Roger Hultgren Oral History

Dublin Core


Roger Hultgren Oral History


E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company
Manhattan Project (Organization)
Hanford Atomic Products Operation


An oral history interview with Roger Hultgren for the B Reactor Museum Association.


B Reactor Museum Association


Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities







Oral History Item Type Metadata


Gene Weisskopf


Roger Hultgren


Battelle's EMSL Auditorium


Video Interview of Roger Hultgren

November 26, 1999

at Battelle’s EMSL Auditorium

Interviewed by Gene Weisskopf, BRMA

Videotaped by Nick Nanni, Battelle




            HULTGREN: actually notified many of the colleges and universities throughout the United States that they needed chemists and physicists to support their war program at the time. And, actually, when I was a junior, I was interviewed by the head of the DuPont ‑‑‑ what department would you call that? He was looking for ‑‑‑ he was looking for chemists, it was that simple, for their high explosive division, chemists. Well, that was my junior year in college and we weren’t ‑‑‑ I wasn’t old enough to get into the war, and nothing precipitated it at the time. But all of a sudden, in the spring I guess, late, the first of 1942, the call came on that they wanted to interview us, so I was one of the people interviewed. And lo and behold, after the interview we had, I received a letter from this DuPont company, Dr. Styles is his name, S-t-y-l-e-s. He said “We’re offering you a job as a chemist in the high explosive division, and we’d like to have you report as soon as possible after you graduate at Kankakee Ordinance Works,” which is just out of Joliet, which is just out of Chicago, south of Chicago. So that was my beginning, getting into that field. That was the high explosive field.

            WEISSKOPF: DuPont, what was their slogan about chemistry?

            HULTGREN: They had three famous words: Better things through better ‑‑‑ well, that was one of it, but they had three words: Safety, quality and quantity were the three mottos for working.

            WEISSKOPF: Yeah.

            HULTGREN: But the other motto, which we’ve heard on the radio, was “Better things through...” what is that? I’ve kind of forgotten now.

            WEISSKOPF: They shortened it recently to “Better things through chemistry.” “Better living”?

            HULTGREN: Right, “Better living through...” well, you can ‑‑‑ I have forgotten it.

            WEISSKOPF: Yeah.

            HULTGREN: But that’s ‑‑‑ they had the two slogans, but thinking of the three words that actually governed all of the things you worked for in the laboratories. First of all, there was no question in the mind that safety was their number one thing. You didn’t work if you weren’t safe. There were a lot of fellows that I knew or heard about that just were careless, and they just lost their jobs. Safety, quality and quantity. Quality was everything they did. Of course, when you’re working with high explosives and things, if you weren’t safe, you’d go along with it. So it was ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: So this was in early summer of ‘42, after graduation?

            HULTGREN: I graduated in June of ‘42. In the same month I was in Joliet, Illinois at the Kankakee Ordinance Works in the high explosive division, and I stayed in that until approximately ‑‑‑ it was in June of ‑‑‑ early in ‘44, is the next thing. Did you want to know about the high explosives we worked with?

            WEISSKOPF: Sure, a little bit, yeah. Was it fun to be a chemist there?

            HULTGREN: Yes, it was a lot of fun, and it was a tremendous undertaking because safety was so paramount. You’re working with very concentrated acids, sulfuric acid, and you talk about oleum, which is 100% sulfuric acid, and nitric acid, all strengths of it, from dilute to concentrated nitric acid. You had ‑‑‑ these were very, very involved in all of the explosives. TNT, trinitrotoluene, was the TNT that was used primarily in your explosives, high explosives, different amounts of it. I worked in ‑‑‑ when you started to work on these chemicals, we were put through a training school, and I remember I think for six months, every single day, we went to a training school along with working. It’s like we’re in here today, if you and I were working with this gentleman that’s taking the taping here, he was watching us. And if we were doing something that wasn’t right, there was a ‑‑‑ you had a guardian, is what it amounted to, and if you didn’t ‑‑‑ for example, working around strong acids, you had to wear all wool clothing, because if you had a drop of sulfuric acid or something on you, it would just burn a hole right like that. And if you didn’t have heavy wool on, it would burn right through and get a terrible burn. But it was the heavy shirt, long-sleeved shirt, you wore gloves and things that pertained to that.

            WEISSKOPF: Were you doing quality assurance, or research, or what?

            HULTGREN: We were doing primarily quality, because we worked right with the production people. For example, typical on this TNT, there was operating people that started with the basic ingredient chemicals, and when they got down to a certain point, we would have to go out and take a sample of that product at that point, bring it back into the lab and analyze it. And it had certain specifications. Typically, on TNT, it had a ‑‑‑ actually, it had ‑‑‑ you started out with trinitrotoluene, you go along, and when you get to the final point, it’s hot, in a molten solution, and it goes over a drum that’s rotating that’s got cold water inside. And it’s just like soap chips, you had a scaler. As it turned over, the cold ‑‑‑ the hot molten would hit the cold drum and it would form just like thin soap chips, and they were scraped off and you would catch them.

            WEISSKOPF: Was it explosive at that point?

            HULTGREN: Could be, if it wasn’t the right percentage. And that’s the other thing, it would be caught into a box, similar to a cardboard box like you can see here.

            WEISSKOPF: Uh-huh.

            HULTGREN: We would take a sample of that back to the lab, put it in a heating device and put it back in solution. We’d stir it. All the time we’d have a temperature thermometer in it. And the freezing point was 80-point something, 80.1 to 80.6E centigrade. If it was outside of that, that whole batch of TNT would have to be recycled, and they would put it back into the processing in incremental amounts so that the next time it came through it could meet the specs. It was very precise. And that was a typical chemist.

            For example, I’ll give you one example that we had in this laboratory, there was just like two halves of it, about twice the size of this room we’re in now. One half was what they called the powder side, the other side was the acid side. And there were two chemists there. And we would ‑‑‑ I know we were working ‑‑‑ we’d work a week, and then we’d switch. All of the dry chemicals, one chemist would work on them, and the other one the wet side. That was ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: You were pretty experienced. In that first year, you got a lot of experience.

            HULTGREN: Oh, very much so. Tremendous experience. And we had constant meetings. The DuPont company, their big laboratory was called Eastern Laboratories, which was in Wilmington, Delaware, and they ‑‑‑ well, it was a pleasure working with the company, because they were so safety conscious, and we had ‑‑‑ they were brilliant people.

            WEISSKOPF: So you were a DuPont employee ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Yes.

            WEISSKOPF: ‑‑‑ in the summer of ‘44. And how did they call you up ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: ‘42.

            WEISSKOPF: But when you jump ahead to ‑‑‑ you said summer of ‘44 is when they called you up for Hanford.

            HULTGREN: Yes, but it was all DuPont.

            WEISSKOPF: Yeah. So how did they talk to you about coming out to Hanford?

            HULTGREN: Well, just like we’re sitting here, and all of a sudden, I was working the lab, and the actual head of the ‑‑‑ well, he was a chemical engineer, Bob Smith, he came and said he wanted to ‑‑‑ he told my boss he’d like to have Roger Hultgren come up to the engineering building. There was a lab building out in this particular area. When I got there, there was a Roger Rohrbacher, who I went to college with, I think was at the meeting, but there was probably eight or ten of us there. And the bottom line was that seven of us actually were actually transferred to the Manhattan Project. It was that simple.

            WEISSKOPF: Did they tell you why they were sending you, or that was top secret?

            HULTGREN: It was top secret, but it was the Manhattan Project, and you would be going to the state of Washington. And we knew that much. But it was funny how the rumblings went on when we got out here, because you were ‑‑‑ in the group that I was in, we had I think almost ‑‑‑ DuPont was very Ivy League oriented. My first buddy out there was a fellow named ‑‑‑ had gone to Princeton, he was a chemical engineer, and we worked together in this acid laboratory. But they were just as common here, supervision didn’t flaunt anything. They were right there, they were so interested. Of course, I suppose the times dictated tremendous too, but safety was so important, and top secret. Absolutely top secret.

