general idea what it was. Here is a couple of things from the Tech Manual. The, well here’s the dissolver flow sheet, sort of a check list, the log, the recipe.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Eight buckets of 105 each at 3,800 gallons of sodium nitrate dissolver 3-5 hours at 4-1/2 ____(unclear), okay. Heat dissolver to boiling and add 1,100 pounds of sodium hydroxide, digest for two hours. Okay they have released everything, alright good. Good, good, good, good. So, large quantities, these always are big big deals. So the original solution comes in, its you know like 5,100, you know ____ (unclear) 5,100 pounds, okay. That’s 5,300 gallons, 500 gallons basically. Okay, when it comes off the back end with plutonium it’s about 15 gallons. When it comes off the back end at 224 it’s about 5 gallons. When it comes off the back end at 231 it was a liter and a half, and when it comes off the back end at 234-5 it’s a piece of metal, okay, so that’s, okay. 5,000 pounds is the general guess and the solutions are large. You know, you…
WEISSKOPF: And how much was in a sample that came into the hot lab?
WEISSKOPF: Two which?
WEISSKOPF: And that was so radioactive they had to put it in a shield?
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, 3, 3 inches.
WEISSKOPF: How could two drops be so radioactive you have put it in a shield? To a layperson that doesn’t sound like much.
BAUMGARTNER: It was called a doorstop and in it was a bayonet point and in there was just two drops.
WEISSKOPF: And you didn’t just pull out the test tubes?
BAUMGARTNER: Hell no. We had a tool that went into the doorstop, grabbed our 25 lambda sample.
WEISSKOPF: What’s a lambda?
BAUMGARTNER: A lambda is a thousandth of a cc.
WEISSKOPF: It was how many of those?
BAUMGARTNER: 25, that’s 0.025 cc’s.
BAUMGARTNER: At two drops, I don’t even remember what two drops is anymore, but I can tell you right now it ain’t a hell of a lot because if you reran a doorstop three times you were out of solution. So, it’s about 100 lambda.
WEISSKOPF: You could run it three times?
BAUMGARTNER: You could run it three times, then you had to take a new solution. We never went past two, but you could run up to three.
BAUMGARTNER: If you couldn’t get them to match, if you couldn’t the, you know, the two of them to match because one operator would be one and another operator would then run the other run. So you had two guys running the doorstop and they had to match within a given value and if they did then you went on. That became God’s law about what the plutonium concentration was.
WEISSKOPF: You were looking for plutonium in two drops out of 500 gallons?
WEISSKOPF: And, what you were looking for is the percentage of plutonium…
BAUMGARTNER: You wanted to come up with a number like say 1,500 grams of what’s in that tank. If it was outside of specifications then you didn’t grab that out of the cement, but there was a limit, 1,500 grams plus or minus a 100 grams for instance; just as a case in point. So that if you got 1,350 and your two guys got 1,350, then they had to go back and resample because it’s supposed to be between 1,400 and 1,600 grams okay? So now they resample. If the second sample now agreed with the first one, then that’s what became…then they says ah-ha, there is not 1,500 grams in there, and there’s whatever the number was.
WEISSKOPF: How close would it have to be before you called an agreement?
WEISSKOPF: If the first guy came up with 1,500, how close could the second one be…
BAUMGARTNER: It had to be within 50. We were allowed to have, you know the two had to be within 50 of 1,500 grams.
WEISSKOPF: Back it up one more step. You would then take your number…Let’s say you get an accurate number and you say ‘ but the reactor guys are saying, you know, 1,800.’
BAUMGARTNER: Alright, if it was supposed to be 1,800 and we say got 1,500 then we had to back and resample.
BAUMGARTNER: …because it could be the two drops we got wasn’t quite representative of the solution, so we got another one. If those two agreed within say 100, then we said that’s what the number is. However, if two of them did not agree within 100, you know within say 100 grams then we got a third sample and two out of three.
WEISSKOPF: Now if yours are agreeing, but they are different from what the reactor guys estimated…
BAUMGARTNER: Then this is what we took.
WEISSKOPF: You took your numbers and said we’ll talk about it later.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s the way we go.
BAUMGARTNER: And so that when got out to the back end of 271 T, the last solution out of there, then that had to check. In other words we couldn’t…
BAUMGARTNER: And if it did check fine, and if it didn’t check then we had to go back do the resampling. Because see there you weren’t using a doorstop.
WEISSKOPF: Hadn’t you already lost all the, after you do the percentage…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh…you leave them in the tanks.
WEISSKOPF: You leave them in the tank until your all done and then you would send it to the waste.
BAUMGARTNER: Right. See that’s what I’m…you leave solutions, they sit there. These solutions, they just sat there until the run got accepted. When the run got accepted then you could just pump the stuff to the tank farms. Does that make any sense to you?
WEISSKOPF: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, you’ve got everything here that you need.
WEISSKOPF: It’s enough to get a good idea of how things ran.
BAUMGARTNER: Right, right.
WEISSKOPF: What we’re looking for and the kind of…
BAUMGARTNER: And these percentages had to be right because they were now recalculated in terms of what the solution had to be that we are going to be adding. You know like 6% or whatever the percentage was and it wasn’t allowed to deviate very far.
WEISSKOPF: Your saying based on the amount of plutonium that was in the solution?
BAUMGARTNER: No, based on this, it is the amount of metal that you dissolve.
WEISSKOPF: It’s what?
BAUMGARTNER: It was the amount of metal you dissolve. We always dissolved the same amount of metal.
WEISSKOPF: It was the batch size, not however much plutonium…
BAUMGARTNER: Right, that’s what regulated the amount of chemicals you put in.
WEISSKOPF: Would you need, You wouldn’t be using, You could’ve used less bismuth if there was less plutonium in the batch, theoretically.
BAUMGARTNER: Not really.
BAUMGARTNER: Bismuth, well when we had it fine-tuned yeah. But, see we were expecting them to put slugs in there that gave us the 1,500 grams. We were expecting 1,800 or down to 11. We were expected 1,500 grams. And we expected them to blend those slugs. They knew where they were at and they knew where they had come from, so…
WEISSKOPF: The batch should add up.
BAUMGARTNER: It should have added up and that kind of thing was, you know, we didn’t fuss much. That didn’t bother us a lot. Maybe one run out of 10 deviated from what we expected. The rest of the time these guys were pretty good. They knew that reactor pretty well and they pretty well knew that in this pile there was…especially after we got the computer working pretty well. That took some doing, but once they got the computer program that told them what they needed, when to push, and then…See they would push not the whole reactor, so they would just push it for the section.
WEISSKOPF: The tubes of their choice.
BAUMGARTNER: Right, right. And that was based on what the computer said was there, based on what they saw in the profile of the number of neutrons per centimeter squared. When all that happened and that computer program was working, I was very fortunate I happened to know the guy that wrote the dang thing.
BAUMGARTNER: And we were taking the class together because at the time, well programming was pretty much at the beginning stages, and the language you were using was your own, and the arithmetic was really…that’s where we were having all of problems. The arithmetic was such that getting five or six digits of precision was pretty hard. And so we were looking for better ways of getting the six or seven, eight digits of precision without taking a large amount of time on the computer. Because you remember now the computer in those days was at like 37 milliseconds per cycle. So you weren’t getting very many cycles per second, like you are now where we got 700 megahertz.
WEISSKOPF: 37 milliseconds is 30 cycles per second, give or take.
BAUMGARTNER: No it’s 300 I think.
BAUMGARTNER: 300 yeah. And now there are 900 million. In my home, what I got is 333.
BAUMGARTNER: And that’s about three or four years old. So you get what I am trying to say. The computers were small. They were only like 6 kil, and…So we were looking for methods and the reactor kind of thing was really burning computer time.
WEISSKOPF: Just calculating when the slugs were ready to push out…
BAUMGARTNER: Right, when they are ready to push out, so we were taking an inordinate large amount of time. So the guy worked on that problem and we took them out.
WEISSKOPF: Do you remember what department he would have been in to be doing that…
BAUMGARTNER: He would have been in the 100 Area, but in operations.
WEISSKOPF: With their own people.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah it was his own, and there weren’t too many computer people at that time. You know there was, I think there was like 10 guys that I knew.
WEISSKOPF: Any reactor operators or…
BAUMGARTNER: Well the reactor operators are just pushers of buttons and switches you know, but nuclear engineers…we were teaching the guys nuclear engineering here. I took classes on that.
WEISSKOPF: And realizing too that this idea of estimating when the slugs are ready and then finding out that you were correct…
WEISSKOPF: And they had to do it…
BAUMGARTNER: Well they had to make a whole bunch of experiments and all that kind stuff and it took awhile, it took awhile. Anyway, that’s the precursor to this. At the time, when like I say it was all trying to push metal through and so we had limits and if we deviated from the limits then we did a resampling, and then if the samples were close then we went ahead and continued, got the final one. They checked the front end within a certain limit. In other words, we figured at least 90%, 90%-95% recovery.
WEISSKOPF: Recovery, and you were happy…
BAUMGARTNER: Well when it first got there we were happy with that one. When got done we were not happy until we got 99. So, cause then that leaves only a little bit of plutonium in the waste solutions.
WEISSKOPF: Were there any problems you remember overcoming that made a noticeable difference that hey hadn’t seen before or hadn’t been able to correct, or hadn’t realized it was there?
BAUMGARTNER: I don’t know, there was an awful lot of chemical engineers in T Plant, I think each shift had like four.
WEISSKOPF: They had been working on it for years.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, right from the beginning. And they were as dumbfounded as everybody else was because, not realizing some of these problems. It happened that my forte was analytical chemistry and I had thee years of that stuff. When I went to Seattle University, here let me give you my college. Freshman year was Yakima Valley College, so I took beginning chemistry. Sophomore year I went up to Seattle University. I then took analytical chemistry. In my Junior year I came back to Yakima Valley and I got a ____ (unclear), and Junior year I was back at Yakima Valley College because it cost me my whole year’s of college money and I took organic. My Senior year, ah ha now then, I ended up having to take P-chem organics since I had taken it in Yakima Valley. I had to take organic qual and since then I liked what I had done. I had to take advanced analytical chemistry and advanced organic for my senior year. I was taking like 10 hours every quarter chemistry classes. So I got 30 hours my senior year alone. So I had an extra year basically of chemistry just to get my degree. And so I ended up having the kind of thing that they wanted here. Somewhat, because one of solutions was semi-organic.
WEISSKOPF: What kind of automated instruments, electronic instruments were you using back in college? Was it all test tubes and…
BAUMGARTNER: Well, most of the stuff that I did in college was in terms of gravimetric. Here it was volumetric. Volumetric was what we called elementary, it was more prone to error. And so that’s what I was getting at. Volumetric analysis is more prone to error, 50 lambda in 10 milliliters, and 25 lambda out of that, so you would have to make sure that everything is stirred, etc, etc, etc. So volumetric lends itself to some real interesting errors. Whereas gravimetric errors, we would have precipitated it, put it onto you know, pull it out on the filtered paper, weighed the filter paper before and after, would have been much tighter tolerance.
WEISSKOPF: With two drops.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, because filter paper…
WEISSKOPF: Well, that’s what…I’m sorry, but back at Berkley when they discovered plutonium those are the amounts they were working with, tiny, tiny, tiny amounts.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, they were with a fraction of a gram.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: See and that was the total amount and now your going sample that to see how much there was really there.
WEISSKOPF: So the beauty of chemistry is you can do it on big levels or small levels, the equations are the same, it’s just that instrumentation and the beakers are different sizes.
BAUMGARTNER: Well, also too in gravimetric if you way say a 5 gram sample and you have down to the closest 10th of a milligram on possible with a beam balance. You can do that. So that gives me like three orders of magnitude, so a little bit of wait goes a long ways. Secondly, your adding some weight to the precipitate, by you know, putting some more, you know, atoms to the molecule and it was your precipitating so therefore your putting more weight to so its not less, it’s more. And so there, and you correct for it. But the point I’m getting at is you make sure that your gravimetric analysis will allow you at least 99%, so that if you say you can go to the closet 10th of a milligram. You would expect to have at least 10 grams difference in weight. And so in our case we would process something on the order of 50 milligrams, see and that would be 500. So that we should have been able to hit 1% easy with the gravimetric analysis. Whereas with volumetric analysis now your going to titrate and you have to know…. When I first got there they gave me the calibrated solutions to two digits.
WEISSKOPF: As opposed to… what would you have expected?
BAUMGARTNER: I would have expected four. With four I can do something with it.
BAUMGARTNER: I can’t do much precision analysis because now all of a sudden the third digit is half, you know, so now I got I suppose a 6 normal and I’ve got 5 that’s almost a percent. And so I got nasty when I went down there at the standards. I says I’ve got to have a minimum of three digits, I’d prefer four. That was very hard for them to give me so they gave me basically about 3-1/2 on the volumetric, but that made the difference. That’s why we ended up getting precisely what we were… It was the little things like this that people weren’t watching. Yeah, if it was really and truly you know 6 normal, you know, plus or minus 0.1 normal everything was fine, but what happens when it isn’t? You know, then yeah, yeah we ended up striking twice, three times, that kind of thing. Anyway, with me getting the advantage of working with these guys in the cold part, I also was allowed to drive the elevator, in other words the crane.
BAUMGARTNER: I got to do that, moving the cell blocks.
WEISSKOPF: Based on what?
BAUMGARTNER: Well they began to know me.
WEISSKOPF: Oh…yeah okay.
BAUMGARTNER: So I says well why don’t I sit in with you to see what you’re doing. I says ‘how can I help if I don’t know what anybody is doing?’ You know, a chemist can do more than just chemistry if he can watch what people are doing, see what kind of system. In other words, are the cells really as the C-Manual says they are? You know, big hurky stainless steel tanks. In other words, how much volume is sitting between this tank and that thank you know. Pipes two inches in diameter is eight feet long, well there’s some body in there. It’s the little things like this that they had overlooked that when I saw the equipment that I said ah that makes sense to me. And then we were dropping solutions down through sort of a rig, you know a valve, you know, so this could go into this one and this, oh we’ll let it go into that one. So it was all of those kinds of things. So there were solutions sitting there. Get what I’m trying to say? From the tank where we knew what it was until it ran out the spout down into wherever it was going. Well there was a volume in there. Okay, if that thing sits there for any length of time, well it’s not going to be the same. It’s just little things like this that, when I saw, you know, even though I read it in the manual, but it doesn’t give you these volumes. So, you couldn’t strike a tank with 10 gallons then you had 10 gallons in the pipe.
