Interview with Douglas Alford

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Douglas Alford

Subject

Hanford Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)
Ellensburg (Wash.)
Pasco (Wash.)
Chemistry
Nuclear reactors
Reactor fuel processing

Description

Douglas Alford moved to Richland, Washington in 1951 and worked on the Hanford Site from 1951-1982.

An interview conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by Mission Support Alliance on behalf of the United States Department of Energy.

Publisher

Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities

Date

01/22/2018

Rights

Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at ourhanfordhistory@tricity.wsu.edu, who can provide specific rights information for this item.

Format

video/mp4

Provenance

The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to the US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Robert Franklin

Interviewee

Douglas Alford

Location

Washington State University - Tri Cities

Transcription

Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Douglas Alford on January 22, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be talking with Doug about his experiences working at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Douglas Alford: Madden Douglas Alford. Now you want me to spell it?

Franklin: Yes, please.

Alford: The last name? Oh. M-A-D-D-E-N. D-O-U-G-L-A-S. A-L-F-O-R-D.

Franklin: Great, thanks. And you prefer to go by Doug, right?

Alford: Yes.

Franklin: Okay, great. So, Doug, tell me how you came to work for the Hanford Site.

Alford: I came in 1951.

Franklin: Okay. And how did you hear about Hanford?

Alford: Pardon?

Franklin: How did you hear about Hanford?

Alford: Well, I went to school at Central Washington in Ellensburg.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Alford: And so I was familiar with it.

Franklin: Where are you from originally?

Alford: Well, I was born in North Dakota.

Franklin: Okay. And when did you come to Washington?

Alford: I came to Washington in 1934.

Franklin: Okay. Why did your parents come to Washington?

Alford: My dad was a farmer. We had three years of no crops whatsoever. Dust blowing. It was a lot worse than—you’ve heard about the dust blowing here at Hanford, but it didn’t hold a candle to what we had in North Dakota. Let’s see. Well, my dad sold the place for $1600. It was a section of ground, but that’s all he got. So, when we came out, we came over with two cars. The lead car was a Model T Ford, and he was a relative of my mother. And then we followed him and we came over the Rocky Mountains. It was just a gravel road at that time.

Franklin: Wow.

Alford: It was quite a trip. We were in the second car, so there was a lot of dust. Every once in a while, we’d lose him ahead of us. But [LAUGHTER] we’d back off a little bit and we’d find out he was there.

Franklin: How old were you when you made the trip?

Alford: About—I left about when I was seven years old.

Franklin: Okay, so you were born in—what year were you born?

Alford: ’25.

Franklin: ’25, okay. Wow, that sounds like quite a journey, driving from North Dakota. Where did your parents settle when they came to Washington?

Alford: It was Kirkland, Washington.

Franklin: Oh, okay. And what made you choose Central Washington College?

Alford: What year?

Franklin: Why did you go to Central Washington?

Alford: Well, I was in the Navy prior to that. I just—I had always planned to go to college, so. I think that was in 1946. Yeah.

Franklin: Okay.

Alford: ’46. I think I started at college and didn’t like it too well and I quit after a quarter or two. And then went back the next year and finished my degree in chemistry.

Franklin: In chemistry, right. And then you—when did you come to Hanford? What year did you come to Hanford?

Alford: That was 1951.

Franklin: And what did you do? What was your first job at Hanford?

Alford: The first job—I had about ten or twelve lady laboratory technicians that I was supervising. I think I did that about three years, three or four years. It didn’t appeal to me after a while.

Franklin: Yeah?

Alford: I thought there might be something a little better.

Franklin: Okay. And what did you move on to?

Alford: Well, I quit Hanford and worked—a friend of mine up in Prosser on a farm. But that was supposedly a year-round job, and it didn’t pan out that way somehow. So I called my friend, Fred Clagett. He was the mayor of Richland at that time, but he also worked in personnel at Hanford. And I told him I’d like my job back, but I don’t want the same one. And he said, that’s fine, and he even gave me a raise.