            WEISSKOPF: How much did they tell you at that meeting?

            HULTGREN: Out here?

            WEISSKOPF: No, back there, with Roger Rohrbacher?

            HULTGREN: When we came out to here?

            WEISSKOPF: Yeah, before that.

            HULTGREN: Really, nothing.

            WEISSKOPF: They didn’t tell you much.

            HULTGREN: As far as the Manhattan Project, no.

            WEISSKOPF: Did they mention the word Manhattan Project?

            HULTGREN: Yes. Yes, I think that was the Manhattan ‑‑‑ we surmised. It was ‑‑‑ I’ve kind of forgotten about that, but...

            WEISSKOPF: Did they give you an option of coming out here? How did they present it?

            HULTGREN: I don’t think ‑‑‑ nobody wanted to not be involved anyway. I don’t know of anybody that didn’t want to go. It was sort of nostalgia, it was sort of when you’re just into your twenties. Nobody was married. Everybody was all single. But, actually, I should say one thing, that when I was a junior in college, the government sponsored this civilian pilot training. And most of the universities and colleges were involved in it. Well, in the Twin City area there was about four schools there. There was the University of Minnesota, and there was Macalester, and there was St. Thomas. Several schools. And I think there were 12 of us that you had to have ‑‑‑ you were asked if you would ‑‑‑ you had to have ‑‑‑ for flying, most of the guys that were involved, we thought we were going in the service at that point in time, because that was the junior year, and it was sponsored by the army, air force. In fact, our instructor we had there, they were both back on some ‑‑‑ they had been in the ‑‑‑ whether they were actually on R&R, I don’t know, but they actually were our instructors, and we had ‑‑‑ we flew about three times a week for several months.

            WEISSKOPF: Did you end up getting, what, a pilot’s license?

            HULTGREN: Yes. I had everything. And I just knew, in fact we all knew that we were going to go in the air force. Well, that’s when DuPont ‑‑‑ see, that same, in the fall, that same fall we had interviewed as juniors with this DuPont ‑‑‑ because Dr. Styles had came through the area, the Twin Cities. In fact, I know everybody met, not together, but everybody went to these interviews at the Nicollet Hotel, which was the big one in Minneapolis.

            WEISSKOPF: So when you came out here, you had your pilot’s license.

            HULTGREN: I had my pilot’s license. Which I think, Gene, we’ve talked about, sort of predicated my first directional flow out here.

            WEISSKOPF: Which was within days of getting here?

            HULTGREN: No. But once I got here, first of all, your academic end of it, you had ‑‑‑ this was the chemistry and the physics background. But the other thing was, the head of the department that I went into, Bob Smith was the chem engineer that actually headed up our group from Kankakee, and we were turned over to this Dr. Gil Church, who had this meteorological group. He was a professor out of the University of Washington. But one of the things was, I had this chemistry and physics background, but I also had a private license, flying license. And I know that that had a lot to do with it, because when we ‑‑‑ there were seven of us who went into this meteorological group to start with. That was in the 200 East Area. And we had a building about, let’s say about maybe two and a half times the size of this room as a sort of a get-together talk about it. And that’s where we had, if you can think back at the ‑‑‑ every one of the 200 areas had these big stacks, 200-foot tall stacks. Well, at the time, in the summer, this is in April of ‘44, all there was was a hole in the ground where the plant was being built.

            WEISSKOPF: Was that T Plant?

            HULTGREN: That was T Plant. It was started up. They had the hole, and you could see a lot of the superstructure involved in those photos we looked at over there. But they also had ‑‑‑ there was a steam generator sitting out there when we first arrived up. And I think it was probably after our little indoctrination in this group. Bob Smith talked to us to start with. Then this Dr. Gil Church came along. And I should say something about this Church. He was about as common as an old shoe. Really. He was in oceanography. He had been ‑‑‑ he had about three Ph.D’s. Anyway, he was brilliant as could be. But he never flaunted anything. He was just so common, and he said “Boys,” he says, “what we’re doing is very serious, but we’re going to have fun doing it.” And I know one thing, too, that he introduced us to, this pilot that was working with us. I can’t think of his name now, but he had been with ‑‑‑ he was an R&R. He had been shot down. Who was it? Doolittle? Who had the big ‑‑‑ over the hump, they called it, in Asia. We had something going on over there. Americans. But he had been shot down or wounded, and he was ‑‑‑ some of those pilots were assisting the government, and this person was in the group. And he said “Well, I see, Roger, you’ve got a private license,” or a flying license. He said “Boy, that’s going to be great, because you can go with so-and-so.” He was a captain in the army. He didn’t even dress as a ‑‑‑ just regular civilian clothing. But what happened, this was all predicated for the dissolution of this metal that we’re talking about.

            WEISSKOPF: Why don’t you explain that real briefly, what was going to be happening later on that you needed tests for.

            HULTGREN: Well, for example, actually, it sort of ‑‑‑ it goes both ways, because they knew that the process was going to be a bismuth phosphate process.

            WEISSKOPF: For doing what?

            HULTGREN: This was for recovering plutonium.

            WEISSKOPF: From...?

            HULTGREN: From the uranium. But the point was that in order to do it safely, and they also knew that when you dissolved uranium with nitric acid, you liberated iodine. And they also knew in those days, it didn’t just happen then, that iodine was affecting the lungs. And I think we all know that it was a malignant type thing. So the key there was to actually, if you were to dissolve the metal, if you’ve ever been around when they were dissolving nitric acid, heavy acid, you’ve got these heavy fumes, it’s almost blood red. Well, if you didn’t dilute those to some degree, you have a very bad situation. So consequently the dissolution that went on had to meet certain criteria. It had to be ‑‑‑ the weather was so important. If there was a storm, turbulent, you couldn’t dissolve the metal because it was just almost ‑‑‑ if you’ve ever watched ‑‑‑ ever down ‑‑‑ yesterday, for example, we were at the Walla Walla, and you went down past the pulp plant down there at ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Wallula?

            HULTGREN: Wallula. You watch that smoke, it’s just up and down and around, and the wind will cause it. Well, picture the same thing, if this dissolved metal going out, the fumes. Okay, that’s a no-no. They knew that. They didn’t want it getting down on the ground. So what happened was that that’s where the airplane came in. And I know ‑‑‑ I didn’t know a thing about it, but the first day this ‑‑‑ who was it? ‑‑‑ I don’t even think it was Church. It was Church. He said “Well, you’re going to meet with so-and-so over in the building.” It was a shack, is what it was. And the pilot was there, and they had an airplane, they had a landing strip which was just between ‑‑‑ south of T Plant today. There was a flat strip in there, and they had this ‑‑‑ it was just a ‑‑‑ let’s see, what was it? If you’re familiar with this single wing plane, it was Aeronca, about a 75 horsepower, but it was all hooked up with suction cups, and you had the instruments in there to do it. Well, I went with him out. So the next thing I knew, he says “Well, get a chute on and let’s go.”

            WEISSKOPF: You had to get a chute on?

            HULTGREN: Well, we all had to wear chutes, you know.

            WEISSKOPF: Yeah.

            HULTGREN: But I didn’t know anything at the time what we’d be doing. So we just took a ride, and he says “Well, take over.” He said “What did you learn in college?” Well, we went through Hell, I’ll tell you that, when we were in college.

            WEISSKOPF: The flying?