WEISSKOPF: You wouldn’t be using the fresh solution…
BAUMGARTNER: Right. In other words, you ended up having problems and this was all part of the problem. So then I went to these volumes, you know, and how much was being added and we then played around a little bit and we strengthened a couple of them, went to 6.3 instead of 6.0 to make up for what was decaying in the pipery. And when we did that, see that’s how we ended up really fine-tuning one strike, we really could shove it through there. It was little things like that that hadn’t been considered from the chemistry in the laboratory to the big plant. Those are the kinds of things that we discovered on the job. The chemical engineers were looking at this thing in the massive. I was looking at it in terms of chemistry and how much the volumes were involved and what my normalities had to be and all you know.
WEISSKOPF: Who would have been the person at T Plant who knew what the current settings were, like it wasn’t a railroad, it was a chemistry system with pipes, who would have the map that shows how everything is connected?
BAUMGARTNER: The maps were what we called on the piperoll. In other words, here sits the tanks and then we’ve got a big wall, a 12-foot concrete wall, and then on the other side you have these boards like the 6-3 board which was the 6-3 Tank and he had… In other words, he could push valves I could validate which would then allow solution A to drop in B, C, D, E and they knew, you know, well I’m going to add this solution to valve C. So he’d open up valve C and the amount of volume that was up there was the specified volume, you know that was dropped down in there and they would let it five minutes and yell ‘run’ down in there and then they’d close the valve and that thing. These are boards and each section like 6 had a board, 7 had a board, 8 had a board, up to 13; each one had a board. And each had groups of valves for whatever they were going to do whether they were exit, import, you know the openings, exit, import, adding solutions and all that kind. And then you know, so there would be maybe 8-10 switches you know for them to open and close that they would do, and there would be an operator in front of each one of those every shift. And then there would be two what I call chemical engineers following and they had a log book when they did what and for how long, opened at such and such a time, closed at such and such a time. That was all part of the record.
WEISSKOPF: …in there that are like that, the log pages where you would actually put in what had happened.
WEISSKOPF: ____ (unclear) supposed to do, here’s the time we start….
BAUMGARTNER: Right, right and that all got put in there and the chemical engineer picked those up. He then scanned them. He went over them to find, you know, to make sure everything was copacetic against whatever rules. So they had a set of rules, we’ll say like 5 minutes, so they didn’t expect anything between 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 minutes so he expected a time to be like that. Sometimes then an operator would be out maybe smoking a cigarette, God only knows you know, because not everybody was conscious totally with time, you know we’re human beings. So that was the operations part. I knew all that because I had been down to see what they were all doing. This is how I recognized that there was heels. The same way with exporting. The pipe that went into the tank didn’t drain every drop. That sounds elementary, but now you have find out, you know, in other words, because when they built the tank it turns out that each tank, you know there might be three tanks identical, they would have different heels.
WEISSKOPF: Describe what a heel is.
BAUMGARTNER: Heel is leftover solution. Now on the surface that doesn’t sound like much, but it turns out that suppose you dissolve up something, but not everything stays in the solution. Suppose you’ve got particulates leftover, it’s you know, it’s all… Especially when your making the precipitate you know and it’s falling down. Now when you, you know, pull that precipitate out and go to the next tank…did you get it all? See how much would have stayed in the heel? So those are the…Now the chemical engineers worried about that. Now how do you quantify that?
WEISSKOPF: You can’t go in and look.
BAUMGARTNER: No, heck no. So we developed some sample analysis over in the lab with them. We worked together, hand in glove, and then we sat there. I got involved in a lot of that kind of thing just because of the analytical chemistry that I’d had. Not everybody that came out with a BS in chemistry had all the chemistry that I had. And that was, anyway that was fine with me. I enjoyed my time there and I knew the operating people. I was on C, A, and D shifts, so I got to meet different people. Like if you were on C-shift you only met those operators on C shift, but…
WEISSKOPF: Oh you didn’t change with the same shift all the time?
BAUMGARTNER: You always stayed with the same shift generally.
WEISSKOPF: So you were with the same operators?
BAUMGARTNER: Same operators all the time when you were on C shift.
BAUMGARTNER: But I was very fortunate where I got bumped from C shift, to A shift, to D shift, so I got to meet not only C people, but I got to meet D and A people. And it makes a difference because you can pretty soon, like a technician , you can tell which ones are the good ones, that type of thing. And that made a difference for me. Anyway, I think I’ve answered all….
WEISSKOPF: How about, you mentioned you got to ride in the crane. Could you describe…how tedious was it. Describe what it must have been like for the crane operator.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh…it’s a single lens, no depth perception. So what they did is they would shine light so there would be shadows, you know because to pick up a block. For instance, it was a metal frame you know that came like that and he had to put a hook into there so he could lift the rod. Well with no depth perception, where in the hell is the hook? You know it might be over here…might be…
WEISSKOPF: He could only look down, he couldn’t look from the side?
BAUMGARTNER: No, and only one eye. Only one single eye through a whole bunch of going down, because you know he couldn’t look straight down because we were on the side.
WEISSKOPF: Your right, right.
BAUMGARTNER: You know we were on the side. So you were going over a barrier looking down and you couldn’t and then the blocks were all numbered and that kind of stuff. Like he’d have 6-3 A, B, C, you know that, A comes first and then you know, and so that you put the three blocks back onto the cell the same way each time, because they were not identical pieces.
WEISSKOPF: Right. When you took the lens off and looked down, there might be a mass of equipment and pipes. What would the crane operator, how would he know which one to take off first? What was that called? His instructions, you know, did he have a sheet of things he was supposed to….
BAUMGARTNER: The chemical engineer told him that maybe I want it, now each pipe had a little thing for him to put the hook on and we had the big hook for the blocks and then we had a little hook for when we wanted to do repair work. For instance, you want to take off a small piece of pipe. Okay he had to go, first of all he had an impact trench which he had to set down on that baby and get onto that nut, and then you undo it. There might be four on one end and four on the other end, pull that pipe out, put another one in its place. He had to do that all with one eye and no depth perception. So, it was all in how the guy wanted the light set so that there would be shadows so that he would know when the hook was….you know how do you know when the hook gets in there and fix it?
WEISSKOPF: Did he have the lights on the crane that he would adjust?
BAUMGARTNER: No they were up to high.
WEISSKOPF: So what lights were there?
BAUMGARTNER: When they opened a cell, they had like on a rack you know and they have lights shining down. You know it didn’t matter that that got irradiated.
BAUMGARTNER: You know, so, for instance if there was a cell we would move all the blocks from 6-3 over to 7. You know, okay, so on this end on each end you could have lights or you ‘d have two one side so you, whatever the guy specified, the crane operator. And they learned that from scratch. They had four of the best crane operators your ever gonna find, because doing that job with one eye is…. When I, it takes a lot more finesse than you’d think.
WEISSKOPF: And patience.
BAUMGARTNER: And these guys are very quick.


BAUMGARTNER: …And then you’d have to pull the tank out. So, it was to me, the most skilled individual was a crane operator and they were very good. I can remember him taking all of the three blocks off a cell in less than 10 minutes. I can remember him taking off two pipes, you know bringing your impact wrench down, putting it onto the nuts four on each end, that’s eight bolts, and it was highly magnetized so that bolt stuck, you know to impact wrench, and he had them pulled over and somebody had to, you know you had to undo it. I don’t know how that impact wrench was built, but it allowed him to put the bolts in place. I think they put them into a little thing to where he could go back down and grab a hole. You know, it set down into a block you know with a hole where the bolt then fit down into the hole with a head on top and then he would drop it off and then he’d go and grab the next one. And when had all eight, he could see all eight now, ‘I got them all off’. It’s the little things you know that you don’t….he says well I gotta take off eight bolts, so he wanted to make sure he had them all off. And I can remember we took out a 6-3 tank one time, the dissolver solution tank and it took one day. There was like four pipes to take off, pull the tank out, put it onto the railroad car…you know six railroad cars away, because this is all over, the tank had sludge in the bottom, hotter than hell…and then that went to the burial ground and the new tank had been sitting there and he went and picked it up and put it down in there. And that had to be oriented so that it just sat only one way, so that all of these hangers just fit perfectly. Because your talking about hangers, you know pipes that go to the wall you know where the guy is opening and closing and all that type of thing and he did that in one day.
WEISSKOPF: And there could be no workers anywhere near that…
BAUMGARTNER: Not in the canyon. Once you pulled off the cellblocks, now and up to 11, no one on the high end up to cell 11, from 6 to cell 11, I guess there was a cell 5. But anyway, when those blocks were off no one was in the canyon, but I think if he had 12 and 13 you could have someone in the canyon because there wasn’t enough stuff up there anymore to make any difference. I don’t know…have you got pictures of that? Oh here we go. Okay, oh I never saw, yeah. There’s 20 cells I see, but I don’t ever…
WEISSKOPF: Sections…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, but I never saw us ever go past 13, so I am assuming that that…Now the waste from 224 building and that was recycled. You know, take my word for that.
WEISSKOPF: When you say recycled…
BAUMGARTNER: Ran through another run, was added to a solution and up here at about 10 and 11 tank they would add it back into there. It wouldn’t be very much.
WEISSKOPF: Oh you mean the waste from…
BAUMGARTNER: The waste from 224.
WEISSKOPF: From their finished process, whatever was left would have a tiny amount of plutonium.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, whatever it had in there they recycled it and ran it in even though we didn’t think, but we sure there was no plutonium or yeah… Okay, any other questions?
WEISSKOPF: The width…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh here we go, that is a nice picture of it. Here you can see where the crane operator was.
BAUMGARTNER: Yep, yep, yep. Pipe gallery and operator gallery, see this is where these guys were. And then the pipe gallery is where solutions were running. Oh God, it was a mess. Cause you know you make, the solutions were in 271 where the crane operator got into the cab. He would get into the cab in the front end here, he got into the cab in the front end and then you know, and that’s where we made up the solutions. Where we made up the solutions, at that, right where the crane was, where he got in. This is how I got to know the guy, cause the guy had to walk by the laboratory. And then the tank solutions that we were making up were right there and there was just a hallway to his crane. So, you know, and he couldn’t, I don’t remember… The longest I ever saw a guy in there was four hours.
BAUMGARTNER: But most of the time, a guy couldn’t handle much more then about two hours and then he had to have about a 30-minute break, because that was just to…unless he could use both eyes. But, I don’t’ remember anybody ever using two eyes.
WEISSKOPF: No. When there is a batch ready to go, anybody who was holding it up would be under a lot of pressure, whether it was the chemist or the crane operator who had a chore to do, how did that make your daily routine? Was it pretty pressured?
BAUMGARTNER: For me, no, we didn’t, for us in the laboratory that was not the case. The only time we ever held anybody up was if we ran out of a solution.
WEISSKOPF: For the cold solution.
BAUMGARTNER: For the cold solution, and then they got pissed.
BAUMGARTNER: Your right, and that only happened, not very often. You know that would be an error on the part of the chemical engineer.
WEISSKOPF: He just didn’t order enough or…
BAUMGARTNER: He didn’t make the tank. In other words they ran too much solution through, you know. When we got into the final run that happened to us a couple of times where a guy made up 500 gallons and we used 500 gallons before I made up…because there were two tanks and each one, you know…you’ve got this one running and your making this one up and your trying to make it up as close to the using…of finishing off the using so that you didn’t make too many, because some of these are ____ (s/l oxcit) and reduction solutions and they age poorly, they lose their strength.
WEISSKOPF: How many hours a day or…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh ferrous sulfate solution, probably in three or four days would lose 50%.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: That kind of problem. So you didn’t want to make up a ferrous sulfate solution except maybe just a few hours before you start using it was the best, then it was the closest. I worked out a table for them to, because they would change the amount of volume as it got older. I would give them the moment when it got…when we knew what it was and then as it aged, and then we’d say well okay it’s 6.3, and then two hours later it was 6.2 and that kind of thing. So that they would know how much more, maybe you would add an extra gallon or two or three of that solution just to make sure that it would work, you know.
WEISSKOPF: What about the hot lab though, if they were under pressure to get their numbers done…
BAUMGARTNER: That was, the sooner the better because you couldn’t go from 6.3 to 7 or to 8 until you had the answer verified. So, when these operators came in and took those samples and they had to bring them over and then we got right on ‘em. In other words, if we screwed around more than and hour and half by the time they got the answer they were ticked.
BAUMGARTNER: Because see that means that tank was sitting there, it couldn’t move.
WEISSKOPF: So you always did test at the dissolver to get a first number?
BAUMGARTNER: And we did a test on every dang…7, 8, 9, 10, hey…
WEISSKOPF: And each of those took about an hour?
BAUMGARTNER: An hour and a half.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, so that’s a good hunk of the batch time right there.
WEISSKOPF: Because they were processing…
BAUMGARTNER: They were processing.
BAUMGARTNER: See as soon as they got the 6.3 out then they could put another dissolver in there.
BAUMGARTNER: So that they could have, in other words there might be three runs going through the canyon.
WEISSKOPF: And if your numbers didn’t match then you say we have to do another test or take another sample, then your starting to hold thing up.
BAUMGARTNER: Then is when, yeah right, right, right.
WEISSKOPF: If you literally had to go get another sample, how long would it take?
BAUMGARTNER: Operators had to go back into the canyon, had to go back into these little doors, go into where the sample, there was a little sample room area where they would have the doorstop and they would do their little thing of agitating solution, etc, etc, etc, etc, and dropping in the two drops. You know, sucking it out about three times into that little drop…sucking it all and doing it about three times to get the right sample size. I watched that operation too. That was a, they weren’t stirring it enough to start with…
WEISSKOPF: Now you said getting a sample. Didn’t some of the cells have a little inset box where they would get the samples at the cell?
BAUMGARTNER: No, no, they were all gotten over here.
WEISSKOPF: In the operating gallery or where would….
BAUMGARTNER: No, no , not in the operating, on the other side. On the other side of the canyon Building, on these little doors that you see right here, that allowed them to go into a little room and they could sample three cells. Each one allowed them to sample three cells. So they could, in other words, this one could sample these three cells, and then they overlapped except for the middle one, but they overlapped on one so that if you didn’t like the answer from that one you could go maybe in the next bay and sample it from the other sampler. You know, you had, the only one you couldn’t was the middle one.