Franklin: Wow.

Alford: But I did spend a little time reading pocket books and things like that until my clearance came. That was customary for most everybody coming in. You just sat there and read and had to wait for your Q clearance.

Franklin: The Q clearance, right.

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: So what job did you hire back in as?

Alford: In engineering—an engineer. I guess they call it an Engineer I or something like that. That was much more appealing to me. I had that on one of those write-ups I had. I don’t know whether you have it or not.

Franklin: I do, yeah, it says that you worked in the 300 Area.

Alford: Yeah, that’s the 300 Area.

Franklin: What kind of duties did you do as an engineer there in the 300 Area?

Alford: You know, I might have to have one of those myself to remind myself. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Sure, yeah. Okay. There you go. Yeah, that’s all right. Visual aids are encouraged. So it says here you worked doing cold pilot plant work and the recovery of uranium from simulated solvent extraction products, which contained urinal nitrate hexahydrate.

Alford: Yeah, that was the first job. Uranyl nitrate—when you brought the slugs in from the—or the fuel elements in from the 100 Areas, we’d dissolve them in nitric acid. We’d always—so they’re mainly the uranium slug. We took the solution, the uranium solution and put it in a calciner at a pretty high temperature, and we’d come out with uranium oxide. That was the—we were just testing what temperatures we needed to run that and things like that.

Franklin: So you’re basically trying to recapture the uranium, during the process—

Alford: Yes.

Franklin: So you could probably re-put it in other fuel? You could refuel it.

Alford: Yeah, it could be reused—the uranium could be reused. And then we also ran cold operations in a little bit of a pilot plant, to separate—trying to separate the strontium and cesium out of the solvent-extracted waste. The solvent extraction is a number of steel columns. The first one, the waste stream from the first one contains all the fission products. Downstream, the different columns, we’d get the strontium, cesium isolated there.

Franklin: What was the purpose of isolating the strontium and cesium?

Alford: They’re a fission product, a long-lived fission product. So for one thing, Oak Ridge was looking for cesium-137 for medicinal work, actually. But they’re both long-lived isotopes. We figured we had to get rid of them later on so we could isolate them. They’re a really—in the waste stream. There’s more work downstream. We moved from—that was in the 300 Area, and then we moved to the 200-East Area, what we called the hot pilot plant at that time, semi-works and we just continued the pilot scale work that we were doing in the 300 Area, just on a slightly larger scale. But that, at the semi-works, we were on actual PUREX waste stream that contained the strontium and cesium.

Franklin: So you were receiving the waste as it was exiting the PUREX plant—

Alford: Yes.

Franklin: But you weren’t extracting all of—you weren’t using all of the waste, right, just a portion of the waste?

Alford: No, just a very small portion of it.

Franklin: So that’s how a lot of that strontium and cesium ended up in the waste tanks later on.

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: Because you couldn’t—so, when you would extract it, you said you used to the cesium—Oak Ridge wanted the cesium. What was the strontium used—was it just extracted because it was so radioactive, or did it have an application?

Alford: Well, we extracted it because it’s a long-lived—it’s a 90-year half-life, and it’s something we just simply had to—I think it’s still stored out at Hanford, probably, in large lead casks. There’s a lot of strontium and cesium in the tanks out there also. But from the pilot plant at the semi-works, I moved to B Plant. That’s a full-scale operation. We ran around the clock. We had four shifts. I think—I don’t remember exactly how many—but anyhow, my part of that one, I was writing the—I had several engineers and a couple technicians, and we wrote the—took the procedures from the other research and engineering people in the building. They told us how to do it, but then we put it into operating procedures for our operators. That’s what I did; it’s called Process Control. We wrote the operating—that was a—I guess I was—well, I moved from there to the manager of B Plant operations.

Franklin: So, B Plant was effectively a copy of T Plant, right? It was a Manhattan Project era canyon.