            HULTGREN: The instructors we had, that was for real. And I’ll tell you what, they took you up, and they washed out, if your health wasn’t, and you couldn’t actually stand ‑‑‑ your blood pressure got up, if you had problems one way or the other, there was a lot of the guys that got knocked out. Anyway, that same thing existed here, so we ‑‑‑ actually, we had our joyride, and he found out, he said “Give me a stall.” I said “Okay.” What he would do, the plane we had was a two-seater tandem. He sat in front of you. And he was a big guy. I’m a pretty good size, too. But let’s take ‑‑‑ I’ve forgotten your name.

            NICK NANNI: Nick.

            HULTGREN: Nick. Let’s assume Nick and I. The guy was about as big as Nick, a little taller, and I’m sitting right behind him.

            WEISSKOPF: As the pilot?

            HULTGREN: No. I was the pilot, but he was sitting in front. Now, you look around, and you want to fly by dead reckoning, not instrumentation. You’re looking around, and he’s sitting up there. Well, he did it on purpose, of course, to see if ‑‑‑ and the controls.

            WEISSKOPF: Disorient you a little.

            HULTGREN: Going into slips and stalls, and coming in on dead stick, and I guess he found out that I could fly. But anyway, we had a lot of tremendous rides. Every time they’d send this smoke ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Describe how they got the smoke up for you guys to (inaudible).

            HULTGREN: Okay. They had distillate in these big 500-gallon tanks, and they were jetted into the bottom of the stack. And when it would go up, it would go out just like a plume, a big white plume, and it would take out. And the thing that ‑‑‑ we wanted to sample that plume. We sampled, got right in it, and we had a sucker on the plane. It was humidity, hygrometers, and all these things, I know the first things I did up there was wet-bulbing it, and this hygrometer, familiarization with it, and where do you go when you’ve got a plume coming out. Well, it turned out I never actually did it alone, but it gave him ‑‑‑ they were concerned about an emergency thing, too, with a pilot, because it was ‑‑‑ we flew from 200 West area, T Plant, we’d go up as far as Vantage, up along the Columbia River. A lot of thermals through there.

            WEISSKOPF: Following the plume?

            HULTGREN: Following the plume. But the main thing is to ‑‑‑ you had a big sucker out there, and you could suck it in onto some what looked like big filter paper, and you could analyze it. Well, it turned out that if it loosened, and that was translated back through the laboratories that you could have a certain dilution condition for dissolving the metal.

            WEISSKOPF: They were trying to come up with the type of weather in which you could sample?

            HULTGREN: Right. Absolutely. And if the weather was bad, there was also samples taken by the ground crew, which I was on, too. But a lot of times the plume would come out of the stack and go out maybe a block, and all of a sudden it would dip down right to the ground. Well, what happened was we had two of these big four-wheel Dodge Command trucks, and we had all sample equipment in there, and I got involved in that end of it, too. But it would go out and get right in the middle of it, and we’d suck in that concentration, and that was all translated back. And believe it or not, and I know this is the truth, that the dilution data which was obtained during that early ‘44 period, or the summer and fall, was actually legitimate enough for the REDOX plants and for PUREX, when they finally shut down. Now, I was involved in all of those plants. But PUREX started up the second time, as you probably know, in the ‘80s, and actually the dilution data, limitations for it, you did not dissolve unless you had a certain dilution factor.

            WEISSKOPF: And those factors were already mapped out (inaudible).

            HULTGREN: That’s right. We had ‑‑‑ mention this, too. I don’t want to delve on it, but we had two statisticians that worked with us, Herb Poss (phonetic) and a Johnny Gilotte (phonetic) were the two of them. They’re listed in Sanger, and I think they’re also listed in the Smythe ‑‑‑ not Smythe, but the Sanger Report. They were both with DuPont. Gilotte, he had a doctorate degree in statistics. And they actually did all of the factoring in for these dilutions. They calculated ‑‑‑ my god, there was unbelievable. And this Herb Poss was actually a statistician, but he was also a pharmacist. He went to Marquette. And he was ‑‑‑ he worked in the drugstores in Richland as a second job. We didn’t make any money. But, anyway, that was Herb. So that kind of was the ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Let’s switch gears a bit. While you were doing all this, did you understand what was going to be coming out of the smokestack?

            HULTGREN: Yes.

            WEISSKOPF: How much did you know about the process?

            HULTGREN: Well, the point is that we knew that plutonium was going to be the primary ingredient here.

            WEISSKOPF: You did. Okay.

            HULTGREN: That was known. In fact, you mentioned Fermi. Enrico Fermi. You probably heard his nickname. What was it?

            WEISSKOPF: You tell us.

            HULTGREN: You tell us.

            WEISSKOPF: You’re the one being interviewed. What do you mean by nickname? Tell us that whole (inaudible).

            HULTGREN: Well, Enrico Fermi was the inventor, I think, of plutonium. Wasn’t the inventor, reactor. And actually he put this together. But Mr. Farmer was the nickname that was used, code name, around the plant. Have any of you met Dr. ‑‑‑ in Richland, I’ll think of his name in a minute. Aghh. But he looks very much like him. Short, bald-headed fellow.

            WEISSKOPF: What was your interaction with Mr. Farmer?

            HULTGREN: Well, the point with Mr. Farmer was that he actually worked ‑‑‑ everybody in our group, I think there was nine of us altogether. Seven were in the area to start with, and then we had the two statisticians. But that whole group went from the dilution portion of it, and then the next job was sort of ‑‑‑ [Tape ran out]

            Well, that was in the 300 area, concurrent with all the dilution end of it, they were also taking the cold uranium, which is machined, cleaned up, and canned. They were using mechanical equipment.

            WEISSKOPF: Why did they have to can the uranium?

            HULTGREN: Because you cannot have uranium get water to it.

            WEISSKOPF: Okay. It reacts?

            HULTGREN: It reacts, and it won’t bond properly. And you had to get a bonding agent. That’s kind of a little different story leading up to it.

            WEISSKOPF: The can was to seal in ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: What you had was a uranium slug, cold uranium slug.

            WEISSKOPF: What size was it?

            HULTGREN: Eight inches long and an inch and a quarter in diameter. It had been machined. It almost looked like you had little rivulets all the way through it. And I watched this several times. They would bring it into this 324 building down in the 300 area, and it was wrapped in a ‑‑‑ just like you look at a paper towel. And it would get on a bench, and the first thing it would go through is an alcohol bath. It would be washed in there. It had a mechanical washer. And then it would progress down the line, and they kept it hermetically sealed after it was washed.

            WEISSKOPF: Because air would (inaudible).

            HULTGREN: Oxidize it. The next thing was that the people that were ‑‑‑ if you look out here just in your auditorium, there was automatic lines that were run by machines, and they were on clocks, where actually it would start this progress of canning the uranium, and it would go down through automatically. Well, the bad thing was that it was just like taking your pen right there and put it in the first ‑‑‑ they had a bronze type bath, almost like in a washtub, that had heating rods in it, and the temperature was I’ll say about 1000EF. And the next one was an aluminum bath. And then you had an actual unit that actually sealed them. Well, this ‑‑‑ you’d heat up the slug to a certain temperature of that bath. It was moved from there mechanically to the next one. And then it would go where a person ‑‑‑ they had this ‑‑‑ picture this holder, but which is large enough in diameter to accept a one-inch diameter slug with a little O.D., enough annulus around it. So that was filled with ‑‑‑ you took this canister, this aluminum canister that was put kind of in a cradle. It was dipped in this aluminum bath and set in what they called a whiz-bang. It was just a pedestal here with a plunger that would hold this aluminum canister, with a plunger, they would drive the uranium into it. Well, what happened, that whole thing was fine, but they were getting ‑‑‑ in that Smythe Report, I was just looking at it here the other day ‑‑‑ they were getting about 10% success. What happened was that the temperature was such that, the eutectic of it, that it just had to be perfect or it would just seize like that. And it was fun, I remember they would call us when we were getting in this experimental line we were to be working on, because everything ‑‑‑ it’s so ‑‑‑ it was absolutely, aside from the laboratory end of it, and I was telling you this here I think once before, General Groves came out here, Dr. Smythe was here, who wrote the Smythe Report, and they came into this 324. But Groves, I remember that distinctly, coming, they were watching. Well, that was the time when they were getting about 10 to 15% good ones.