WEISSKOPF: And would they enter then from that side…
BAUMGARTNER: They would enter from this side and it was just a small room, just a small room. And see these pipes went into the tank, you know they dropped into the tank and it would be a little pipe you know and they’d stir around fresh solution and then… There was a whole… You didn’t take that out of the C-Manual, it tells you, they told them how to do that. And, well here, You’ve got a perfect picture. It’s complicated. See here, all you had to do to take off this one is go down and hit that thing with the impacter and straight down. Yep, here it is.
BAUMGARTNER: You can get a pretty good feel as to what it was doing.
WEISSKOPF: And did they have a map or a chart that would say what’s connected to what?
BAUMGARTNER: Absolutely.
BAUMGARTNER: Absolutely. The engineer says you go in and you go to the 4th valve. So the guy had to go down and he had read 1,2,3, go and pull that one off.
WEISSKOPF: Would they ever hook it up to the wrong one…
BAUMGARTNER: Because they were all made with different lengths…
BAUMGARTNER: And different lengths. You couldn’t put this particular hanger on any place but here. So you might get it on here and it wouldn’t fit. It wouldn’t fit. It wouldn’t fit properly.
WEISSKOPF: And if they were replacing a jumper or needed a new one…
BAUMGARTNER: Well you had to have, remember you had to pull off two. You had to pull off two to get the jumper off. If you had the wrong jumper it wouldn’t fit…
BAUMGARTNER: …on there. No that was nicely designed. Take my word.
WEISSKOPF: Speaking of design, did you run into, You know DuPont designed the building before they even knew, understood completely how it going to be used. Did it work out well by the time you were there? Was the building…
WEISSKOPF: …performing as…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yeah, it was performing like the C-Manual says it should.
BAUMGARTNER: And as a matter of fact when we did the trail laying on the speed runs, I think top management was absolutely flabbergasted that that thing was capable of doing that kind of production. Never, they didn’t think it was possible. And that happened in ’52 just before they went down. I think they shut down in August of ’52. I am not sure when it down. You look it up some place, it’s around somewhere. Well, you’ve got everything here. You’ve got tank farms?
BAUMGARTNER: You’ve got the whole 2-West Area.
WEISSKOPF: The Tech-Manual has tons of great, it is almost written for a layman in the sense that it is not full of acronyms and utterly technical terminology.
BAUMGARTNER: It was written by DuPont people who were chemists and chemical engineers and this is how they would write a manual for their own things.
WEISSKOPF: It’s very readable.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh, it’s real readable. I mean if I could read it, it was readable. So, but you…
WEISSKOPF: What was the last six months before they shut the plant down. They were just processing up to the last day or what kind of things were you doing?
BAUMGARTNER: We processed up to the last week, two weeks, and then we cleaned for two weeks.
WEISSKOPF: What type, you know, how exactly…
BAUMGARTNER: Run solutions, dummies, didn’t…
WEISSKOPF: Just to flush things out?
BAUMGARTNER: Yep, just flushed everything out. This was when we found out that a couple of the tanks had some heels. Because see these tanks should have gotten fairly clean, but they didn’t.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: They turned out to be pretty hot.
WEISSKOPF: And was the problem that it was hot, or that you were…
BAUMGARTNER: It was high gamma. Higher gamma levels. See we thought that after we flushed, we could down to the 6-3 tank basically and literally go into the canyon building…
BAUMGARTNER: …and you know, get what I’m trying to say?
WEISSKOPF: And walk around.
BAUMGARTNER: Walk around, because what the hell you cleaned it all up. So, but that didn’t really happen that way.
WEISSKOPF: Did they end up just yanking it and burying it or?
BAUMGARTNER: I thought they left it in for a zillion years and then was pulled out when they decommissioned it.
WEISSKOPF: Because they had to immediate use for the building right?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, but you didn’t, just because we didn’t operate with it didn’t mean we couldn’t.
BAUMGARTNER: And there is nothing that says that if PUREX or REDOX doesn’t blow up, well hey we didn’t know.
WEISSKOPF: Right. But you wanted to keep the building operational.
BAUMGARTNER: It was in mothballs.
BAUMGARTNER: And B Plant went off of mothballs. Once we got T Plant running high speed then we didn’t need B Plant anymore. Because now it was doing more than the two plants were doing together. Because before the two plants were doing 30-56, so you know you say well we don’t need B Plant. So B Plant then went and we were starting to process the waste solution and taking out the strontium, and we were. See there are only two really bad actors in the waste solution which would mean that the waste tanks if you took those out after about 15-20 years would be nothing in them, and that is cobalt and strontium. If you pull those two babies out, then your tanks would decay to zero basically in 15 years and that was the goal behind some of this. Some of those tanks, they wanted them to be cold and they were. Though after they had gone though B Plant some of those old tanks really, truthfully, I mean you know you had to literally stuff the CP into it before you could even get a reading. So, it worked, it worked. And they were shipping solutions between West Area and B Plant, and from B Plant and back to West Area. There was a pipeline that runs from the tank farms from B Plant, to all the tank farms.
WEISSKOPF: So they could move stuff…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah they moved stuff, and one of the pipes had hot solution coming in and the other one was the cold solution going out. Let me see, there were three plants built originally to do the same thing; T, B, and U. U Plant never went online and the only thing we did with U Plant was we took and they separated out the uranium from the, you know from the waste solution. And that ran through U Plant and then our product there was yellow cake, in other words yellow powder, it was uranium oxide, and that was shipped wherever, back east probably or I think to Oak Ridge.
WEISSKOPF: Did that lower the tank levels much?
BAUMGARTNER: I don’t think so. The only thing that would lower the tank levels basically would be to, would be for the evaporation. Getting rid of the liquid, because once you got rid of the uranium now you’ve got rid of 1,500, you know, you’ve got 500 gallons and you pull out almost most of the weight, what’s left it either bismuth or lanthanum, plus the fission product, plus the aluminum. The you know, the slug can. That was there.
WEISSKOPF: Is that still there?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, its still there.
WEISSKOPF: They never did retrieve those?
BAUMGARTNER: Never retrieved a dime of that. There were a lot of proposals put together in the late 50’s for mining the bismuth.
WEISSKOPF: Really? Was it worth that much?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, it wasn’t worth enough at that time, but I don’t think it’s ever been re-visited. You know there has been so much anti-nuclear things that trying to recover anything people would be so damn scared that if there was a 10 counts per minute of fission products in the bismuth, why they would be upset.
WEISSKOPF: So how about just giving a brief idea of what you did after left T Plant.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh, I went to 231 and 234-5.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, more chemistry?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, for a year I did chemistry and then after I went into radiation protection. And since I had spent so much time in T, 231, 234-5, I was brought back for the Health Physics people to 231, 234-5 and all of the material that left that building I signed off on from 1954 to…
WEISSKOPF: Signed off in what way?
BAUMGARTNER: Signed off I knew it went out, what the numbers were, that it wasn’t contaminated, etc, etc, etc. What containers it was put into when it left the building. Who took it. And as far as I know those were a terrible ____(unclear). That was GE ____(unclear). So you wouldn’t know, from those you could make some real quick assumptions as to what went on, but from 1954-1958 I was in 234-5. That’s when we went from what we call the rubber glove line which was a hood operation with glove to a mechanical line where everything was fairly mechanicalized with little trains, you know. Where you didn’t touch the material as much because when I first got there in ’54, the operators in 234-5 building were burning out, in other words they weren’t able to work a year. So we had to have operators, you know not necessarily working 234-5 Building but they had to be trained and then they were rotated so they could…some of the guys were burning out…in other words they were getting limit of radiation that they were allowed by say August. So there was five, six months when you had to bring in other guys and so it was economically feasible for use to figure out ways in which we could stop doing that. And it wasn’t until like ’58 before we really solved all the problems and were allowing the operators to run the whole year. So, we were able to cut down the, basically cut the exposure more than half so that they could operate the whole year. Also do remember 234-5 Building was top secret and everybody got fussy about having so many people having top secret.
WEISSKOPF: Oh you mean just to work there.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, just work there…
BAUMGARTNER: Because that was fine to finish plant see, and so the people who were working there saw what the hell it was our products, you know. And you just, you know, operators they weren’t just a dime a dozen. Well it’s a lot training besides. I spent a lot of training time, both Health Physics people as well as operators, because you know a guy can’t just come in there and….it’s a foundry and foundry operations are notoriously famous for, you know, doing all kinds of dumb things you know. And plutonium was no exception. I mean if you could do it with lead, you could do it with plutonium you know and we did it. And so there was a foundry operation, it’s the best description I can give you. I wont’ say anymore than that because I don’t know if it’s been declassified…
WEISSKOPF: It would take a while for you find out.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, I’d have to go and take a look at the pictures and see what’s been declassified.
BAUMGARTNER: I think the only thing that is not declassified is the actual production numbers.
WEISSKOPF: They don’t like to talk about that.
BAUMGARTNER: And they don’t’ want you talking about that and they didn’t want you talking about too many details about how the line worked. There were lots of problems you know since you’ve got a foundry. There was crucibles in which you were ____ (unclear) and melting plutonium and it was running down into the shape, crucibles break. How do you stop that? For awhile there we were getting, see we never made our crucibles here, we got them and crucible-breaking problems were really severe. So, that had to be solved. That was not my problem. My problem was making sure the guys weren’t getting too much radiation. It was the only operational building, which wasn’t monitored by operation monitors.
BAUMGARTNER: We used Radiological Science people. At least, in my 10-year there, for the four years. Then after I left that, one of my major problems was that we knew that the radiation that the people were being exposed to wasn’t being properly monitored with the batch, neutrons are very difficult to monitor and we were not doing too good.
WEISSKOPF: A film badge doesn’t pick up neutrons. That’s not meant for neutrons.
BAUMGARTNER: It wasn’t meant for neutrons. So you would have had to have something separate and it wasn’t until, let’ see, we went to the new badge. A new film badge, oh I think in ’65 and I left. I went to US Testing. Who then had the contract for processing the film badges. The ____ (unclear) and the environmental samples and we made further improvements. We did a lot of improving and the last function that I did before I retired, in 1989-1995, was put the new dosimeter in place which measures everything.
WEISSKOPF: How do you measure neutrons?
WEISSKOPF: Oh, just film impregnated with it?
BAUMGARTNER: No, no, these are little squares, little crystals. Lithium-6 will ____ (s/l store) the neutron effect and when you heat it up, it gives it off as light and we measure that with a photomultiplier tube. Same way with the lithium-7, it only measures gamma. Lithium-6 measures gamma and neutrons. And what your doing is your, its only thermal neutrons that your measuring, but your measuring the fast neutrons that hit the body, get moderated, and come back.
BAUMGARTNER: Because there ain’t no well in hell your going to measure fast neutrons, not with anything that I know. Counters you can do, but even then they use moderators, you know like BF-3 tubes inside of paraffin casks; very difficult to measure fast neutrons. And secondly, responses for the BF-3 tubes changed by a factor of 1,000 between fast and thermal so you have all of these funny little things going on. On film, to go from the old badge, you know the one that had the silver to the one with four filters, I collected 8,008 at once to get the equations for that thing to work. And then when I did the new badge, I collected I think 12,000 data points to make sure that my responses and the equations that I’ve got in the system are correct. So, it wasn’t done just haphazardly, it was done with a lot of finesse. We had a lot of statistics. We tried to make the equations be within 95% accuracy. We felt, we wanted to move away from 50%.
WEISSKOPF: You said you’d retired what year?
WEISSKOPF: And Hanford had stopped production in ’80…
BAUMGARTNER: Well, they started back up. There was a whole bunch of material at N Reactor produced and so it had been sitting there for years and years and years and so then they started PUREX back up and got rid of all that.
WEISSKOPF: So what kind of things were you doing the last five years when there was no longer production?
BAUMGARTNER: 234-5 Building didn’t go away.
WEISSKOPF: So, I think, you still had material to work with.
BAUMGARTNER: Do you know anything about a weapon?
WEISSKOPF: Well, laypersons.
BAUMGARTNER: Alright what does a layperson thing about a nuclear bomb? An atomic bomb? When we make one does it stay an atomic bomb forever, it doesn’t decay, it doesn’t get you know…. It turns out if you make an atomic bomb today that in about seven years if you don’t do anything with it, it ain’t gonna work.
WEISSKOPF: So are we talking the plutonium aspect of it? Or the high explosives and all the…
BAUMGARTNER: No, the high explosives. What happens, what is in plutonium that could possibly screw up an atom bomb?
WEISSKOPF: Isotopes and oxidation.
BAUMGARTNER: Ahhh, not oxidation.
WEISSKOPF: Unless they took care of that.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s not it, it’s the isotopes and 240 and 241 decay at a pretty quick rate and it goes to americium, which is a neutron absorbent, it’s a real suck-up device. And pretty soon you’ve got enough americium sitting there that the thing won’t go off. It’s absorbing the neutrons to where the neutron no longer, you don’t have a certain level of neutrons to start the reaction. Alright?
WEISSKOPF: Rebuilding…
BAUMGARTNER: So you gotta take the darn thing apart, get rid of the americium.
WEISSKOPF: It’s a chemical process.
BAUMGARTNER: You’ve gotta get rid of the americium and then you make it back into…Okay so there has to be a cycle so when Americans are going on to this non-nuclear and they are not reworking anything, pretty soon you don’t have a nuclear capability. So, nuclear rework has to be done.
WEISSKOPF: Why wouldn’t it have been worthwhile to take the plutonium from Hanford and run it though what they were doing at Oak Ridge with uranium to strip out the isotopes they didn’t want? And leave pure…
BAUMGARTNER: Ahh, uranium 235 and 238 is 3 atoms difference. What’s plutonium in 239,240… 1. You’d have to have a diffusion plant that is about a thousand times bigger than what you’ve got.
WEISSKOPF: And run it 10 times longer, yeah. Okay.
BAUMGARTNER: You know your not going to get the separation you think you are. However, there is something that’s much better. I think it’s classified.
WEISSKOPF: But, those are problems that people thought about.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh hey, we thought about that right from the beginning.
WEISSKOPF: Does 240 and 241 fission like 239, is it okay to be in there as far as…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh, it’s marvelous.
