Office of Environmental Management

EM Contractor Preserves Hanford’s History Through Lens of Old Photos

February 6, 2018

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Dan Ostergaard (left) and Nolan McCants with Mission Support Alliance look through historical photos in EM’s Hanford Site collection. Old photos are critical to current cleanup planning.
Dan Ostergaard (left) and Nolan McCants with Mission Support Alliance look through historical photos in EM’s Hanford Site collection. Old photos are critical to current cleanup planning.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Seventy-five years ago in January, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, selected the Hanford Site in Washington state as a plutonium production site. Since the site’s inception, activities at Hanford have often had historical significance, including in this era of environmental cleanup. 

   EM Richland Operations Office contractor Mission Support Alliance (MSA) manages a collection of historical photos for EM. It contains hundreds of thousands of photographs dating back to the pre-Hanford Site days, which includes the Hanford Township and the town of White Bluffs. MSA catalogs and organizes this information for future use.  

   “Making sure we preserve these historical photographs is not only key to understanding Hanford’s past, but also helps in cleanup. Often they are used for determining and examining how certain structures were built,” said Ladd Allison with MSA’s Content and Records Management.

   After the partial collapse of the Plutonium Uranium Extraction (PUREX) Plant tunnel last May, EM asked MSA for photographs related to the tunnel’s construction. MSA provided those historical photos, as well as images of an adjacent PUREX tunnel, which gave EM a better understanding of the collapse and helped identify steps to stabilize both tunnels. 

   “The photos not only helped us understand why there was a partial collapse, but they were very important in defining a near-term response,” said Al Farabee, federal project director. “The use of experienced personnel with a knowledge of the Hanford photographic history, categorization, and storage protocols was extremely valuable.” 

   To help with cataloging, MSA brought in a former long-time Hanford photographer to help identify relevant photos and to ensure accurate photo labeling.

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