            WEISSKOPF: This was in the summer of ‘44?

            HULTGREN: This was in about July of ‘44.

            WEISSKOPF: Okay.

            HULTGREN: And they were expecting to have the reactor ready for loading in September, and they just weren’t going to have enough metal to do it. Well, it was just terrible, and it’s just awful, really, because the war was ‑‑‑ well, it was just awful.

            WEISSKOPF: Without being able to cam them, the reactors wouldn’t have started?

            HULTGREN: No. They were building the ‑‑‑ B Reactor was ‑‑‑ T and B and D were the first three.

            WEISSKOPF: B, D and F.

            HULTGREN: No, T was the first one.

            WEISSKOPF: T Plant?

            HULTGREN: Yes, T Plant.

            WEISSKOPF: Oh, it was first of the separations plants.

            HULTGREN: I’m talking ‑‑‑ oh, excuse me, all right. Reactors. Yeah, B, D. I’m talking about separation plants. But the reactors, B was the first reactor.

            WEISSKOPF: Let’s get an idea for how much fuel they needed. Tell us how many process tubes there were in the reactor, about. There was 2,000 and something?

            HULTGREN: That figure slips me now, and I can’t really...

            WEISSKOPF: Tell us for the (inaudible), then. There were 2,000 of those.

            HULTGREN: Let’s say there were 2,000. And if you look ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Each of those had 35 fuel slugs, give or take?

            HULTGREN: Yes, probably.

            WEISSKOPF: In other words, how many slugs were needed to fill up the reactor? It’s 2,000 by 30.

            HULTGREN: Well, I guess I’ll have to bow to it. I don’t ‑‑‑ but I was thinking about the ‑‑‑ if you look at the wall we’re looking at right here, the front face of the pile, this is quite a story that goes into it, and I think people have wondered about how they could have really circumvented (inaudible). But it happened that, I guess everybody knows, that Roosevelt actually requested the DuPont Company that they were to do the designing of the reactors and the other plants. It was that simple. I guess he gave them a choice, but they had no choice. They had the engineering people, they had the design of it, they had everything. And I know from when I was still in school, I don’t think there was any engineer that wouldn’t have given ‑‑‑ to get to work with DuPont, as far as I was concerned, there was nobody besides DuPont. And if you can think about DuPont Company today, do you ever hear anything wrong with them? They’re always one jump ahead. And they’re just ‑‑‑ and they were such a great company, I just... But anyway ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Let’s go back to (inaudible), then. You said that General Groves came in?

            HULTGREN: Well, they’d come out and see how you were doing.

            WEISSKOPF: And you were getting 10 or ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Ten percent. And they would extrapolate that into the number that they needed to load that pile, and they just weren’t going to get from here to there. Time was the essence. And the point was that the war was getting critical. Germany had surrendered, what is it, September 8th or something like that.

            WEISSKOPF: April or May of ‘40 ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: ‘4.

            WEISSKOPF: Oh, ‘44, excuse me.

            HULTGREN: Germany had surrendered, but you still had Japan at this time.

            WEISSKOPF: That was ‘45, wasn’t it?

            HULTGREN: Well...

            WEISSKOPF: Japan surrendered in 1945, in August ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: No, but it’s in this report.

            WEISSKOPF: Didn’t Germany surrender in April of ‘45?

            HULTGREN: Well, whatever it was ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: It was ‘45, it was later that they surrendered.

            HULTGREN: You can check that, but it’s in the...

            WEISSKOPF: I think the war was still raging when you were making ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Germany was actually out of the picture, really, from ‑‑‑ they were in the war, but it was still ‑‑‑ the thing is that Japan, everybody was worried about Japan at that time. But, anyway ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Getting back to the necessity of having the fuel slugs, how long did it take to tune up that process?

            HULTGREN: Well, I think it was in June, early June, that I know I went down there. Our whole group didn’t go down, but there was two or three of us went down that were in this meteorological group. But the fellows that went down had quite a bit of physics and metallurgy involved, and that was something that I know metal ‑‑‑ do you know anything about metals? Well, yeah, we had some of it. But the point was, we learned enough to be good listeners, I guess. But we had a ‑‑‑ what was happening, they had about six or seven of these automatic lines they were running, and none of them were actually producing. They would get 10%, 15% that could go through an autoclave and prove that they were good. So what we did, there were six or seven of us in this group. There was the bronze bath, aluminum, and the canning. We did it all manually. There was this molten bronze bath, and I can remember you’d put the canister ‑‑‑ the slug, rather ‑‑‑ in a wicker basket such, and lower it into the molten bronze ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Like making Easter eggs.

            HULTGREN: Huh?

            WEISSKOPF: Like making Easter eggs.

            HULTGREN: Making Easter eggs, up and down, up and down, at controlled temperatures of the bath. Well, we started out using the temperatures that they were using on the line, and it became pretty apparent right away that you had a freezing problem. Because the minute ‑‑‑ just like I know we were doing it right now, working this bath for a certain amount of time, lifting it out of the liquid so it would drain, and drop it into this ‑‑‑ next, just put it in this aluminum, and then take it out of that and putting it in this plunger, and the damn thing would go down about halfways and freeze. Well, we would get all this raw data together, we’d get the operation people together, we’d talk about it. They’d go through it. What did you do? Well, we had ‑‑‑ the fellows were ‑‑‑ what the heck was the guy’s name. One of the fellows says, “Well, the eutectic” ‑‑‑ well, eutectic, yeah, that’s temperature ‑‑‑ he said “What’s happening here is it’s freezing.” Well, you know, when you get started on something like that, and you’re not really familiar except that you know from the academic world what he’s talking about, but when the people were running these things out on those mechanical lines, they were so rigid on temperatures they had, they couldn’t experiment, and that was what came out of this about the first week. Everything we did went to pot. We froze up. We’d have these slugs that would go down four inches into it. Some, if you were lucky, you might get one to go all the way through. Well, none of them could go in these autoclaves. Well, then they started checking around temperature. First of all, they were ‑‑‑ I think both the bronze and the aluminum were the same temperatures. Well, finally we figured we had to do them separately, couldn’t do them together, because you had to know exactly what would happen. So the temperature was increased about three or four hundred degrees in that bronze, I think that temperature is showing up in there, and it was all in that temperature eutectic, because it was almost like manna from heaven when this thing happened because ‑‑‑ and we had, my God, it was unbelievable. Tom Evans was our supervisor, and he was just so excited, he didn’t know what was going on, because the temperature was so critical, and all of a sudden we had these slugs that were ready to go in the autoclaves. And you’d punch them down, and they would seat, and then you had a cap that would fit on it, and cap that on, and then they could machine it and out. And we had ‑‑‑ the percent is still listed in there. I would say that we had around 90% good ones just like that. And that’s what I was going to tell you about. You asked me about Mr. Farmer.

            WEISSKOPF: Uh-huh.

            HULTGREN: I’m going to shift subjects a little bit. Everybody was so elated that they had a picnic up on Mount Ranier. Tipson Lake, if you’ve ever been up there during the summer, it’s over the hump. And the people that were in the lab, it was our metallurgical development group and some of the operational people. Mr. Farmer was there. By that time the horse was out of the barn, of course, everybody knew it. But we had this picnic, and it was up there. And that was in, oh, it was in late July I guess. But then it was turned over, and they were able to do it automatically by temperature adjustment. The thing they absolutely had to make sure, there was no water. Because water give them these hot spots. It was just like little pockets, you look at those things.