BAUMGARTNER: It’s marvelous.
WEISSKOPF: It’s the decay that’s the problem.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, it goes in and it decays over the americium and that’s the weird thing. It’s just cause 240, I think and 241 are beta emitters and so they go higher and ____ (s/l up the) americium, and americium is a real absorber. It just loves neutrons and so the next thing you know all the neutrons are being absorbed by the impurity. Let me see if I can tell you, Exxon did a research and the guy that did it was Charlie ____ (s/l Lindmeyer). He was my physics teacher and he worked with lasers. And I worked, when I took the class we solved the problem for ‘em. What kind of stability do you have to have when your trying to separate with a laser, 239 from 240? I won’t go any further than that.
WEISSKOPF: Using a laser to do it…
BAUMGARTNER: Yes…laser right now can separate uranium 238 from 235…
WEISSKOPF: By doing what? What effect would a laser have on an isotope, it’s just light. Do they absorb heat differently or something?
BAUMGARTNER: They vibrate differently.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah? Okay. Alright.
BAUMGARTNER: They vibrate with a different frequency and when they vibrate with a different frequency, if you can make one vibrate in one direction and the other one not, then you can pull them babies out, it’s a gas laser.
BAUMGARTNER: I’ll let you read up on that.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, interesting.
BAUMGARTNER: Because I knew what it took and like I said, you know early years of the computer were not very good because they only had like 6-8 digits of accuracy. Not the kind of thing that a laser needed, a laser needed much more accuracy. And there is that out there, and also too the stability of a system, you know? People talk about 0.01 %, I mean what the hell that’s only 99.9 when you need 10 digits of accuracy what the hell is 0.01%? See, its peanuts. So you had to work out some other details. Charlie did all that and we got him started when we were doing a class, Introduction to Mathematical Physics, I can tell you that much.
WEISSKOPF: So it was here on site.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, that was class. I went to school at nights from 1959-1967. See, I was very short on physics and math. I’d only had up to differential equations, which is still a lot more because most of the guys who graduated with a BS in mathematics only had up to differential equations. But, that wasn’t nearly enough for the kind of things that they needed. The kind of accuracy and the early computers just didn’t have the capability either.
WEISSKOPF: And since the process was evolving all the time, I’d guess that taking classes and learning was sort of almost…
BAUMGARTNER: It was a must. It was absolutely a must. Yeah, since I didn’t know any physics I had to learn physics. I had to learn Nuclear Engineering. I had to take Atomic Physics, Nuclear Physics, that takes… Yeah, but most of it was math. I was taking statistics, variables, introduction on ____ (unclear) physics. My physics class in college was freshmen physics, you know wedges and time planes…that didn’t do any good out here. Even a second year level of physics, you know, wouldn’t have been enough for the kind of things that we were doing. Atomic Physics in particular was…
WEISSKOPF: But you started again in 50-
WEISSKOPF: ’51. This place had only been running for all of 6-7 years.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah and it was…
WEISSKOPF: A brand new industry.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yeah. We were just beginning. In the area of Health Physics in particular we were just beginning. How do you monitor what can go wrong? Hell, we were learning as we were working, you know there wasn’t… I mean now you have people scream when we have things happen today, but then after all we’ve got 40-50 years worth of experience. We don’t have to have that happen anymore. We wouldn’t expect it to happen, but then, that was not the case then. Then was…you know, we hadn’t done very much in the first place so we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen you know like pipes breaking, you name it, glassware where there shouldn’t have been glassware, you know in the system, buckets when there shouldn’t have been buckets. We didn’t know anything about criticality. What’s the criticality of volume or mass for different solutions, different volumetrics, different…
WEISSKOPF: Which might not be a straight line….
BAUMGARTNER: That’s right…see like maybe anything that 4 inches in diameter no matter how full you fill it, it never is going to go critical, but you make a 6 inches and boy you only got get about 2-3 inches and it goes critical. Little things like that, that was not known. Those experiments were being run, out here we call ‘em mass criticality laboratory. I was responsible for all of the early work that that was going on, especially the solutions.
BAUMGARTNER: ____ (s/l Eduwine) Clayton was the guy that was leading that was leading that, but we were doing the monitoring on him. And we were trying to figure out how to monitor his neutrons and his radiation ____ (s/l soil).
WEISSKOPF: For health reasons…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, for saving him. I mean we didn’t want that guy getting hurt. And these guys didn’t know where they were going to have an explosion or not explosion, you know. They were working, yeah they blew up a lab.
WEISSKOPF: That was the famous criticality.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: The old farmhouse, over in that area. Well you heard about a criticality down in Los Alamos?
WEISSKOPF: Oh, no I hadn’t.
BAUMGARTNER: Where the guy was nudging two pieces together.
WEISSKOPF: That was the earliest one…
BAUMGARTNER: That was two metal pieces. We have had two criticality situations. One at 234-5 Building where we had an operation failure and the solution dripped into a bucket, in a 3-gallon bucket.
BAUMGARTNER: And not critically safe.
WEISSKOPF: And the bucket was there just catch drips?
BAUMGARTNER: No, it shouldn’t have been there.
WEISSKOPF: What were the drips going to go into otherwise?
BAUMGARTNER: It should have been a criticality safety container.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, oh, oh, but they put a bucket there to catch it…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, and it shouldn’t have been, shouldn’t have been. Should have been a 4-inch diameter container instead of…just one of those oversights.
WEISSKOPF: In a perfectly vivid illustration of what the deal is.
BAUMGARTNER: Your right, of what happens because we knew it could happen, and it did happen. Yeah, and it went critical several times over a period of many months and I spent swing shift out there, for weeks we never came home.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, it happened in our building, it didn’t happen with my operation, you know, but we supply the monitoring people making sure that everything thing was still safe. You’ve got 234-5 Building and my God, you’ve got to think about what the hell was out there and we couldn’t go in there and clean it up you know. I mean the line was left with all that stuff and no one knew whether, if you had something go critical over here would it set up ringing effects all over there and all that kind of stuff.
BAUMGARTNER: Because after all you’ve got material laying around, it might be in a critical safe configuration, but now all of a sudden what happens when a…
WEISSKOPF: Neutrons come in…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, now you’ve got a big level of neutrons. There is one thing to have say 10 of the 6th neutrons, it’s a whole other thing to have 10 of the 18th…you know. I want that answer right now quick from some nuclear physicist, and that wasn’t that fast in coming.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, it’s a very complicated situation.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah the guy had to, they had to sit down and work. It was, and they didn’t have an answer right away that’s why we didn’t do anything for quite awhile. We were scared to have anybody close to the building because of the…am I making any sense to you?
WEISSKOPF: Oh yeah, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: See that’s what I say, nowadays now that we know all of that, you know, you wouldn’t do that, so the probability…
WEISSKOPF: In any industry you have to collect a certain amount of work experience to get to a certain level of expertise and your doing it in the beginning, but 20 years later when you look back you say my God how did get anything done back then?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, you wouldn’t of, but you didn’t have the safety rules and you know, so you just went in there and you went at it. All I can say is, we were very strong in monitoring. When we saw something that wasn’t quite what we thought was copacetic, we shut it down and discussed it with management and operations people. And if it didn’t suit us, kept it shut down until the top management made the decision. That happened several times.
WEISSKOPF: Like you should of any time you “shut something down”…You were…
BAUMGARTNER: You got a lot of static. You know you got a lot of Operating Managers you know. I go straight up to the top management real quick like. Health Physics was one guy and here’s Operations over here and when your shutting those guys down, you know, the only guy that can really settle the argument has gotta put of with both them and so it went there really quick because time is money.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, or national defense.
WEISSKOPF: I mean that was the overriding premise…
BAUMGARTNER: That was the major premise at that time, I don’t think…
WEISSKOPF: You pick up your headlines in the morning.
BAUMGARTNER: Right, well, in the days when we were operating we didn’t make a big ‘to do’ about the kinds of levels that they are making a big ‘to do’ now. A 1,000 count per minute level now is a big deal. We didn’t think it was a big deal until they got 10,000, but then when you’re mucking around in zillions, what’s 10,000?
BAUMGARTNER: See, but nothing going on is a whole different thing. Everything has been cleaned up. I can see where a 1,000 is meaningful because that is something you can see. Also too, on some of the areas you couldn’t see 1,000 counts.
WEISSKOPF: They weren’t measuring that low?
BAUMGARTNER: Well you had too much background.
BAUMGARTNER: I mean you go into that canyon building. There isn’t hardly any place that you could get that wasn’t reading 500 counts per minute period. Especially when you opened the cell blocks, 6-3 cell blocks. That whole area you had to set the ____ (s/l five-folds) for 500 basically. So it was, in other words you always wanted to make sure you got the cell blocks back on during shift change.
BAUMGARTNER: Because when people are going out and in.
WEISSKOPF: Out and in of the canyon.
BAUMGARTNER: Canyon, well where their shift change. So that when you go out of the canyon you have to go through the ____ (s/l five-fold) and when you come in you go through the ____ (s/l five-fold). I make sure you’re clean to come in and I make sure you’re clean going out. So, 99.9% of the time the cell blocks were on top of the cells at shift change, because it wasn’t true because you know…I hate to say it but there was megarads coming out of a cell you know, and that is coming off of hitting that ceiling.
WEISSKOPF: As a layperson, that’s what I still don’t have a feeling for. If somebody could show me what the canyon looked like when you took a lid off using light instead of big numbers and….
BAUMGARTNER: Alright…shoot a beam up 20 feet and what’s it going to do when it hits that tall?
BAUMGARTNER: It’s going to scatter.
WEISSKOPF: But if I think of a flashlight it’s like so what, but your talking about a big streak like a light they’d use in front of a used-car lot at night….
BAUMGARTNER: Oh…go that by about a hundred thousand.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, and that’s what I can’t visualize.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay a lifetime dose per year was 3 rem. Suppose I’ve got 1,000 megarads, how long would it take me to get 3 rads? Not very damn long.
BAUMGARTNER: Because everything was measured in rads per hour.
WEISSKOPF: And the dissolver full of…
BAUMGARTNER: Dissolver solution…
WEISSKOPF: ____ (unclear) uranium.
BAUMGARTNER: Read in megarads. To give you an example, a doorstop, two drops with a CP off scale, that’s 5 rads. TP 20 rads.
WEISSKOPF: Okay how long could you be near that to pick up your 3 rads then?
BAUMGARTNER: Ahh, but I was only allowed to pick up 0.05.
WEISSKOPF: Per day or?
WEISSKOPF: Per week. So how long does that take?
BAUMGARTNER: Well divide, take 0.05 you know rads total and then say your going to now you’ve got. I need a piece of paper and pencil. Suppose you’ve got 1 rad…
WEISSKOPF: You want these papers now?
BAUMGARTNER: Okay. 1 rad per hour…
WEISSKOPF: Okay it’s per hour?
BAUMGARTNER: Right, it’s always per hour. It’s a rate, it’s always a rate. And now your going to receive, your going to have, your going to receive, your going to measure that by time, T x 1 RO per hour is equal 0.05, because see these cancel. So what does, say take 1 underneath 0.05, so 1 one time is equal to 0.05 over 1R, which is what 20? 1/20. 1/20 of an hour.
WEISSKOPF: Three minutes.
WEISSKOPF: From two drops.
WEISSKOPF: Wow. So if you screwed around in the lab you might have to leave work for the rest of the week if you were…
BAUMGARTNER: That’s right, that’s right.
BAUMGARTNER: And it might only take you 3 minutes to get it. They were really pissed off at you if you worked three minutes a week.
WEISSKOPF: Right, right.
BAUMGARTNER: Am I making any sense to you?
WEISSKOPF: So if you were in the canyon, when they ____ (unclear) opened far into the canyon, down ____ (unclear) and they took the lid off of the dissolver cell, you would be getting a big dose.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, about 5 rem per hour, probably you could be down in there maybe about 30 seconds and then you’d have enough for the week. We allowed people to get a maximum of 50 millirem per day, 250 millirem per week. But if you got 250 millirem per week, your only allowed 3 rem so that would be 12 weeks worth of work. So we didn’t let anybody, we didn’t try to let anybody get 250 millirem a week. So we were trying to keep them down at 50, because 50 x 52 is 2.5, that’s 2.6, that’s as far as we wanted them to go. So we were kind of, if he got 50 then you know, if he got 30 minutes, he had 39.5 hours a week that he couldn’t do anything. That was not very efficient.
WEISSKOPF: No. Two things I always like to ask. If the whole process in the canyons wasn’t radioactive, it was just chemical. How big of a plant would it have been? You want to process the same amount of material….
BAUMGARTNER: Not bigger than my house.
WEISSKOPF: Okay. And workers could go around and tune it up and look at gauges, take samples, all the chemistry would have been the same, but forget…it would have been a very straight forward chemical.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh God, all that pipery that you see, that would have all disappeared because you’d have gone in there and poured ____ (s/l EL) solutions with the bucket and…it would looked more like a laboratory. You know, what’s 500 gallons…at that end it’s 500 gallons and at that is 50, you know…
WEISSKOPF: Yeah. The whole, the massive size of that building, all it said was this stuff is radioactive…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah right…
WEISSKOPF: And ____ (unclear).
BAUMGARTNER: Now, had they built the building a little thinner, you could have had nothing but super problems.
WEISSKOPF: Nothing but what?
BAUMGARTNER: Super problems.
BAUMGARTNER: Suppose they had…do you know anything about a half-value layer?
BAUMGARTNER: A half-value layer…
BAUMGARTNER: A half-value layer is a thickness of material which will, and you put a source on this side will…If I say I’m at 3 feet and I get a reading of 1, now I put a certain amount of material in between the source, you know, such that it now reduces it to 0.5…okay that’s a half-value layer.
WEISSKOPF: Okay, right.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, if I put two half-value layers on there I get .25.
WEISSKOPF: You don’t get zero.
BAUMGARTNER: No, no, no, I get a .25. So 3 half-value layers, okay so I got megarads and I gotta have it down to less than a millirad. So your talking about 10 to the 9th. Well how many half-value layers do you have to have to have 10 to the 9th? Okay, if you miss it by very many half-value layer, and you don’t have to miss it by much. Like for instance if it was 1 millirad now per hour and it couldn’t be that high because you could only work 40 hours a week, you’d have 40, we’d have burned out. So they were guesstimating what it would take and they put 15 feet. Had they put say 12 feet, we would have had 3, we would have had to put up lead walls, etc, etc, etc, on the inside.