Alford: Yes.

Franklin: What process were you operating at the time? What were you processing at B Plant?

Alford: At B Plant, we had large-scale solvent extraction columns. They were just enlarged from the pilot plant. It was initial pilot plant in the 300 Area, then semi-works was upgraded a little bit, and then B Plant was big, steel columns. And you got solution—aqueous solution going in and organic solution going in, and they were pulsating. This is how we’d separate one from another—one isotope from another.

Franklin: What isotopes were you separating in B Plant?

Alford: Well, we weren’t actually—just separating the waste stream. Finally getting the plutonium out of the—to send to the—well, the Plutonium Finishing Plant, that’s the one that they’re having trouble with right now.

Franklin: Yeah, 234-5.

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: So in B Plant, you were separating plutonium. You were taking this solution in, and then separating the plutonium out from the waste stream.

Alford: Yes.

Franklin: Okay. And you did this—this was all done remotely, right?

Alford: Right, yeah.

Franklin: I’m wondering if you could talk about that a bit. What were the challenges in doing this work remotely?

Alford: Well, the cover blocks sit over the cells. We’d have about five cells, and you’ve got cover blocks over each cell, several. I think about three cover blocks: one on each side and a middle one. Those cover blocks weigh about 70 tons each.

Franklin: Wow.

Alford: And then it’s all stainless steel piping in the processing cell. And then we have a big gantry crane that moves over. The crane operator, when he gets—if we have to make a rooting change in the cell, he removes the cover blocks, and he has remote—we have remote connectors on every—we call them jumpers, that’s the solution transfer pipe from one to the other. And he’d make that whatever transfer or connection we needed, and then cover blocks go back on. That was the—we were always, of course, in a down period when that happened.

Franklin: What do you mean, a down period?

Alford: Well, I mean, we weren’t operating when the cells were open.

Franklin: So you said that each cover block weighs 70 tons?

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: So that’s concrete—those are concrete blocks, right?

Alford: Well, they were—I’ve forgotten how big they are now. I think they’re seven feet thick and I’m not sure how wide.

Franklin: That’s huge.

Alford: The cell was about—well, one cell was probably 20 feet or so. 20 by maybe 15 or something. I don’t remember exactly. Maybe 10 by 20. I can’t remember that.

Franklin: That’s okay. So I imagine that in that area, you would be on the other side of a thick concrete wall, sampling and observing the process. You wouldn’t actually be in the gallery, right?

Alford: No.

Franklin: Because it was too radioactive in there.

Alford: Right.

Franklin: How did the operators see—did the operator have a direct line of sight on what he’s doing, or how did you shield the crane operator from the radioactivity?

Alford: Well, the crane operator, he had lead shielding underneath him and whatnot. He had lead shielding all around his cab. Our operators, they would have to go in to take process samples routinely. At that time, they were getting more exposure than we liked. That’s where I devised a sampler that reduced their time in there. I applied for a patent on it, but they told me that I used vacuum so that invalidated the—I can’t imagine why. But anyhow, it did the job for the operators. They still call it the Alford connector.

Franklin: Oh, that’s cool. I’m wondering if you can describe this Alford connector. What did it look like and how was it an improvement over the existing sampler?

Alford: Well, the only thing that it improved, it took a lot less time to take the sample, so they weren’t exposed—they weren’t in the canyon as long as they would have before.

Franklin: Would the block have to be off for them to take the sample?

Alford: No, they have—the blocks are all on, and we were operating at that time. But you have to take successive samples to go to the analytical lab, and that’s where these ladies were working.

Franklin: Oh, right. So how would—if the blocks are on and the stuff is in the cell and it’s connected by a jumper, how would you get a sample out? Where was the—

Alford: Well, the sample port is built in. There’s an entryway in the cell cover block itself. It’s not a straight line; it’s a curved line to reduce radiation. But I think that’s—

Franklin: That’s really interesting.