            WEISSKOPF: Tell us what the autoclave, how that worked to test everything.

            HULTGREN: Well, all that was was just a high temperature and pressure where these were put in. I nearly never saw the...

            WEISSKOPF: How would that tell you if it was good or not?

            HULTGREN: Well, the point was that each one had a control. It was controlled in buckets. I never really had a good clear vision on that, and I guess ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: The main point was to make sure they were perfectly sealed?

            HULTGREN: Oh, yes. Because sealed, the thing was if they couldn’t go through the autoclave without showing up with blistering ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: From the reaction?

            HULTGREN: Well, if you had temperature burn, if there was water that was behind and got between the slug and the aluminum, went through the bonding there, it had pinholes, and the autoclaves had this high temperature, and each one was hooked up to a point that ‑‑‑ I’m going to show ‑‑‑ I just can’t respond to that. It’s in there on that autoclave.

            WEISSKOPF: After you took them out, would you just visually inspect them, or how were they passed?

            HULTGREN: Well, automatically, the instrumentation actually. They could inspect it with ‑‑‑ I think they actually scanned it for any ‑‑‑ they could check for any weak spots in the aluminum jacket, and there would be evidence of impervious spots. But once they were eliminated, you didn’t have any of that, and it went through the bonding. In fact, that is an area, I remember it, but...

            WEISSKOPF: Tell you what ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: I’ll get back to you on that.

            WEISSKOPF: You keep mentioning the Smythe Report.

            HULTGREN: Yes.

            WEISSKOPF: Why don’t you hold it up to the camera. Tell us why this was an important (inaudible).

            HULTGREN: Okay. This goes back, and I ‑‑‑ well, it was history to us. But during the war, when the Allies were having such a horrible time, and finally the United States got involved in it, during that period the Manhattan Project ‑‑‑ well, let’s see, what was it? I guess it was actually formed. Germany at the time, apparently the Allies knew that they were making heavy water up in Norway for this nuclear deal. And we, as we talked about it, so many of the American scientists got their final degrees over in Germany, and it was unbelievable, you had more scientists that were American that did graduate work, it was in Belgium ‑‑‑ no, where was it? There’s one famous scientist that worked over there that’s in here, too. But the thing that ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: When did this book come out?

            HULTGREN: This was in 1945. What I’m thinking about is that ‑‑‑ and I know that President Roosevelt actually ‑‑‑ well, it’s in the preface right here, you can read about this ‑‑‑ actually, he went to Princeton, and Dr. Smythe was the head of the physics department there, and he actually I guess requested that he work with this Manhattan Project District and worked to put this book together.

            WEISSKOPF: It came out at the end of the war?

            HULTGREN: This book came out ‑‑‑ oh, goodness. 1945.

            WEISSKOPF: Is that when your copy is from?

            HULTGREN: Yes, this is the original copy.

            WEISSKOPF: You bought it right when it came out?

            HULTGREN: Yep. This was the original issue. I paid two dollars for it.

            WEISSKOPF: All right. And when you read it, did it all make sense at the time?

            HULTGREN: Well, yes. You know, it was just like unbelievable, because I’ve got enough red ‑‑‑ you see these little stubs in here? They’ve been there for years and years. I’m not a statistician. But the point is that you never saw so many happy people in the world. I was ‑‑‑ let’s see. The first group that it was in was in this meteorological group. Then the next group was the metallurgical development group. And once this canning project was defeated and they were getting enough canned uranium to facilitate loading the B Reactor, and that was ‑‑‑ I guess I’ve told you about the time my first opportunity to go out there, because it was all so top secret.

            WEISSKOPF: Tell us about it.

            HULTGREN: Well, when we actually ‑‑‑ “we,” this metallurgical development group -‑‑ was very helpful in getting this thing resolved, they had a big party and thought it was wonderful. But that didn’t last long because it was just a foot in the door. We actually ‑‑‑ that’s where I met Bill McCue. Bill McCue has been with the DuPont ‑‑‑ started out in DuPont in their Parlin (phonetic), I think it was, back east. And he was, I would imagine, one of the oldest supervisors they had at the time. And he was in the control room.

            WEISSKOPF: At where?

            HULTGREN: At B Reactor. And what happened, this Tom Evans ‑‑‑ I’ll get back to this ‑‑‑ once we I guess had crossed the bridge on this canning, and there was ‑‑‑ at that time we were sort of excess baggage, and we were a bunch of young kids is what it amounted to. I was 24, I think, at the time. And there were other assignments, and they were looking for health physicists, they were looking for metallurgists, engineering all over. Well, before we went, Tom Evans one day come in and says “Now, each one of you has been in this canning, and I asked the production people if we couldn’t have our guys that helped go out and observe it.” So I remember going out with a load of slugs that were canned. They were in these big containers. They weren’t hot then. But we went out, and they picked them up in the back side of the reactor, these buckets, lifted them up. And then I remember coming back in with some piece of paper, and I had to give it to Bill McCue. I remember that. Anyway, that was ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Was the reactor operating then?

            HULTGREN: Oh, no. Hell, no. The reactor didn’t start up till September 13th.

            WEISSKOPF: The 22nd.

            HULTGREN: Read these dates. I think your dates are ‑‑‑ you’re dreaming about them.

            WEISSKOPF: But in September.

            HULTGREN: Those dates are right in here, all of them.

            WEISSKOPF: So was this the first fuel that went into the reactor then?

            HULTGREN: Well, it was loaded.

            WEISSKOPF: Yeah.

            HULTGREN: There was ‑‑‑ the fuel that we had was loaded for several weeks to get it up enough to load that, it was a big square like this. Anyway...

            WEISSKOPF: Now, you knew it was a nuclear reactor? Did you know how it was going to be working and what (inaudible)?

            HULTGREN: Well, I guess we did. At that point in time we knew it was a reactor, and we knew that it was uranium. You know, it’s hard to tell, everything was a top secret, you couldn’t even talk about it. My wife, Idelle, is a medical technologist, and she worked, was hired from the University of Minnesota medical school, and she went to the University of Chicago. She was at Chicago at the ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: The Met Lab?

            HULTGREN: Met Lab, yes. There was another girl. Do you remember Phil Fuqua (phonetic)? Was he gone by the time you were here?

            WEISSKOPF: Yes.

            HULTGREN: All right. His wife was a medical technologist. But anyway, the next thing she knew, she was transferred out here in late ‘45. And there were three girls, three medical technologists. And at that time it had come out that everybody that worked in the plants had their specimens and blood samples taken constantly. Let’s see, what was it? I guess almost on a weekly basis. But these girls would do all the blood work. And the main thing they were checking was the white count.

            WEISSKOPF: Would they check you, too?

            HULTGREN: Oh, hell, yes. They did that, it was a routine thing, and they did that, took samples, specimen samples, but the main thing was the white count.

            WEISSKOPF: What would that have told them?

            HULTGREN: Well, white count is destroyed with high radiation, and that was the main indicator they had was your blood. But, there again ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Yes.

            WEISSKOPF: Was she taking your blood?

            HULTGREN: Probably. I don’t know. Turned out that we got talking, and her home was only about 60 miles from my home in Minnesota.

            WEISSKOPF: Really.

            HULTGREN: But then the girls that did all that blood work, there were these samples taken of everybody, their specimens, throughout. But it was a known effect that when you dissolve the metal, that the off gases that came out, and there was concern in there about filtration of the off gases. It’s a highly technical end of it to get it worked out. But at that time ‑‑‑ then here is my next phase of it, from the meteorology to the metallurgy, and with the physics background, they needed health physicists out here. And I, you know, in those days, you didn’t really say what you wanted to do, you were ‑‑‑ it was it. And I think there were four of us that transferred out of this development group ‑‑‑ no, it was three of us ‑‑‑ went into health physics. And I was actually in the B Reactor when the first metal was discharged from the reactor, it was monitored after a cooling period, and it was stored in the north area. And I remember when they took it out, just put them in this ‑‑‑ you’ve seen those charging buckets, I guess. They were just ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Tell us about it. You were back in the fuel basins while they were (inaudible)?