WEISSKOPF: And nobody ever had to do that…
BAUMGARTNER: Nobody, no one, they hadn’t done that before. They hadn’t done that before and so was 15 feet okay? So, what little we knew about absorption, those guys did a good job.
WEISSKOPF: How could they estimate what a full-blown 1-1/2 1,500 pounds of uranium, they guessed at what the radiation would be, you know educated guesses.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah and then put a factor of 10 safety and that’s about what they did. And thank God they did because even at that we were getting radiation at the pipe gallery and at the operating levels.
WEISSKOPF: If you went to the wall…
BAUMGARTNER: No, where they were operating, where they were moving the dials.
WEISSKOPF: They were getting…
BAUMGARTNER: They were getting radiation doses.
WEISSKOPF: Coming through.
WEISSKOPF: They were above it too.
BAUMGARTNER: See and that’s…you know and that’s going through the shielding…just…
BAUMGARTNER: To me, it’s those little things that really lead you believe it was, God it was magnificent. In other words, DuPont did a great job. I can, I’ve got a story for you. Greenewalt at that time was their top…


BAUMGARTNER: …was given the instructions about the reactor and Fermi and those guys says well a 30-foot cube, you know 30 feet wide, deep, and high will be big enough. So they gave that to Greenewalt. He went back and they built the reactors. No one ever, they had some ____ (s/l as bills) that nobody ever looked at. So then when B Reactor went up for the first time they got it loaded and it went up. It went up. Got up a little ways and all of a sudden it started going down. So, Fermi was there and they says ‘Well what’s the scoop here, the reactors doing down. No matter what we do pulling out the rods it don’t make a damn bit of difference. It’s still coming down. What’s in there? What going…you know. Hey, yo-yo.’ And we don’t know how long, you know, it took like days for it to get there and going and they back up again. So they had these little spike short…So Fermi does his calculation and ‘Ahh, I know what it is, xenon’. Xenon is getting generated in these factors, absorbing neutrons. So he does a slide rule calculation, two digits of accuracy. He says “Oh damn.” He says “You know if we’d have that reactor at 32 feet x 32 feet x 32 feet, we could, it would work.” So Greenewalt says “But it is 32 feet x 32 feet.” They just loaded it 30 x 30, you know they put dummies in so that the original load was just 30 x 30 x 30. So what they did then is they took the tubes out, put two more feet, you know, of slugs, put it at 32 feet, it went up and stayed up. All because Greenewalt says, if 30 feet is okay, 32 feet is better.
WEISSKOPF: What engineers need to think about.
BAUMGARTNER: Right and that’s what he did. He thought we’d get a little bit of extra capacity just…you know…and it worked. But that’s how close that got. Had they built it originally, they’d have had B and F, and D, would have never made it. Those reactors would have been too small, and as it was why they went to 1,500 megawatts and ____ (s/l bomb noise).
WEISSKOPF: But what do you think in terms of leaving something for prosperity? Both T Plant and B Reactor are being looked at as being of historic significance. How can we show them, keep them, what are we gonna do? What would you like people, your shaking your head, but in what way are shaking your head?
BAUMGARTNER: They are too radioactive yet.
BAUMGARTNER: The building. The canyon. You still wouldn’t let anybody in there and to let someone in with a crane, you , the limited capacity of looking, it’s so limited that I don’t…
WEISSKOPF: It’s, yeah, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: I mean, one half hour…that’s not my idea of…16 a day. You know that’s not my idea of…
WEISSKOPF: Perhaps a small model of it that would tell as much as the building itself.
BAUMGARTNER: And they have that…
BAUMGARTNER: We have that. It’s not a ____ (unclear) it’s about that big.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah. You know where that might be today? I haven’t seen it.
BAUMGARTNER: Go to the science center…
BAUMGARTNER: In the Federal Building. It’s in their warehouse someplace.
WEISSKOPF: They were the ones who had possession of it…
BAUMGARTNER: They had possession of it.
WEISSKOPF: Okay. What about B Reactor as far as the story you’d want people…What kind of things would you want people to walk away with? When they come to Hanford to learn what things were…
BAUMGARTNER: I think the idea of complexity that it was not a simple machine. I think people think this thing was very, very simple. It was not very simple. It took a hell of a lot of know-how. These reactor operators had to learn a hell of a lot of stuff so they could operate. There was a lot of on-hands work in the original days, because remember there was no computers in those days. And there was no, the inner ties to the monitoring system was all manual. The guys were looking at gauges. At that time we didn’t know if the neutron detectors were really correct or not. They weren’t either, most of the time. So these guys were, they were watching temperature gauges on each pipe, a whole slug of things, all manual. Every shift, twice a shift they would go all through the 25 innertubes and record the temperature on the gauges, all that kind of stuff. And that was collected by those reactor engineers trying to figure out what to do, such things like splines and all that kind of stuff. But that didn’t’ occur until after the computer came out and we integrated all the stuff so that, you know. Also too, since it was so slow and it was all manual, they ended up having to have what’s called a third safety system.
BAUMGARTNER: You know, where it was going and we had the balls. I was there when we put the balls in.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah. What were you doing there?
BAUMGARTNER: I was radiation protection.
BAUMGARTNER: And those went in in 1953.
WEISSKOPF: Your talking about when they physically put the system in, replace the liquid tanks with the ball bearings.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, well what happened with the liquid…the pipes allot the liquid run, you know, and the graphite has got little holes you know so that liquid got in there and just shut the damn reactor down just about. You’d have a cold spot right in the middle of anyplace. So what they did is they then pulled all that out and they had these little balls about the size of marbles, these boron silicate balls, and they would have them in hoppers and they would just drop. And they didn’t have pipes inside the reactor, they just had a hole. Well, when dropped the first batch of, when you know testing it, we’d say we put 6,000 balls in and God we only got 5,600 out. There were 400 balls in there…”ahhhhh.”
WEISSKOPF: Each one of which produces the output of…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, just like the liquid did. And oh God, so we had to develop a method for sucking them 400 balls out.
WEISSKOPF: Well how did you get them out the first time? You sucked them out then too…
BAUMGARTNER: We sucked them out with a hose, like a vacuum cleaner.
WEISSKOPF: It didn’t get them all…
BAUMGARTNER: No, no we, so we ended up…they didn’t want to put a pipe in there, but by that time the old reactors had such large holes that the marble could go into the crack, you know between the pieces. I mean when they were machined they were really flush, but by the time they had operated until 1953, which from 1944 to 1953, you know that’s 9 years, quite a bit of the graphite had…you know what do they call it…it had come out.
WEISSKOPF: ____ (s/l Groum) is the word that….
WEISSKOPF: …growth going on…
BAUMGARTNER: Well no, that’s not what happened at first. What happened at first is that the graphite was hot and so therefore it like, it bled off. So we were getting holes. And then they finally figured out how to stop that. But when they did, all of a sudden the graphite grew, see, but the first problem was the graphite shrank. You know we were dissolving the graphite because remember the reactor is hot, I mean “thermally hot.” You know, after all we’re heating up water and almost all the moderation is being in the graphite not in the water or on the slug, we were cooling the slugs…
WEISSKOPF: Moderation produces heat…
BAUMGARTNER: Right and so that had to be fused out through the pipe, you know the aluminum pipe, and on into the water. So the graphite was, I don’t remember exactly what the temperature was, but I think they were talking about 600-700 degrees Fahrenheit, which enough to start vaporizing some of the you know if you had a particular atmosphere and it was…and that’s what had generated these holes. You know these splits, cracks, and so when they you know you 400 marbles. It’s not very many when you’ve got 6,000, but it’s a lot when you’re trying to get the reactor back up.
WEISSKOPF: Plus knowing every time you dump it, you might end up with yet…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, getting more and more and more in there.
WEISSKOPF: Question, you could only suck water up 30 some feet…because if air pressure only allows it to go that high…
BAUMGARTNER: Well that’s when atmosphere, yeah…
WEISSKOPF: How do you suck up ball bearings from the bottom of the reactor. Wasn’t it farther than that…it’s 30…feet
BAUMGARTNER: Well, yeah, but see you’re using not water. You’re using a high-degree of air. See, you put the tube down and you squirt the air so you loosen you know, and then you suck the, you know they drop down the ball and ____ (sucking noise) you’ve seen them suck balls up.
WEISSKOPF: But you can’t suck a ball up…
BAUMGARTNER: With a vacuum you can.
WEISSKOPF: …water…
BAUMGARTNER: Huh? Well, a vacuum.
BAUMGARTNER: You’re not using a vacuum, we’re pushing air up. You’re pushing up with air.
WEISSKOPF: With water that doesn’t work…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, well it would too because water has some force, but air is what we used.
BAUMGARTNER: You wouldn’t want to use water because you’d now get water going in there.
WEISSKOPF: Right, I’m thinking of…if you have a flat column of water you can only raise it 32 feet.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s no question, not arguing.
WEISSKOPF: …air up through it your going to be sucking water…
BAUMGARTNER: Right, you’re really…see your pushing air in the first place.
BAUMGARTNER: And that was all sealed so you could put like 600 pounds of pressure…
WEISSKOPF: Wow, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: In other words it’s a whole different…what you were thinking. I know what you were thinking is all…you know. No that’s not…you’ve got to think about in terms of…no they put pressure on that baby and they just blew air…
WEISSKOPF: ____ (unclear)
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, right. And that well…that just sucked them right out.
WEISSKOPF: And did you end up with 6,000 or?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, no we ended up with about, all total I think that method left about 16 left.
WEISSKOPF: 16 balls?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah and then we just burned them up. You know, they’ve only got so much capacity and so that was burned up in a hurry.
BAUMGARTNER: So, no big, it was no big problem.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, yeah. So at any rate if there is a B Reactor Museum someday…
BAUMGARTNER: I’d love to see that. I love what they’ve got because they’ve got enough parts there to show you the complication of the front end and the back end, you know you can see all of that. The pipery…ahhh….big tails…
BAUMGARTNER: Gauges, control room. Recognizing it’s not a little itty-bitty computer, this is bank after bank after bank of non-computerized equipment, all analog.
BAUMGARTNER: To me, that’s…I think people should see that because our kids are growing up without an analog in their mind.
WEISSKOPF: Not even watches.
BAUMGARTNER: No, digitally and all. So consequently I think this is a piece of history that isn’t that old.
BAUMGARTNER: And they would think that it’s extremely old. You know, get what I’m trying to say. I couldn’t be more for it.
BAUMGARTNER: I’m with it. It’s just I’ve been helped for the central reason…reactor wasn’t my big bag. I mean, I was in the 100 Areas for two years, but from 1953 and is you know, from February of 1953 to ’54. And we did the basin work. I was involved in the basin, water runs through the reactor and then runs through a basin and cools down thermally…
BAUMGARTNER: And also to short half-life of the radioactive materials so that by the time it gets to the back end in 30 minutes it’s not as hot and it isn’t going to hurt river as much. The fish…we were really…okay well these basins were made out of concrete and pretty soon the joints, you know from expanding and contracting you know and now it’s hot, water is coming out at 200 degrees, now all of a sudden the water is cold coming out at the ____( s/l cool).
BAUMGARTNER: These joints expanded, cracked, you know those basins are 12 feet deep and so pretty soon we had holes and we had as much water running out between the cracks to the river as we were getting through the main tube. So we ended up having to go in there and fill up the cracks and grout underneath the thing and stop any leaks.
WEISSKOPF: Did you have to shut off the reactor while you did this?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yes, yeah. And when we were doing that was when we were doing Ball 3X.
BAUMGARTNER: When we were putting Ball 3X we did the basin. So we did reactor after reactor after reactor. And I was in the 100-F Area, which did F, H, and DR, and D, and then went over to B when we did B and C. And monitoring at that time was monitoring and we…See basins got hot because if you had a rupture before you could shut the damn thing off…
WEISSKOPF: Something got out.
BAUMGARTNER: Something got out…well where did it go? To in the basin, and then it settled out in the basin and so we had a lot of washing to do and…
WEISSKOPF: Before, when you emptied it out of water, was it not so hot that you could walk down there, walk around and take samples and things like that?
BAUMGARTNER: Not at first…
WEISSKOPF: Really? Okay.
BAUMGARTNER: Not at first. What we did the first was we hosed all the concrete off and you know so when that went down the hole, you know you can’t stop that. Anyway we picked up all that hot water and that went back to the tank farms. And then we, cause see there could be part, pieces of metal…
BAUMGARTNER: See the slug didn’t necessarily have to fresh, it could be an old piece of slug. Now you’ve got it reading hotter than hell in little spots, reading 100,000 counts per minute. You know and you walk on that, 3,000 is a millirem, you’ve got 35 millirem. So you couldn’t walk on that. You know 35 millirem you could walk 30 minutes a day. So, and that’s about what they did. So they brought in 200 workers and they got to work 30 minutes each. You know going in and going…
WEISSKOPF: You were the person who was sitting around with a clipboard and you know…
BAUMGARTNER: No that was the monitors, that’s the guys working for me.
WEISSKOPF: What were you doing?
BAUMGARTNER: I was their boss.
WEISSKOPF: Okay, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: I was looking at the readings they were taking. When they went down to see whether we should change the time, changing of the time was my responsibility, making sure the people didn’t get over exposed.
WEISSKOPF: So you were getting pressure at both ends.
BAUMGARTNER: Absolutely.
WEISSKOPF: Try to get the work done, but let’s not kill these guys either and…
BAUMGARTNER: So I was the interface to the guys out doing operations.
WEISSKOPF: And theoretically everything you did was by a book, there weren’t a lot of subjective decisions to make.
BAUMGARTNER: Subjective decision was you don’t get over 250 millirem a week for sure.
WEISSKOPF: But, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: And if you were in a hot job like we were you allowed ‘em up to 50 millirem a day...
BAUMGARTNER: …and the amount of time it took to make 30 millirem, I mean 50 millirem, that’s all they got to work.
WEISSKOPF: So there wasn’t a lot of room for discussion then.
BAUMGARTNER: No. And each guy that went in, you took his time in and you told him when the hell to get out.
BAUMGARTNER: And you had a loud speaker and he says ‘okay Joe Blow get your butt out.’