Alford: There is one little—when I moved in from process control to the manager of the plant, I could always—a little bit of a smell in the office, and I couldn’t figure it out. And, I don’t know, I asked somebody what it might be. Well, it turned out to be, the crane operator, in order to come back down out of that crane and change clothes and go to the bathroom—well, he had to urinate. And this thing ended up in my office. He didn’t run right in the office, but that was the smell that I heard.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Alford: It took us a while to uncover the problem there. [LAUGHTER] The crane operator didn’t admit it, but—

Franklin: It’s a waste stream of a different kind, huh?

Alford: Yeah!

[LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Oh, man. Okay. So what were some of the challenges of working in B Plant?

Alford: Well, one of the things that, even when I was process control, but more often when I became manager, I’d get more night calls than I wanted. If we have a stream that’s—if you have a waste stream going out and the radiation is higher than it should be, or when we dump the acid, some of the acid waste into the tanks, it’s supposed to be neutralized before it goes to the tank. Occasionally, the guys would fail to neutralize it, and we’d get a little bit of a burp out in the Tank Farm. Well, we had normal problems with operators and engineers—nothing unusual, I guess. They weren’t—

Franklin: I imagine, all that shielding and not being able to directly see what was going on, was that challenging? To have all of that shielding between you and what was actually happening there?

Alford: Yeah. We had to depend on—we had a lot of control instruments. You know, just like, they’re reading all the—on the graphs—I can’t remember now what exactly we did, I mean. But the chemical operators, they’re on the outside. They’re not in the area of the canyon. There’s probably a six-foot wall between them, between them and the canyon. So they weren’t in a radiation zone. But the only ones that—we had to send samplers in every so often.

I had a boss that was pretty persnickety. He was—at least occasionally one of my supervisors would call him instead of calling me first. And then he’d call me, and then I’d have to pretend like I knew about it. It was a little bit of a game that we played. But he’s what I’d call a perfectionist. I know when I had to write monthly reports every month, I thought I had the perfect report one time, but he called me and told me I had the wrong year. It was right after New Year’s, and I still had the—so I missed that, even. But he was a real good boss.

Franklin: What kinds of things were you sampling for, when you’d take the samples? What was the purpose of the samples?

Alford: The what?

Franklin: What was the purpose of the samples? You’d talked earlier about taking samples. Why’d you need to take samples periodically?

Alford: Well, the whole process is lined out, different columns are supposed to be a certain composition if the thing is running like it should, the flow sheet. If it’s off-standard or something, we want to know about it to correct it. That’s mainly the reason for the samples.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Alford: Occasionally, if we couldn’t get the right—well, occasionally the lab technicians that we’d send the samples to, they’d have a problem or so, and we’d have to re-sample the tank and re-sample the columns and so forth.

Franklin: What was the most rewarding aspect of your work at B Plant?

Alford: The most rewarding?

Franklin: Yeah.

Alford: I guess the people. I had a real good bunch of people and we got along very well and they were very dependable. And I learned a lot along the way. Let’s see. After B Plant, I went to the PUREX plant.

Franklin: Okay.

Alford: And at that time, at the PUREX plant was where we had the first cesium leak in the Tank Farm in the 2-West area. That was really the first—these are million-gallon tanks, and it’s hard to measure an inch difference. An inch drop can be quite a few gallons in that tank.

Franklin: Yeah. Right!

Alford: But anyhow, that first leak, we went to—my engineering assistant, he carpooled with me. And he told me, I think we got a problem over in 2-West. I told him, I don’t want to hear about it now. But I heard about it the next morning.

Franklin: I bet.

Alford: And then my boss, Bill Harley, and I had to go down and talk to the, at that time, the AEC people. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned to them that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg and it’s inevitable that there’s going to be more. And we found out that we’ve had a lot—even in the double-shell tanks now. We haven’t ever had anything out of the double-shell tanks, but a lot of the single-shell tanks are giving us problems. That’s one of the things we’re trying to get things into the double-shell tanks, and there’s even some talk maybe of building more. I don’t know. A lot of it is politics, probably.