            HULTGREN: Yeah, we were there up on top. You can go up on the back side and look down in there about, what, 20 feet of water, and there were just spotlights through the thing, and the buckets were there, had all of the holes in the sides so that when you lifted them out of the water, the water would run out, and then they could put it in another cask car that had water and lead for shielding. And that went down. The thing that was of concern at the time was how long should you let that metal cool before you actually dissolve it, because it was to be dissolved ‑‑‑ you had to get down to the radium. And, well, pressure was on. There was no question about it. And the first cooling time length was way shorter than it turned out to be, like 20 or 30 days, and we ended up with 80-90 day cooling periods, and even longer than that at PUREX, I know, because I was involved there. But that cooling period was so critical.

(Tape ran out)

            WEISSKOPF: Did you learn of it when it was happening, or not till after?

            HULTGREN: Well, I guess I did. And it’s so vividly pointed out here. And it’s in that Sanger Report, I was reading that again just last night, and that poisoning that went on.

            WEISSKOPF: You’re talking about poisoning of the pile.

            HULTGREN: The pile, right. It just went up and shut down. Well, that gets ‑‑‑ there’s so many tales of woe in this whole thing. That is one of the reasons why DuPont, again, is so famous, because when they designed anything, they designed an additional safety factor into it. It goes on to a couple of stories in here. It says if they were asked to build a hotel, for example, or some big building that would be about eight stories, they designed it for another three or four stories so that you could go up. Those words are just as vivid as you and I are talking now. And if you look at the face of that pile, you look at over there, the thing was loaded in a circle, and they predicted the fact that it actually didn’t have enough guing (phonetic), you had this (inaudible) problem, what, 20 ‑‑‑ let’s see. But anyway, the answer to the whole thing was they could load up the corners, just like a circle. And I guess the story goes on, I’m sure I’m correct in that, that Fermi and some of his physicists had calculated they knew exactly what it was, and they were able to actually tell them to put X number involved in there again, and it cranked right up.

            WEISSKOPF: How long were you working in the health physics end? What kind of duties did you have?

            HULTGREN: Well, that’s funny.

            WEISSKOPF: Were you there when B Reactor started?

            HULTGREN: Yes.

            WEISSKOPF: Okay, okay. Well, tell us about it, then. You left the canning when that problem was solved. You didn’t stick around ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: No. That’s where the health physics department, Dr. Parker ‑‑‑ there were three of them. Herb Parker was the head of it. He was with DuPont all these days. He was an Englishman that came over here, educated in England. But he had this health physics group, actually, for instrumentation and all radiation protections that went on. That was his people. Karl Gamertsfelder was another one, and Jack Healy. There were three of them. I worked with Parker about ‑‑‑ I’ll say this was in September, shortly after I remember having a chance to go out and follow taking the metal out to the reactor, we were called in. And he was there, and Jack Healy was with him. And what he was talking about was we need some health physicists around here. And he says you and you, we know your background, we know where you come from, but they wanted to have some ‑‑‑ physics was their main criteria involved in that health physics, because the instrumentation, it just seemed that it just built up. I wasn’t any mathematician whiz on it, but I knew enough when it was safe. And we went through a training program, and at one time, believe it or not, I was the only health physicist in the T or B Plant. T Plant started up on the 9th of September, but it actually charged about December something.

            WEISSKOPF: Right around Christmas time?

            HULTGREN: Right. I remember distinctly going in and sampling it in there, in the canyon. Did you ever see these instruments they have, it looked like a doorstop sampler? It was just about the size of that little grip behind you. And you picked it up, my God, it weighed about 25 pounds, and had a plastic front that you could put sort of a Lucite cover on it to shield it out from the beta, and you could open it up and you get all ‑‑‑ you could get the various ‑‑‑ you could have all beta, no beta, all gamma.

            WEISSKOPF: Was this one of the early, early ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Yes, doorstop. It was just ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Doorstop?

            HULTGREN: ‑‑‑ a suitcase. It was just about like here.

            WEISSKOPF: Was that like one of the Beckmans?

            HULTGREN: No, no, a Beckman was about a four-inch chamber that had an electrode in it, and it was hooked up, and they’d put it down in a ‑‑‑ they were in the cells of the canyon, there were holes about six inches in diameter on either side of the cells, and they could lower this Beckman chamber in there, which is I’d say about three feet long, and it had electrode in it, and it was hooked up electrically so you could lower it down with a chain way down. Those cells are about 30 feet deep, you know. And there would be opposite, for example we’ll say that screen over there, this thing could be opposite, so you could actually monitor the activity, which would be a vessel in that tank, and it would be shining. In the cell you had an opening that had a steel plate over the front of it. It was just like if you had ‑‑‑ here’s a typical opening in a cell, this big. Did you want to film this? There’s a hole. Each cell ‑‑‑ let me give you the ‑‑‑ can I tell you the diameter of a cell?

            WEISSKOPF: You bet.

            HULTGREN: All right. Each cell was about 30 feet deep, 17 by 13 feet rectangular sized, and on each side there were roughly ‑‑‑ if you had a tank sitting on the floor like this in a cell, let’s say there’s one over by the other side of the room and one here, this Beckman chamber would be positioned so that if you lowered this instrument in this 6-inch piece of casing down here, there was ‑‑‑ okay, excuse me. Tell me, when you lowered ‑‑‑ the Beckmans were positioned in there stationary. They were lowered down in this 6- or 8-inch casing, and it dropped down such that it was centered in this steel plate that actually was keeping it from getting contaminated.

            WEISSKOPF: Liquids or whatever.

            HULTGREN: Right. In the cell, just like in this room, there’d be one there, looking at this vessel. As I recall it now, there were two on each side of the cell and one on the end. Well, those were hooked up, transmitted back into a recorder back into the operating gallery. So that’s how they checked the ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: As a health physicist, you had to have a portable instrument.

            HULTGREN: As a health physicist, yes, we had alpha detectors, called Little Plutos, or Sandy was another one. Then you had your doorstop, which was primarily a beta-gamma type. And they also had pencils.

            WEISSKOPF: You could wear it?

            HULTGREN: You could wear a pencil which had an electrostatic capability of picking up a charge which could be transmitted on to a kind of a zero to a hundred type gauge, and you could have various different resistances. And we had to calculate the exposures all the way through, oh, goodness. And then that was for beta-gamma type. Then there was also the alpha, the instruments for the alpha counting. And that was ‑‑‑ Sandy was one of them, but actually one of the things for checking for alpha contamination, if it was contamination ‑‑‑ see, the range of an alpha particle is just a matter of centimeters, so you can’t ‑‑‑ we had I think it was ‑‑‑ I was going to say Bakelite, but it’s sort of a film that would let the alpha particle penetrate through because there was no resistance, but it only had this slight range. But I remember, as a health physicist, prior to going out on a maintenance job that we would take ‑‑‑ it was funny. If you can imagine a piece of tablet paper, you could cut it down, and so you’d have about five or six different slots in it, and you’d staple the sides of it. And you could have a piece of 1 x 1 inch tissue paper in here, here, here, here. That would be capable of picking up and using it to smear for any contamination. You’d pick it back up with tweezers, put it back in, take those back into the building and count them for alpha. The alpha-beta-gamma. Now, that was the health physics. We learned a lot of things.

            WEISSKOPF: But two or three years before that, none of that existed, would you say?