BAUMGARTNER: And you expected them out. And if he didn’t’ get out soon enough then he didn’t go in again.
BAUMGARTNER: Because I would go over to the old supervisor and I’d say ‘ that guy didn’t listen, I don’t want him in there.’
WEISSKOPF: And did you find ____ (unclear) would add up to kind of what you were estimating?
BAUMGARTNER: Pretty much.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: Pretty much. Again there was a problem where the CP says one thing and the badge says another. So now you’ve got to figure out what the hell is going on.
WEISSKOPF: Did they ever wear multiple badges?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yes, some of them, we wore like two days, some of them one day. You know you’d wear them one shift…
WEISSKOPF: Did ever put any on your ankles?
WEISSKOPF: Oh you did?
BAUMGARTNER: …inside the shoes, on the forehead, you know in back of the head, the chest, belly, gonads, knees…
WEISSKOPF: At any one time how many would you be wearing?
BAUMGARTNER: …wrist. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.
BAUMGARTNER: And you’d do that, on the basin work we did that for the first three weeks.
WEISSKOPF: And each worker could work at maybe a half an hour a day.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah. We said the CP said you can work 30 minutes. So you’d wear those and when he’d suit up…When he’d suit up underneath, you know on the first pair of coveralls he’d have these badges clipped to it or taped and then he’d have another pair over the top of it and another pair over the top of that, so there was three pair of coveralls on. Because you didn’t want him to get contaminated…cause ahhh…if he contaminated badges it’s bad news because that’s the radiation close, that just screws up the whole radiation reading.
BAUMGARTNER: So we wanted to make damn sure. And then we were, when it was wet then we wore wet suits and a few things like that. It was a, getting ready took longer and going out took longer than it was to work.
BAUMGARTNER: So, that much I can tell you.
WEISSKOPF: And how quickly would you get the badge readings back? The next day or?
BAUMGARTNER: We could get the reading the next day.
WEISSKOPF: Were you pretty comfortable with the results…
BAUMGARTNER: No we wear them you know, generally speaking for the test that we did with the 10 badges, we would wear them with the badge that he wore…
WEISSKOPF: Oh right.
BAUMGARTNER: So that we had a reference point to all these 10 measurements. And that’s, otherwise you can’t correlate it. Also too remember now this…this badge system isn’t necessarily “that accurate at low doses.” So you wanted to have enough dose on there to where you could have reasonable accuracy. And since the guy was taking 50 millirem per day in a week’s time he got 250. So 250 is a very good reading out of a film badge and you know you get good statistics. You could get a good feeling as to what his body was getting.
WEISSKOPF: So you took the 10 badges and then looked at the single badge that was being worn by the same person and said ‘well it looks like when this badge reads this much, his feet were getting this much, his chest was getting this much…’
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, feet…arms and feet can get 10 times what the body can get. So now is this job going to be limiting to the hands, or is this job going to be limiting the body?
BAUMGARTNER: And the only way you know that is to put on the extremities.
WEISSKOPF: And the feet especially, in that case.
BAUMGARTNER: Well, also he’s playing with hands…you don’t if he’s kneeling, so therefore the knees…you know…
BAUMGARTNER: Because these guys do all kinds of dumb things.
BAUMGARTNER: You know, I don’t want to stop them from working. You know, they might go down, they might be on their knees so you had to, we had to correlate. And you had to be sure that you weren’t going say ‘well hell he’s burning out his legs before he gets to 250,’ maybe he’s going to get to the legs 300…you know you can’t do that. So you say ‘hey, you gotta stop. We’re only gonna let you get 30 because you’re limiting to the feet.’ Get what I’m trying to say? So, even though the whole body said it was, you’re well within limits, extremity dose. And see an extremity dose went into the records also. You know, that’s also been recorded for these people. That’s in the guy’s file.
WEISSKOPF: Because you had the badges on.
BAUMGARTNER: Right. Whatever dosimeter reading we ever put on a guy, that’s been recorded in his file.
BAUMGARTNER: So, there is a lot of things that were…and we were developing those kinds of thoughts because no one had ever done the basin work before. Also too, it’s little things like when we were on the concrete once we always kept everything wet, so when they working there we had a spray system.
WEISSKOPF: Just for dust, keep the dust out?
BAUMGARTNER: Keep the concrete wet…and I’ll tell you why.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, oh, oh, physically just to keep it at wet…
BAUMGARTNER: Wet, so that it can’t move. In C Basin, metal basin, they weren’t careful and on Saturday we had a whirly week and we ____ (unclear).
WEISSKOPF: You mean it just blew the stuff out?
BAUMGARTNER: Just sucked it right out there and spread it over the countryside. So we went out one Saturday, that’s when we found the particle problem from West Area. That problem started in the 100 Areas…
BAUMGARTNER: …because we had a dry basin and the 100 Areas when the workers came in on the ____ (s/l five-fold), all of a sudden…wow we’ve got the patrolmen coming in, we were setting the ____ (s/l five-fold) off. They shouldn’t have, you coming to work. So they called us up and so we sent a crew out there and sure enough, there was particles all over. So, we started then trying to delineate this problem. So as we were moving away from B Area, it was getting lighter and lighter and lighter, less and less specks. And we were going down the railroad, and when we were going from B Area say to 2 West Area, suzie-q junction. We got to the suzie-q junction and it was kind of clean, so the guy said ‘well hell, lets go another half mile.’ So we went down another half mile, and lo and behold it started going up. Now if the source is C, what’s it doing hot over there? And as we got toward West, we got more and more and more, higher, and higher, and higher. So we says well alright, we’ll take a carload of guys and we’ll go over to 2 West Area. So we drove over there with six guys of us and I had one guy that hadn’t gotten out of the car yet and he turned his instrument on, put the probe on the ground, and 10,000 counts per minute. “Ahhhh.” So that’s how we discovered the C-stock, you know the REDOX plow, the REDOX, the ruthenium problem. And we delineated that that day and then we were totally confused because see a GM doesn’t tell you want the radiation coming from is, it just tells you activity and it wasn’t until we had, at that time, a 256 channel analyzer, it was a big thing. There were only two on the plant, one in 189-D and one down in 300 Area. So now we had to take samples and we took ‘em and it turns out the ruthenium was beta emitter so we were getting like ____ (s/l bremstroll) on a very low energy ____ (s/l siphon). But the 100 Area stuff gave us a spectra, fission product. Yeah, ‘ahhh what is’, you know so it took us…and we delineated the whole problem and then we had, oh 50-100 monitors, 3 feet apart and straight head and every time they found a speck the guy from ____ (s/l J.E. Jones) would go over with a shovel and pick it up, put it in the bucket. Until they…
WEISSKOPF: So these specks were from REDOX or from…
BAUMGARTNER: REDOX and from the…yeah, we picked ‘em both up.
WEISSKOPF: Okay, but it was specks, it was not covering the ground.
BAUMGARTNER: No no, it was little flecks, you know because uh…it’s like dirt. Little you know, the stuff kind of sticks to something else, or if it was a liquid it got absorbed in a solid material, you know, and was…that’s it. So that’s, so lots of things happened and whose fault was it? Well, too damn late to worry about that, just don’t let it happen again. You know you had your investigations and then you modified your procedures and this is how things got done.
WEISSKOPF: So, it was new industry.
BAUMGARTNER: Yes. We never had clean basins before. Hadn’t cleaned a metal basin before and that dried out faster than the concrete.
WEISSKOPF: Wonder why…
BAUMGARTNER: Well it’s metal…
WEISSKOPF: Concrete’s absorbent…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, that’s why it stayed wet.
WEISSKOPF: Oh damp, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: Damp, stayed wet and where the stuff would have stayed down then the air probably wouldn’t have sucked that light particle up, because it would have been tied with water. See after that, boy, it was underneath 2 inches of water, and water running down the sides and all that kind of stuff. It increased the cost of doing the job, but it should of because we can’t afford the risk of letting things get away from us, that takes us away from T Plant.
WEISSKOPF: Well, it actually is closer to reactor which is very interesting because people, there wasn’t much radiation in the normal cooling water, but over years and years of operation stuff had settled out there.
BAUMGARTNER: Well, it was from the particulate coming from the ruptures.
BAUMGARTNER: It was the ruptures that were…
WEISSKOPF: Pure water in itself will come out perfectly…
BAUMGARTNER: Pure water and if there is no rupture it will stay why…it will be hot in the sense that you’ve activated the oxygen and nitrogen, but see that’s a short half-life material and so by the time it gets 30 minutes, it’s gone. You know, that’s like 10,15-20 half-lives. Anything that goes more than 10-20 half-lives is pretty much gone and it’s not that high to start with, you know your talking about a couple thousand count per minute so what went back to the river was really low, except when you had a rupture. There are no filters out there. At least there weren’t then. I don’t think there is any now. When a rupture, but see now we have such fast equipment that….
WEISSKOPF: You mean in a regular reactor?
WEISSKOPF: Such as if the primary coolant ruptured into the secondary.
WEISSKOPF: Or something like that…
BAUMGARTNER: That one we could handle, but even then you had to stop, you know you had the water flow. It has to go through…but, see most of that flow, a rupture would have gone through the cooling water and goes right down to the basin and out she goes and as far as I know there’s no filter on that.
BAUMGARTNER: And I don’t think it would have caught these small particles anyway.
WEISSKOPF: Well it would have been…
BAUMGARTNER: You can’t drive 55,000 gallons, let’s be honest.
BAUMGARTNER: You just can’t drive that through a HEPA filter.
WEISSKOPF: And change it every hour.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah. So, that make any sense?
WEISSKOPF: Oh yeah. It all makes sense, it’s all good, and I think before we burn you out completely. You have your burn in out in how long you can talk, you know but it’s all relevant. You know, right now we are looking at T Plant, some of the things that ____ (unclear)…
WEISSKOPF: So a lot of things you talked about were great for that, but the work at the reactor with the Ball 3X) and the basins is the first time I have talked to somebody who worked on cleaning out the basins. So that was interesting.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh there were a lot of things.
BAUMGARTNER: I was very lucky because I got to move. I got into places….
WEISSKOPF: Everybody did. I don’t know of anybody who had one job for like 20 years.
WEISSKOPF: Certainly not in the early days.
BAUMGARTNER: No, not during time of operation.
BAUMGARTNER: The most you were allowed to stay in any one place is a year, except when I went to 234-5 I stayed from, you know 1954 to 1958.
WEISSKOPF: Did they encourage you to move around?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh absolutely, they wanted you to be able to go anyplace.
BAUMGARTNER: Since I had been in the 100 Areas they didn’t hesitate to call me if they had a problem out there to whip me out there.
WEISSKOPF: So that must of been the security issues of not letting anybody learn too much about any particular process, that was less of an issue then. --- I wish we had more opportunity to do it in a more relaxed, you know sort of an ongoing thing, but other people too. Because otherwise you know you spend your whole life in this career and now we’re asking for this much of it.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, pretty much, pretty much.
WEISSKOPF: And, your getting just a little tip of the iceberg sample of it.
BAUMGARTNER: And there is no way, I don’t think there is anyway that we can give all to you in any way.
WEISSKOPF: Some people like to write their autobiographies, some people go teach a class, but otherwise there is no direct ongoing way to ____ (unclear).
BAUMGARTNER: See for instance like the first and third Wednesday of every month at the…
BAUMGARTNER: …the monitors meet, guys that I used to work with.
WEISSKOPF: Like Bob is there...
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah. And these guys have that early knowledge because they’re all retirees and they all had come in and either like, most of the guys that come in about 1949. Prior to that, it was the guys that were management were then down monitoring.
BAUMGARTNER: In my early years, I had an instrument in my hand a lot. If we were really deeply concerned about the radiation problems and that, I went in. I wouldn’t let my monitors go in. Up until ’58, at which time then the union had come in and only the monitors could monitor and then we had to step back, but I was allowed to go until ’58. And the reason for that is because I had been in 234-5 Building a long time and we had an interesting monitoring problem. Secondly, I was working on monitoring problems, the doses associated with taking this reading and then what’s the dose, coming up with rules of thumb. We worked, I worked on that. Also too, I was involved in investigations and no one had more incidents than we had in the 200 Areas, it was profound. Whether it happened at REDOX or T Plant or 234-5, or 231, or at B Plant, or you know…it was all…I mean and there was a lot going on, a lot we were learning and from investigating. And then you didn’t always get the truth from everybody when they told you oh I did this, I did that, you had to kind of figure out…that’s not the way it was…the way it really was and then after you tell them the way it was, then they try and say ‘yeah that’s the way was.’ But it, sometimes to go, it took quite a bit of effort to….because people are naturally defensive, you know it’s their job…yeah yeah there you got involved. And no one wants to admit to a mistake, I don’t care who it is…whether, today’s world is no different and it was hard to get some of these things out. We had lots of interesting incidents you know like a piece of plutonium in a guys arm…that’s in… Had a guy put his hand who put his hand in the bottom of a TTPA solution of plutonium and it went right through the glove and everything right into his hand you know, millions of ____ (s/l dperem). Days and days where he never went home obviously.
BAUMGARTNER: Millions of ____ (s/l dperem) and I was involved in all of them. I got involved in all of, I got pulled of my regular assignment. I also built analog models to see how well DDTA works, EDTA, DTPA, how well these things work in terms of removing things that were causing confusion.
WEISSKOPF: There wasn’t anywhere to go for the books right?