Franklin: Yeah. So this leak you’re talking about in 200 West was in the single-shell tank?

Alford: What was that?

Franklin: The leak in 2-West was in a single-shell tank?

Alford: Yeah, they all—2-East and 2-West were all single-shell initially. I’ve forgotten the time, but we went to double-shell tanks for additional containment. And now we’re trying to—we’ve got an evaporator running and we’re trying to move the solutions from the single-shells to the double-shell tanks.

Franklin: Right.

Alford: And that’s one of the things that the vitrification plant is supposed to go, but that’s why behind schedule and way over budget and so forth.

Franklin: Sure is.

Alford: Yeah, it is.

Franklin: Yeah. I’d like to talk a bit more about the tanks. Were they intended to be long-term storage, or was there any thought given to long-term storage in the early years of Hanford production? What was the discussion about the waste problem when you started at Hanford?

Alford: Well, the main emphasis at the time that I worked there, we were trying to get enough plutonium down to Rocky Flats to build a bomb. We didn’t really—had we been able to do it over again, there’s a lot of changes we probably would’ve made. But we probably did some things like when the slugs would come in on the train cars from the 100 Areas, we’d always dissolve them at night. Because there’d be a little bit of a nitric acid cloud, and we could—that’s one of the things that we had to shut the PUREX plant down, eventually. We did shut it down. We only had about probably three or four, maybe five months of processing, and we’d have processed all the fuel. But then the AEC in Washington, DC said shut it down. So that’s what we did. I kind of lost my train of thought for a minute there.

Franklin: That’s okay. That’s fine, we can move on. I’d like to go back in time a little bit and ask you—so you came to Hanford in 1951, right?

Alford: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: So at that time, Richland was all—it was still a government town, when you moved here, right, and GE ran the town services.

Alford: Right.

Franklin: Where did you live when you first got here? Did you live in Richland?

Alford: Yeah, we lived in Richland. Two-bedroom prefab. If I remember correctly, it was on McPherson Street. I don’t know if that’s still here or not.

Franklin: It is. I used to live right—when I first lived here, I lived in a two-bedroom prefab myself, on Stanton.

Alford: Is that right?

Franklin: Which is very close to McPherson, yeah.

Alford: Yeah. They were all Alphabet Homes.

Franklin: How long did you live in the two-bedroom prefab? And how many people—did you have a family at the time?

Alford: Oh, yeah. We had two kids, Christine and my son that’s—he passed away here, three, four years ago—at that time, and then middle-aged son, he was on the way. That’s why I decided that it might be better to work at Hanford than work at the farm, which wasn’t quite as reliable.

Franklin: Oh, right. Yeah, you had a family to take care of.

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: What was your wife’s name?

Alford: Beverly.

Franklin: And what did she do when you lived in Richland? Was she stay-at-home, or did she work as well?

Alford: No, she stayed home. She was a very good homemaker. I have to hand it to her that I’ve lived as long as I’ve lived because she’s really a good, healthful cook.

Franklin: Oh, good.

Alford: She cooked—

Franklin: What did you think about Richland when you first moved into town? I assume it was probably the first time you’d ever lived in a government town. What struck you as—what stands out? Was there anything that struck you as odd or different about Richland when you moved here?

Alford: Well, I can’t think of anything—the one thing, when I needed anything in the way of hardware, to repair something, I always had to go to Pasco at that time to get it. And then when I came back in ’54 from that one year of farming, we moved into another house, and I don’t remember what it was. But we eventually moved to Pasco not long after that, because it seemed like everything we needed was in Pasco. There just wasn’t much available in Richland at that time.

Franklin: Right, you’re saying that kind of the commercial sector was lacking.