            HULTGREN: There was some health physics in the 300 area, but we ‑‑‑ I was thinking back in college, in high explosives we didn’t have anything like this at all. Of course, physics covered radiation, and it had been, because there was ‑‑‑ I know we had seminars. I’m trying to think one time (inaudible) ‑‑‑ well, there was a DuPont physicist that came through, I remember that, and we were in the Tri-Cities. There was, oh, gosh, about six or seven schools that came in. There was Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota. They had a big seminar there.

            WEISSKOPF: How long were you in the health physics, then?

            HULTGREN: I was in it about, oh, a couple years. But I really wanted to get into operations. In fact, this McCready, have you heard him?

            WEISSKOPF: Yes.

            HULTGREN: About his name?

            WEISSKOPF: Mac MacCready.

            HULTGREN: Mac MacCready. He was the first chief supervisor out there that came along.

            WEISSKOPF: Did you know him back then?

            HULTGREN: At Kankakee I knew him but didn’t really work for him. And then he was actually ‑‑‑ he was from Alabama, and I know, I was reading just the other day about his background. He was a physicist, but he was ‑‑‑ oh, he had enough sheepskin on him to ‑‑‑ but he was just the nicest guy in the world, and if you talked to him, the last thing he’d want to do, he’d say, “Well, Roger, do you know what I’m trying to tell you?” And if you kind of (inaudible), then he’d start over. But he really knew, and DuPont had ‑‑‑ he was in charge for the company. He did all of the inspections from a health, from a physics point of view. He was actually a theoretical physicist, one of his degrees. He had several of them. But he went into production, and he was the chief supervisor. There also was a person that came out with DuPont, his name was Elton Coal (phonetic), and he was a chemical engineer and also an electrical engineer from MIT. My God, it was ‑‑‑ but the guy was ‑‑‑ he was like an old bum. He’d come around in the lab, he dressed ‑‑‑ I mean, there was no show. No show. I’ll tell you what, if you ‑‑‑ that’s why the old-timers, and I may be one of them, it burns me up when I see this dog show that’s going on, because I know it’s all show, really. Because to this day I know some of my friends that still are with the company, DuPont, and they really haven’t changed, really. But anyway, they had ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Was Hanford a pretty informal place to work back then?

            HULTGREN: Well, it was a secret. It was informal, but everything was top secret. My wife had a top secret, I had a secret security badge.

            WEISSKOPF: Did you and your wife talk about your work then?

            HULTGREN: We just ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: Weren’t supposed to?

            HULTGREN: We were not supposed to, and when you left, it’s don’t. It was that simple. Well, anyway, I stayed ‑‑‑ you asked about health physics, and I imagine I was in there about three years. But I wanted to get into operation, and I know that I interviewed with McCready, and there was another fellow by the name of Charlie Gross (phonetic), who had the whole ‑‑‑ he had all of the power reactors. Well, Charlie Wende was one that had the reactors, and then there was the power department. There were three departments: the separations, the power, and the reactors.

            WEISSKOPF: Power referring to the steam and electric?

            HULTGREN: Yes. Yes. That’s the one that Charlie Gross had. These were all DuPonters that had been ‑‑‑ they were older.

            WEISSKOPF: This was now under General Electric?

            HULTGREN: Oh, no. This was when DuPont was still here. And then GE left, or DuPont left in what, ‘46, and DuPont took over, but ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: GE took over.

            HULTGREN: Or GE took over. And McCready and Gross...

            WEISSKOPF: Wende?

            HULTGREN: Well, Charlie Wende was here, but those two people stayed. And Gross was the chief supervisor of the power department. McCready had the S division it was called. And then Hanford Labs, everybody worked with them. And there was ‑‑‑ I think ‑‑‑ I’m trying to think who was actually ‑‑‑ I’d say Herb Parker was probably one of the most influential down there at the time, because he had all the health physics people, and health physics, you know, is almighty out here. Boy, I’ll tell you, when you had the president, and you had people like Smythe and all of the top Seaborg out here. You’ve heard about the time when Seaborg, when he came out.

            WEISSKOPF: Early on, or when was it?

            HULTGREN: No, it wasn’t early on, it was later on. We’re talking now ‑‑‑ you want to keep this in the early days?

            WEISSKOPF: Go ahead.

            HULTGREN: Well, actually about ‑‑‑ T Plant operated until about 1947, I think, or ‘48. B Plant was operating at the time, but then they shut down, too. And there was a time when ‑‑‑ and REDOX came on in ‘53, or ‘2 or ‘3, and then continued to operate. And the big thing that came on at the time, after about B Plant ‑‑‑ no, U Plant, which you’ve heard about U Plant, it was a used ‑‑‑ they thought that they needed it. They did three of them. But the calculations indicated that U Plant ‑‑‑ it was about two-thirds built when they decided that they didn’t need it, but they elected to go ahead and use it for training purposes. And luckily it was, because U Plant turned out to be a godsend for this uranium recovery program, and I got involved in that. So that was ‑‑‑ and then the next thing was PUREX come along and ‑‑‑ I guess ‑‑‑ do you want to ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: I’m curious to know the different jobs you had while you were here, just briefly. After the health physics, you went into what?

            HULTGREN: Operations.

            WEISSKOPF: And for whom?

            HULTGREN: Again T Plant. There was a shift supervisor there in operations, and the first supervisor I think I had there was a fellow named Will Wireman (phonetic). And there was a Jim Barber. These were all DuPont people that stayed over, and most of them ‑‑‑ Jim Barber is a name that I had forgotten, but he actually was another one of these ‑‑‑ he was a Princeton man. Princeton was real tops back then. It must have been because of this Smythe, because he was actually commissioned, you know, on that report. But there were just ‑‑‑ I guess I can’t get off the subject. These people were just great people to work for, with. They were ‑‑‑ really appreciated what you were doing. Of course, the time and place actually I guess dictated that, too. And there were a lot of people that were just there for the war and then they left.

            WEISSKOPF: Let me ask you, what did you think when the war was over? Did you think about going elsewhere, or what was your decision?

            HULTGREN: I think I ‑‑‑ no, we had just gotten married, and Idelle enjoyed it out here. She had her discipline. And my brother was back home. My folks had a summer resort. But John had high blood pressure, and he wasn’t in the service, and he took over running the lodge, and it just looked like a good way. But we’ve been here ‑‑‑ but she had her discipline, and ‑‑‑

            WEISSKOPF: She kept her job after the war too?

            HULTGREN: Well, for many years, and then she went into the art business. She had an art gallery in Richland for 20 years. Jade Gallery.

            WEISSKOPF: Did you ever think of going into the private end of things?

            HULTGREN: Oh, yes.

            WEISSKOPF: Did you get job offers?

            HULTGREN: Well, we talked about it several times. The thing ‑‑‑ this came up pretty clear. I was on the scope and design when PUREX was started up. That was in about ‘55, ‘56. That was when we’d completed this uranium recovery program at U Plant, and they were looking for a scope team for PUREX, and I was asked if I’d like to get in that, and I said yes, I would. So that was the PUREX plant. But that was ‑‑‑ see, PUREX started up in ‘57, I think, about ‘57, and I went through that till ‘66. Then it was the uranium recovery, or the ‑‑‑ yeah, uranium ‑‑‑ or the waste management program back to B Plant. So B Plant was old home to me. We went into B Plant after PUREX ‑‑‑ PUREX had the dual operation, self-extraction, and it had ‑‑‑ it was just the latest, it was the Cadillac of things at the time. Well, then, when that was finishing up, I had gone into this waste management program. That was the current B Plant was just shut down, and it had solvent extraction from going from your mixers or back from the original bismuth phosphate process, which was sanification and precipitation type operation. You use solvent extraction again back in this waste management program. We had solvent extraction all the way through that. B Plant had solvent extraction, went from bismuth phosphate to solvent extraction, which was kind of proven at PUREX. And REDOX had solvent extraction, but they had pack columns over there, where we had mixer settler PUREX in the B Plant.