BAUMGARTNER: We were writing it, we were writing it. And no one knew how much to give, you know, I give how much, what can I expect? And from the very meager data that we had and the very meager number of cases we had, we developed models that have held up very well, held up for 40 years. So, the work we did wasn’t that bad. I think that we did, I think personally we did very good work. I think the guys that I worked with were sterling.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh God, they, it was, I guess it was the right people at the right time. Really and truly it was, I’m very proud of the record we’ve got when you think we didn’t know anything and we never killed anybody. And the guys that we could have hurt, you know the guys with the heavy incidents, not too many of those died say from like leukemia or anything like that. Most of them died of heart, and not at young ages…79, 80…oh all this kind of stuff. And those that did die from things that….they’ve been compensated as far as I know, they might have had to go to court and all that, but nevertheless I don’t think we’ve been very belligerent. So, it’s just, I don’t know…
WEISSKOPF: It’s interesting because every industry has a fatality factor right…and you guys were starting out in an industry that no track record and look back is how you go and…
WEISSKOPF: …compare it to other industries, other chemical industries, heavy industries…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah. We’re the only industry that I know that has…since people aren’t dying right from the amount of radiation they got based on the epidemiology, that we have healthy workers and they predicated that, because we got our physicals and we got monitored and so consequently we must have seen things early and so therefore they didn’t die. The alternative to that is that maybe fellas…they didn’t get as much radiation as you thought they got.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: You know that’s an alternative. Maybe we weren’t healthier than anybody else, I don’t think we were, and just because we were getting medical doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t dying from heart, stroke, or everything else just like everybody else is. So, but how do you prove that we didn’t have as much radiation as they’re putting in the files? So, I worked with Ethel Gilbert for five years who was the epidemiologist for the plant, who said we should have so many deaths and Jack Fix is now the guy that has that. I worked for him and we proved, or I proved I thought, that the amount of fast neutron dose that was given to our employees was considerably less than what they’ve got on the file.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah. Because they automatically added 15 millirem per week of neutrons to every worker, operator, pipe fitter…
WEISSKOPF: Just as a safety factor?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah it’s just a booby factor. And that’s what makes our numbers look so big see…the amount of neutrons exceeds the gamma and that’s not possible. That’s where I came from.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s the safety factor to give you the best estimate of how many people should be dying by when and what.
BAUMGARTNER: And see okay you say well we should be getting so many deaths, well then if they’re not dying, now what? Well, they said we have a safety factor, healthy employees, when in truth maybe your estimate of exposure is a little bit high.
WEISSKOPF: The other alternative is that the radiation was good for them.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s an alternative which many of us in Health Physics have indicated for the simple reason, background is 300 millirem per year from the sun, from the ground, and so you ask yourself if we are getting 300 millirem you know, we’ve been having that since birth, even before birth, is that injuring us? “Are we any dumber than the Ape man was?” 10,000 years, 100,000 years…everything was higher then than it is now, because now the things decayed you know. Every 94,000 years is a half-life or 10, or whatever uranium 238 I think is quite a bit, but 234-5. So you ask yourself these questions and you come up with, you know you wonder whether people aren’t better off.
WEISSKOPF: Do things like bacteria have the same susceptibility to radiation as the human cell?
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, that’s…fundamentally bacteria are one cell…
BAUMGARTNER: And so therefore…
WEISSKOPF: it’s not as if you’re perhaps killing off bacteria before your hurting yourself.
BAUMGARTNER: No, no your getting mutants so they are getting used to…. I can believe that. But, I think we’re generating more mutants via the chemical route then we are ever with radiation. Personally, that just…and the reason for that is 10 to the 10th photons per centimeter squared is a rad. Okay, that’s 10 to the 10th. Now lets go back, how many atoms or molecules are there in a molecular wave and it’s 6 x 7 to the 23rd …okay so I if can’t see a million, oh so I’ll be generous, a billion. One part in a billion is what? Take 9 from 23, you get 14.that’s still 4 orders of magnitude higher than 1 rad. So therefore chemically, bigger numbers. One part per million is 10 to the 17th, kinds of things…we’re talking about 10 to the 10th which is a rad and we’re talking about 0.3 a year. You get the idea of the…the chemical in my judgement is much more fearsome or fearing.
BAUMGARTNER: Due to the fact that’s 7 orders of magnitude or 10 orders of magnitude. Different, higher, and so therefore that’s a much more severe problem.
WEISSKOPF: Interesting.
BAUMGARTNER: Am I, give you a coruler, to me I find 10 to the 10th a good-sized number. This is what my…am I making sense?
WEISSKOPF: Yeah. But there is also the fact though that we are exposed to the chemicals every day of our life in every situation. Where radiation…
BAUMGARTNER: That we’re willing to accept, just like we are willing to accept 65,000 deaths on the highway.
WEISSKOPF: That’s where, I know.
BAUMGARTNER: And that’s per year. See, so there’s a funny, we have a funny sense of value.
WEISSKOPF: What do you think it is that put nuclear, all things nuclear, in the light that their in today?
BAUMGARTNER: Fear of the unknown. None of us people could get up in front of a hearing, a senate hearing and say, will 1 rad, how much ____ (s/l circ) will that give? I can’t tell you. You know, they can tell you what a mile of road will do, but they can tell you what a rad ____ (unclear) will do.
WEISSKOPF: But, that mile of road is only based on statistics from what happened the year before…
WEISSKOPF: …it’s not like a physical thing.
BAUMGARTNER: Right and we couldn’t, and see even though you haven’t had an incident you start with epidemiology and you play games. A case in point is the reactor incident in New York, you know, where the reactor blew up and they’re arguing, two PhD’s are arguing, whether it caused a half a death or a whole death.
WEISSKOPF: Right, statistically, yeah.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah. I rest my case. And, and these arguments gets raised in the papers, scare the hell out of everybody.
WEISSKOPF: I presume the same thing is going to be happening with genetically engineered things for better or worse, for right or wrong.
BAUMGARTNER: I don’t think so.
WEISSKOPF: You don’t think people are going be real worried about it?
BAUMGARTNER: No. If they were, there would be upheaval…and there is no upheaval in the paper…not like there was against nuclear. Starting in ’56 my God anti-nuclear was…Ralph Nader was in the paper everyday.
WEISSKOPF: But it wasn’t nuclear reactors back then was it? It was nuclear…
BAUMGARTNER: He sure as hell did go after…well yeah…but see they equated everything to bomb. There was nothing but a bomb. You didn’t have a reactor, that didn’t mean anything.
WEISSKOPF: It was just a controlled bomb.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, I mean it was a bomb, it was a bomb. Everything was bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb. Nuclear power, didn’t even want to, they wouldn’t let us hardly build any reactors in the United States. I think we have what about 10,12. France has about 30. You know, they’re tweaking their nose at all of us saying go ahead let their price of gasoline get high, we don’t care we’ll go build another 6 reactors. They’ve operated now for 50 years and they’re doing really fine. Our reactors have done fine. I mean the worst criticality incident we had might have cause a half a death…maximum a one death. Now is that something to be outrageously feared?
BAUMGARTNER: How many reactor years have we got? We must have, by now we must have 300-400 years of reactor years with experience and we’re not even thinking about it.
WEISSKOPF: But when you started, did you feel like you were getting into the industry that was going to replace the oil industry? I mean was it…
BAUMGARTNER: No, no, no. No, no that didn’t’ happen until…we never went into those kinds of things until 1956. For instance when Eisenhower, he had the Atoms for Peace Program where we gave away 500 reactors you know swing the pool type reactors. Khadafy got 3 of them at 100 kilowatts which is two bombs a year for those people who…If you want to see something interesting, Dan Rather had a special one time in which he was reporting on how many airplanes had been left in the desert. We didn’t need them you know, B-24s and B-17s, and…
WEISSKOPF: During what period?
BAUMGARTNER: After World War II.
WEISSKOPF: Just left them there?
BAUMGARTNER: Just left them there, it didn’t pay to bring them back. The thing that was interesting is…all of the tails were missing. You know the part that rises?
BAUMGARTNER: Here you’ve got 300 airplanes on the deck and not one of them has got a tail. Now what’s with that? Well that’s strange and then I read the Washington State Law, which allows Boeing Airplane Company to put 1,500 pounds of uranium into the tail of a ’47, 500 pounds into a 707. Did you know that?
WEISSKOPF: Just for balance?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, cause see uranium weighs ____ (s/l spegee) of 19, lead is only 11. So that for the same volume I almost get twice as much weight and you don’t have that much space. However, it’s only depleted uranium.
BAUMGARTNER: So, we’re getting rid of that big pile of depleted uranium that we…. However, what is depleted uranium?
WEISSKOPF: It’s uranium that’s been through a reactor or a separations process.
BAUMGARTNER: And what’s the primary nucleon?
BAUMGARTNER: Beautiful. And what is 238? It’s the mother atom of plutonium.
WEISSKOPF: If you put it, yeah…
BAUMGARTNER: If I put a neutron into 238 it goes uranium 239, later it goes off and becomes plutonium 239, ahhh so… we let 300 airplanes with 500 pounds of uranium go to Khadafy. I’m sure that he can put them through a roller and make ¼ inch thick uranium sheets and line 17-foot pool reactors with that and let all the…
WEISSKOPF: Make is similar, yeah…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, and let it sit, but who the hell cares? And you know then every once and awhile, maybe once a year or once every two years, you to take that out, put another sheet in there and then go over to a laboratory with a hood and dissolve that baby up and… The chemistry of plutonium is well-known by everybody. I mean if Russia’s got it, Khadafy’s got it. So, the guy, he doesn’t have to steal plutonium from the Israelis. Just like the Israelis didn’t steal it from anybody else, they made their own. So how can you keep, with 500 reactors out there, how can you keep plutonium not happening to people.
BAUMGARTNER: Anyway and that happened to us. Once we knew those reactors were going against our judgement, because Eisenhower says no we want to let everybody have the nuclear, because we want them to make the measurements on metal fatigue and so on, so on. It sounded good, but you buy this problem which we did. Which we have, and anyway I helped write state law.
WEISSKOPF: You helped what?
BAUMGARTNER: Write the state law for us being an agreement state.
WEISSKOPF: Which state law.
BAUMGARTNER: Washington state.
WEISSKOPF: About what.
BAUMGARTNER: Go read it, it’s down at the library.
BAUMGARTNER: I think it’s 208 or something like that. And then you go back in there and you look at what they can put into an airplane and there is a whole bunch of little things in there that scare the hell out of ya. You know for a guy who’s been in radiation protection.
BAUMGARTNER: So, that’s…
WEISSKOPF: Interesting. It’s a whole tangent I hadn’t imagined.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, well…your not, you’ve never been in the field.
BAUMGARTNER: And so you wouldn’t…would you ask a question? No. I’ve given you more information then the questions you’ve asked because there are interesting little aspects that go with this whole thing. They are not necessarily good for the T Plant.
WEISSKOPF: Well and the other thing is, just asking questions might be not what’s interesting or ____ (unclear) other things you’ve done. You know I might be asking questions that don’t really relate to you too.
WEISSKOPF: So I think that I always do better if I shut-up a bit and let people talk about the things..
BAUMGARTNER: Lets us talk…
WEISSKOPF: …they’re comfortable about or interested in, or find important.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, and all of us have had, like you say, had interesting careers. There isn’t hardly any guy that you’ll talk to that doesn’t felt that he did a good job. At least in radiation protection.
WEISSKOPF: Now did you have any friends who quite because they didn’t think it was safe?
WEISSKOPF: Or didn’t like the management?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yes, oh yes…lots. We brought in 500 chemists and we lost 75 the first year.
WEISSKOPF: Just the green…
BAUMGARTNER: From as soon as they found out what the hell was here, they didn’t want any part of that,… nuclear bomb. I had a good friend who no longer could do the job that I ended up getting after he left. Signing off on all those weapons.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, not for…


BAUMGARTNER: Like for instance an H-Bomb, that’s so hellaciously large and that’s not against just military. That has to be against civilian population.
WEISSKOPF: What military installation is that big?
BAUMGARTNER: Is that big? You know, you know…
WEISSKOPF: New York City is that big….
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah right. And so you get rid of the back up for the military which is the people, and that’s what H-Bomb, and it’s so hellaciously large that you’ve ruined your political system if you drop it. I mean you know you drop 7 bombs on Russia and you haven’t got enough big cities left or enough politicians left to do anything. And if you let those people, if you warn them and then you destroyed the city after they’re out, what do you do with all these locusts? I mean they, just you have anarchy so, there isn’t anybody that I know of in the political system that is so paranoid that would use a weapon. The reason they won’t is because, like Khadafy, he’s only got three cities and then he hasn’t got anything left. I mean what’s he going to be ruler of? You know, so you drop 9 bombs on America and you’ve got like 75 million people, what are you going to do with 75 million people out in the countryside.
WEISSKOPF: Now, would somebody have stayed here working at 234-5 if they were adamantly against nuclear weapons? And the policy of having nuclear weapons?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, but I didn’t meet too many of those. The only one I met was one the guy who was signing off when he realized how many weapons there were, the number was so large, it was so mind boggling that to build any more he thought was, you know, crazy.
WEISSKOPF: And politically you were still comfortable with what was going on? ____ (unclear)
BAUMGARTNER: Well we were….
WEISSKOPF: …reasonable approach.
BAUMGARTNER: I felt much more comfortable once we had the H-Bomb, because see the A-Bomb is small enough to where it could be a tactical weapon and we built a lot of cannon shells, but there is no… The H-Bomb is a whole different thing and if you ever escalate, my God, I would assume soon the ____ (unclear) would take care of us.
WEISSKOPF: So you thought that the sheer lunacy of even trying to use one…
BAUMGARTNER: The sheer lunacy of going against America with 30,000 weapons is lunacy, even if you figure on getting 90%…
WEISSKOPF: Right, it’s still not…
BAUMGARTNER: No…it’s just crazy. And we can’t afford to go against Russia even with 6,000. I mean 60. What are we going to do against 60? Or 600? I mean its crazy.
WEISSKOPF: You would have more deaths civilian and otherwise in the first half-hour of the war then….
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, you would no longer have any capability, in my judgement, of attacking further. In other words, there is no way you can invade us nor can we invade them because there is too much anarchy. There is just no law and order. I don’t care what anybody says.
WEISSKOPF: So you thought it was a reasonable approach to international….
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, the bigger pile was, the better I liked it, because now I don’t care…even a little paranoia stops you from using it. You no longer have to worry about large paranoia, just even a little, even a little bit. Any sane man, even a sane man is scared much less a paranoid. That’s the way I thought. I’ve let my views be known and you didn’t agree or not agree, but that’s the way I felt. It just didn’t make sense. There aren’t 600 targets out there or 6,000 targets out in this world, there just aren’t. And then when people started talking about China… I went to China, 25 years ago admittedly, but I was worried, but there is no way in hell China can do anything.