            WEISSKOPF: Where were you when you retired? What was your job for five years before you retired?

            HULTGREN: Well, I was at B Plant. I was a consultant, I guess you would call it. Primarily, I reported to the directors. Then they had a big show and tell that I was going to end up leaving, and we had already made with a group that we were going to go to Mexico. There was a big crowd going down. And Dale Bartholomew (phonetic) was the director of B Plant at the time. Well, then he was leaving, and he was replaced by Dwayne Bogan (phonetic). You’ve heard the name. Anyway, he was the next director. Well, he and I were pretty close friends, and he asked “Well, can’t you come here and stick around for a while?” And I said “Well, we’re leaving.” And he said, “Well, when you come back from Mexico, give me a call.” He was frantic at the time when I got back. And I said “I don’t want to get deeply involved in this thing, but I know every foot of that B Plant and what’s going on there.” Well, he says “By God, we’ve got problems.” Then it was Westinghouse. And then I finally got down to a couple ‑‑‑ I occasionally get a call now, but I’m actually retired.

            WEISSKOPF: Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you’d like to talk about?

            HULTGREN: Well, one thing that I would like very much, is I think there is ‑‑‑ you can see if you look at (inaudible) that it’s been used.

            WEISSKOPF: The Smythe Report?

            HULTGREN: The Smythe Report history. This was the Princeton version. Then you had this Conant, who was the president of Harvard, he was a great organic chemist, and he was actually commissioned to write something, too.

            WEISSKOPF: Do you think that’s a good book for people to read to learn about ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: No, it’s ‑‑‑ the point is ‑‑‑ I don’t know if it’s fair to say that, but I think a person needs a pretty good background. But the time and the place to appreciate it, this actually talks about the war. And the point is that when Smythe was involved in this thing, I remember meeting him one time when he came out to the plant. I don’t know if it was with Groves or not. General Groves. But the old story, and Smythe has written it in here somewhere, that when Groves, when they would come out to Hanford, they wouldn’t go beyond 300 area. The hell with it, they wanted to make sure that all this canning and dipping, that ‑‑‑ I’ll tell you, that was the most important thing in the world. And I got involved in that for about three or four months, I guess.

            WEISSKOPF: This book, would it be good for somebody who wants to understand the Manhattan Project and all the work that went on?

            HULTGREN: Oh, yes.

            WEISSKOPF: Would you recommend it?

            HULTGREN: I’d recommend it to somebody who’s not real ‑‑‑ someone who would appreciate it. You know, there’s a lot of people that will read something, and all they can do is find fault in it. We’ve got those people. But I think somebody that has a good ‑‑‑ he’s got to have a pretty good background to get anything out of here, because it gets so deep, too, into some of the theoretical end of it. But ‑‑‑ well, this was published in ‘45. When we talked about this ‑‑‑ this is rather interesting ‑‑‑ Idelle says “Well, you haven’t been doing this type thing for a long time.” And I said “The more I’ve done it, the more involved I” ‑‑‑ she kind of ‑‑‑ I guess I went to sleep last night reading this thing. But the thing that was so interesting, though, at least I thought it was, that the president, it goes in here, why did they pick the DuPont Company, the design? Well, they went into this capability of a vision that...........

(Tape ran out)

....and to sustain the reaction at the time, and all they needed was some more uranium in there. But they predicted it.

            WEISSKOPF: Let me ask you one question that I like to ask everybody. It was all top secret when you first got there ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Yeah.

            WEISSKOPF: ‑‑‑ the world didn’t know what Hanford was doing until the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. What was your work experience and community experience like before and after that? How did it affect your job and now everybody knew what they were doing?

            HULTGREN: Well, I think everybody had a sigh of relief and they were kind of proud about it. In fact, the people that I associated with, the ones like Rohrbacher, Tom Clement, we ‑‑‑ obviously, going to school with Roger, I saw him every day for about four years. But the point was that there isn’t anybody else left, because ‑‑‑ I’ve got to think about this. Well, I know myself, just like Idelle and I, we fell in love with the area, she knew that I loved to play golf and hunt. We were married about six years before we had a family, and the first thing ‑‑‑ we were married, after about three months we ended up having a labrador pup. And I think we’re on our sixth or seventh labrador now. Sugar. The first female we’ve had. But it was ‑‑‑ we still have right now a bridge club of people, we’re the oldest group that have been here, but across, there’s a couple there, I know the Alcars (phonetic), both of them are Buckeyes, Ohio State people. But it’s funny how the people are all around. Battelle has got ‑‑‑ well, I know so many of the Battelle people, worked with them over the years. Lane Bray (phonetic) I’m sure you probably know. He was one of the chemists out here early, before Battelle time. But when we were starting up PUREX, we met with each other, the operations people, we were either coming down here or they were coming out to the PUREX plant and going through the design and process, testing. It was a very close coupled situation. At the time GE was here, you know they were 20 years, from, what, ‘48 till fifty ‑‑‑ when did GE leave here?

            WEISSKOPF: Sixty something?

            HULTGREN: Sixty-three, four, five?

            WEISSKOPF: Would you say that you didn’t just stay here because it was a job, but you actually ‑‑‑

            HULTGREN: Oh, no, no, no, no. It was many friends, and I think ‑‑‑ I know Idelle worked in the laboratory, and she and another gal, she was very involved in this art gallery. In fact, today she’s very definitely involved in the arts. And I think she’s on a lot of the boards.

            WEISSKOPF: So has Richland felt like a small town to you? You know everybody in it?

            HULTGREN: It’s a small town, I guess.

            WEISSKOPF: Happy that you stayed?

            HULTGREN: Oh, sure. We have a couple girls that both enjoyed it. But coming from the Midwest, climate has had ‑‑‑ you know, Minnesota was kind of a ‑‑‑ but they’ve had probably warmer weather than we’ve had out here.

            WEISSKOPF: If there’s anything else you want to put on, we can do this again sometime.

            HULTGREN: What I’d like to do is this: obviously, when you get home or thinking about it, and I’ll do the same. How annoying is this to you?

            WEISSKOPF: What?

            HULTGREN: Just listening to this stuff?

            NICK: It’s okay with me.

            WEISSKOPF: Unfortunately, the cameraman has to put up with it.

            HULTGREN: Well, no. But I think there’s a mutual respect involved in these things.

            WEISSKOPF: Well, he’s enjoyed the other ones, so I have a feeling he’s probably getting a lot of it, too. What were you thinking, as far as what?

            HULTGREN: I’m just ‑‑‑ I guess I’ll ask the old cliché: how far is far?

            WEISSKOPF: We can go as far as we can suck you dry.

            HULTGREN: Well, that’s the point.

            WEISSKOPF: Not today, but another time.

            HULTGREN: No, no. The point is, where do you stop on this thing? What may be good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander, and how far do you go?

            WEISSKOPF: We can go a lot farther. We can do it again if you’d like.

            HULTGREN: Who’s your audience going to be? Are you doing this for the three of us, or are you doing it for the public, or who?

            WEISSKOPF: We’re doing it for people that want to understand how Hanford operated, what was it like there, what kind of jobs were going on. For people who are technically interested. They want to hear about the fuel canning, they want to hear how the separations process went, they want to hear about health physics. It was all a big part of the Hanford process. So we’re hopefully going to appeal to a wide range of people.

            HULTGREN: You see, the thing about ‑‑‑ are we holding you up? Are you going to be here anyway for a while?

            WEISSKOPF: Well, the tape’s going to be up in five minutes.

            HULTGREN: All right. All right.

            WEISSKOPF: How about if we shut the tape off, and we can talk about doing this again sometime.

            HULTGREN: I don’t want to...

            WEISSKOPF: You can start packing up, if you want, Nick.

            HULTGREN: Nick, this has been great.




B Reactor Museum Association, “Roger Hultgren Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 28, 2024,