BAUMGARTNER: I mean what can they do with a sampan? You know, sure they got 7,000 or 10,000 sampans, but they aren’t going to be able to come across the ocean. I mean remember when they invaded Vietnam? Maybe that was before your time. After we left Vietnam, China went to invade Vietnam. And they got 7 miles into the country and couldn’t go any further, and you know why? The single transportation that they had was a single railroad line that were bringing supplies from 1,000 miles back out to the front. So when they sent a soldier to the front, he had a knapsack full of whatever the hell they put in there, but he can’t put a ton in there. I mean if he puts 90 pounds in there for a little guy like that he’s got a lot. Okay, how much food is that, how much ammunition is that, etc. How long will he last? A week? 10 days? 15 at the most, and then what does he do? Then you’ve got to retreat…and that’s exactly what happened. So they put…ah…Remember the Tiamen Square fiasco?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, I was in Peking a few years before that and to give you an example of a problem. When I was there, there were two filling stations in Peking for the military vehicles and for everything else. During the day the military vehicles were loaded with food stuffs which they brought into town and dropped off and the people then picked it up with ____ (unclear) and then the military, at night then could go out, pick up soldiers and bring them in. Well, how many, I think they had like 15-20 trucks 1-ton trucks, well how many guys can you pick up with 25 trucks, until you can get an army of 10,000 guys? It takes weeks and if you recall they were running around Tiamen Square for weeks before they finally quelled them and that’s because it took them that long to get the 10,000 GIs in there to do it. So you can…to me China is not a threat. They’re a threat in terms of nuclear, but their sure not a threat…now if they could blow us out of the world okay then you know that’s a threat. Now they might be the ones who might use a nuclear weapon with a rocket.
WEISSKOPF: Theoretically, I mean the theory that anybody who understands them well enough and knows how to use them offensively, would never do it again somebody who has equal weapons.
BAUMGARTNER: No and they’re even more conservative than we are, so…Anyway I…
WEISSKOPF: You can’t be world power without it…
BAUMGARTNER: Right, right.
WEISSKOPF: You don’t feel like your part of the big boys unless you do have the capability.
BAUMGARTNER: Right, right.
WEISSKOPF: Germany, France, or England, or China.
BAUMGARTNER: Right, right, right. So, anyway…I have gone to these countries just to see what’s, you know, what’s there. To give you an example, inside of Peking there are two roads, four lanes. One going east and west and one going north and south and as soon as you get to the edge of the city…now how do you know your at the edge of city? Because that’s the last house, which is a high-rise apartment, and then it’s a two-lane highway. And how do I know that was a two-lane highway? Because we went to the China Wall. So we went out north and went to the China Wall, and then when we came in we were going to go to the coastline and as soon as we got out of the south end it was a two-lane highway. And if you want to see how they made the road, down at Kweilin which is way down south, they were making it in 3-foot squares and they had a manual tamper like we have you know, and a three foot square that big was all that that half-ton truck could hold. So they made it in 3-foot squares. Can you imagine going down the highway, and I was looking at this, and there was this quilt of 3-foot squares and when I saw that I, you know, I couldn’t imagine it until I asked somebody. I said “what is this?” and he says well that’s….so each truck load gave a 3-foot square, and the next truck. When I saw all that I says why worry? We’ve got enough power no one is going to attack. We will not use it because there aren’t enough targets anyplace. And if you notice all of the stuff that, they’ve always stayed with explosives.
WEISSKOPF: They’ve what?
BAUMGARTNER: Everybody’s always stayed with explosives, TNT, plastic…they’ve stayed away from nuclear.
WEISSKOPF: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting in 50 year’s time.
WEISSKOPF: There has never been an occasion to use one.
BAUMGARTNER: The only nuclear material we have every used against anybody was when we were at the Gulf War…
WEISSKOPF: Oh the depleted uranium…
BAUMGARTNER: The depleted uranium shells…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh I was upset when I heard that.
WEISSKOPF: Just because it’s not a good metal to be breathing in or?
BAUMGARTNER: You’re spreading uranium all over hell.
WEISSKOPF: Oh uranium that could be useful to somebody.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, my feeling is there is a, I’ve got these 5million shells, I mean we’ve given them a gift.
BAUMGARTNER: Does he have to steal anything? No. ____ (unclear), you know the guy is not an ignorant guy.
WEISSKOPF: Can you buy uranium on the open market?
WEISSKOPF: It’s regulated or?
BAUMGARTNER: Well, read the state law and I’ll give you a hint. After the second, third resale value of an airplane it is no longer controlled.
WEISSKOPF: The airplane is new and then it’s sold used….
BAUMGARTNER: And then sold used, and sold used again, and when that happens it’s no longer regulated, no longer put on the books. And if you go to some of these small airports you will see 707’s with tails missing.
WEISSKOPF: Okay, I’m gonna watch for it.
BAUMGARTNER: Watch for it when you’re in these foreign countries.
WEISSKOPF: How many pounds do they put in?
WEISSKOPF: Oh, okay.
BAUMGARTNER: It’s an appreciable amount. You don’t have to, I mean that will make quite a bit of ¼ inch thick sheeting. Thermal neutrons will not go through more than a ¼ inch.
WEISSKOPF: And is it depleted uranium only because it’s more valuable for other uses when it’s not depleted? Or?
WEISSKOPF: Or is it that they won’t sell real uranium in a metallic version?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh they sell regular uranium all the time. That’s in the open market. There’s a uranium market in the world.
WEISSKOPF: But, why do they use depleted in the back of…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh because we have this big warehouse full of it you know that’s about 17 miles long and 18 miles wide that’s…
WEISSKOPF: Really? Okay.
BAUMGARTNER: You know where we suck out the 0.35% and made reactor material at 5%, so…
WEISSKOPF: I never heard that before.
BAUMGARTNER: Well, and then you, what do you do with the reactor material that you rerun? You know, we are such a rich nation that we have not yet at this point in time redissolved a single slug that has gone through a ____ (s/l pollo) reactor.
WEISSKOPF: That’s right. Let alone, taking depleted uranium, mixing in plutonium and saying hey we got fuel again.
WEISSKOPF: Well…and we have no plans to recycle fuel.
BAUMGARTNER: Not that I, yeah we’re going to debury it. It’s crazy.
WEISSKOPF: Have you at all read about what they do in France with their fuel?
BAUMGARTNER: They’re recycling.
WEISSKOPF: How modern or different is it from what you were doing here?
BAUMGARTNER: Not any more modern than we proposed, which we already know all about because we had done all the preliminary, we’ve done all the chemistry.
WEISSKOPF: Oh, the one that was going to be back east, that was the one they were going to build.
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, well France has, I think, three of them.
WEISSKOPF: Okay, they ship hot fuel around to various plants.
BAUMGARTNER: No, no , no they remake it.
WEISSKOPF: No, but they ship it from the reactor to a separations plant.
BAUMGARTNER: To a separations plant.
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, then they remake it. Then see, what people don’t understand is that the plutonium that’s in there is really much better than the plutonium that we’ve got because our plutonium is weapons grade, but if you want a reactor grade plutonium….
BAUMGARTNER: …you want something that has maybe like 50% of 240.
WEISSKOPF: You like that…
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, cause when it splits, when it hits the neutrons, see instead of giving you…ahh let me see, uranium is 1.4 neutrons, I think, per event. Yeah and plutonium is I think 1.9, 239; 240 I think is 2.6…so now you get 1.6 atoms of plutonium back for every atom used…ha ha….I mean breeder concept is here to stay, now every ton of uranium becomes a ton of plutonium and ….MEV’s is enormous, 9.3 MEV per event…oh God.
WEISSKOPF: It’s a whole different kind of energy production then we have ever had before.
WEISSKOPF: Especially if you burn it….
BAUMGARTNER: In the 50’s when we through the mathematics of it we said that we have enough uranium on hand at that time, just the uranium part, that we would have 400 years with a 2% growth per year. You know where we go to reactors, and if we went the breeder concept, we have no idea how much. I mean it’s like having 10,000 oil fields. Because now instead of 0.35% of the uranium going into plutonium atoms, you’ve got to stop talking about the whole works. And 0.35 is something like the factor of 300. So now 400 years x 300. You know you say to yourself…well…and that’s without the new found uranium, without…so…it’s such a large number that I guess people didn’t believe it. You know because at least the Americans did. So, it’s just a… I could study, but I stopped worrying about studies in ’67, by that time we had done all the ways there were. We had done all the recovery. We already had the classification. We had them on a list with making it into a great big monolith of concrete, with you know, which was do you want to go with what levels? There were two other methods for making little glass balls…so there was a whole bunch of methods that we had developed all here.
WEISSKOPF: How much waste was there going to be, or is there in France from a modern efficient, recycling of hot fuel.
BAUMGARTNER: Each reactor produces a tube of material 17 feet long and 1-foot in diameter per year.
WEISSKOPF: A tube of unusable material?
BAUMGARTNER: Of fission products, not plutonium and not uranium.
WEISSKOPF: But, which you know you can take out and reuse. 17 feet long and how big around?
BAUMGARTNER: 1 foot in diameter.
WEISSKOPF: And that would be very hot stuff.
BAUMGARTNER: No necessarily, because you’ve also taken out the strontium and you’ve also taken out the cobalt.
WEISSKOPF: I wonder if they’re doing that in France…
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, yes, yes.
BAUMGARTNER: They’re using the technology we developed in the ‘60s.
BAUMGARTNER: I can tell you that right now. The separations plant is a PUREX plant.
WEISSKOPF: And do they have a permanent waste storage for the stuff they…
BAUMGARTNER: Yes they do…yes they do. But remember now, these old slugs, these old 17-foot long, some of them are innocuous almost. They’ve been around 25 years, so after 25 years as far as I’m concerned that’s no longer a problem. But, you leave it where it’s at and it’s not that big of deal. So there, I think they’ve got what 30 reactors, so they’ve got 30 of these tubes per year. I mean, you know, if you can put them in the ground and if they’re not generating enough heat anymore, especially the old ones, you don’t need to you know hardly do anything with them. You know…a little bit of water-cooling and that’s just undoable, you know to a pipe.
WEISSKOPF: Was there any talk 25 years ago getting the tanks emptied out in the 200 Areas?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yes, oh yes, that’s when we talked about getting the bismuth and the aluminum and all that type of thing.
WEISSKOPF: But they never took the time or the money to set up a system of doing it?
BAUMGARTNER: We did all the preliminary work, like I call the test tube work, so we know what the reaction, we know what it takes to do it. Yes. So, deep geological storage was just the ____ (s/l intima), I mean that was crazy, crazy, crazy, all that uranium. And that’s all 5% and we haven’t burned 5%…
WEISSKOPF: Oh…in a modern reactor.
BAUMGARTNER: In a modern reactor is 5% uranium 235.
WEISSKOPF: So, it’s still more enriched than natural uranium.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh absolutely, but at least an order of magnitude.
WEISSKOPF: So if you just pull out the uranium, isotopes and all, you end up with something that’s more enriched than…
BAUMGARTNER: Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah. Oh yeah.
WEISSKOPF: And there’s how many thousands of tons waiting to be buried.
WEISSKOPF: Its interesting.
BAUMGARTNER: I’m sorry, it’s crazy. We’re such a rich country we don’t need to do that.
WEISSKOPF: And oil is not so expensive yet.
BAUMGARTNER: No it’s not very high yet, power’s not high yet. Did you know that some of the cheapest power shortly is going to be in that one spot?
BAUMGARTNER: Well because we were not satisfied until we had put a penalty on the Hydroelectric power plants of 500 million dollars per year. That’s how much the fish are costing us right now. So right now, they can’t sell power from the dams which cost roughly I think 1.6 cents a kilowatt or maybe a tenth of that, but it now costs 5.4 cents and we can make power out here, I know but it’d 4.6. So nuclear power right now is cheaper than dam power.
WEISSKOPF: That’s interesting.
BAUMGARTNER: And gas power is now going to be about 12 cents, maybe 18 cents, I don’t know I haven’t seen the latest numbers on the BTUs. The same with oil, see oil doesn’t have to pay the tax. They are burning 24 dollars a barrel type of thing, they’re not paying like we are a few dollars a gallon you know.
WEISSKOPF: Interesting.
BAUMGARTNER: So, and these are…we, all of that is in that library out there, I can tell you that now. Because all of those became documents that we wrote and that we used to go to meetings. Because you know the Health Physics was kind of interested in going to nuclear power, because after all that was our future because we knew ultimately that these reactors would shut down. And so for the monitors and the workers to work they were going to have to go to reactors and so our future was in private power, you know by the nuclear power. So, we obviously as…since that’s the kind of thing that health physicists, you don’t need them except in you know nuclear plants and separations plants, you know and canyon. So, consequently, they wanted to have all of the reasons why power should be coming along. Anyway, that’s…
WEISSKOPF: Well, its interesting how we can move off in other directions so easily, I like that.
BAUMGARTNER: Remember that we worked on all of that really early. You know people always say…You haven’t heard Nader say anything in the last 10 years against nuclear power. It isn’t there because he’s got to read 70,000 documents and lawyers are notoriously famous for reading about 2 or 3 and that’s it.
WEISSKOPF: Were you looking forward to retirement when the time came?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, I had spent 44 years.
BAUMGARTNER: It was long enough, I think it was time for guys like me to go away and let the young guys… No I didn’t have any problem with that.
WEISSKOPF: Still enjoy living in Richland?
BAUMGARTNER: Oh absolutely. There’s no traffic.
WEISSKOPF: That’s right.
BAUMGARTNER: Short distance.
WEISSKOPF: You don’t realize it until you go anywhere else.
BAUMGARTNER: I just came from Phoenix, 1-1/2 million people, like I said 100 blocks took me 45 minutes. I mean I could drive to Pasco in 15.
WEISSKOPF: But why do you need to go to Pasco?
BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, but I’m saying…you know.
WEISSKOPF: You’d have to find a reason to go…
WEISSKOPF: No, I laugh literally, I’m self-employed so I work at home and I put 3,000 miles a year on my car.
BAUMGARTNER: So, hardly pays to buy a new one.
WEISSKOPF: No it doesn’t, not at all.
BAUMGARTNER: Your rusting through just from sitting.
WEISSKOPF: But no, it’s easy to live around here. How long have you been in this house?
BAUMGARTNER: 1965. I had it built, first owner. We had lots of first owners here. There is only about three of us left and you’d expect that.
WEISSKOPF: I’m going to turn this off now.


Part 1: 01:38:00
Part 2: 01:12:12

Bit Rate/Frequency


Hanford Sites

T Plant



B Reactor Museum Association, “William Baumgartner Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 28, 2024, http://www.hanfordhistory.com/items/show/4679.