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: Yeah. And then did you stay in Pasco for the rest of your time at Hanford?

Alford: Yeah, then we lived in Pasco for—I don’t remember now when we moved to Pasco, but, yeah, we were still there and we moved around a few times. But we’re—

Franklin: How did you—I assume when you first came to Hanford, you had to take the bus out. Did you take the bus out to work?

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: Can you talk about that? What was that like? What kind of schedule did it run?

Alford: I worked on the day shift all the time that I was out there. I didn’t have shift work to do. But the buses were good. They had a lot of people that played cards on the way out and on the way back and whatnot. But I didn’t get involved with that. But it was a chance to get caught up on some reading and things like that. But later on, I started driving, because I would, quite often, be in a meeting that was still going on when the buses left. So I either had to get out there and hitchhike or—I had a government car quite often. But many times, I finally just decided just to drive and then I could—because it seemed like we were in a lot of meetings and my boss, he was pretty good, but he had a staff meeting, he’d always have it at 11:00, so that people couldn’t hold over.

Franklin: How has the Tri-Cities changed since you first moved here?

Alford: How what?

Franklin: How has the Tri-Cities changed since you first moved here?

Alford: Oh, boy. It’s just—it’s more recent, the change I’ve seen, really has picked up the pace. It really—I can’t say, except the growth here in the past ten years has just been phenomenal.

Franklin: Were you working—you were working out onsite when President Kennedy came to visit.

Alford: Yes.

Franklin: Did you go to see him?

Alford: Yes, I did.

Franklin: And did your family come as well?

Alford: And I think my wife and I came. I can’t—but not the kids. The kids were in school.

Franklin: Okay. What do you remember about that day?

Alford: Well, I thought he did a nice—he was a very, very good speaker. I always liked him; he was a Navy man just like I was.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Alford: He was a good democrat.

Franklin: Okay. So I guess we’ll go forward again. Thanks for—I’m always interested about the social aspects of Tri-Cities in the past. So you were at—we talked about the tanks, and then the leaking. And then you were at PUREX plant when it shut down, right?

Alford: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: So after PUREX plant shut down, you went to work for the Basalt Waste Isolation Project.

Alford: Yeah. There’s a little story there that—

Franklin: Okay.

Alford: I probably—I don’t—when the leak—when we went downtown, there was a meeting with DOE—DOE, you know, runs the show. I don’t know if this—heads have to roll when something happens.

Franklin: Right. They sure do.

Alford: The supervisor on the 2-West Tank Farms, we had to walk him off the plant. My Tank Farm manager had to walk him off the plant. And I’m not going to name names, but—and then my Tank Farm manager, I don’t know how exactly he—he got sidelined. You might also—I got sidelined. I moved from an operations manager to a staff manager on a slightly different job. The operations—it was, you might say, a slight downgrade. But my boss, Bill Harley, I think he—I forgot what happened on him right now. Anyhow, quite a few of us got penalized one way or the other. I don’t know if this is something that it should go into the records or not. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Well, I think—

Alford: It’s just one of those things that happened.

Franklin: Sure.

Alford: Anyhow, I went to the staff manager for a while but I don’t know how long I was in that now, but it was just administrative work. Then I moved downtown to the Basalt Waste Isolation Project. That was pretty interesting. The problem there, we were testing the basalt in Gable Mountain to see if it would be a suitable location for highly radioactive waste casks. Solidified casks. Due to the high radiation that would be, the tunnels had to be self-supporting. We couldn’t use timbers because they wouldn’t hold up. So we took core samples of the basalt to see if it was under stress. When we pushed the two-inch core sample out of the gun, it would just pop off like checkers, and that told us that it was under stress, and it would never work. At that time, I had a talk with my boss about whether we should just ‘fess up to the fact that it’s no good and we might as well not waste any more taxpayer money, but that was the wrong thing to say, too. So it wasn’t long after that, I was, I think, in the basalt project. I think probably a couple, three years.

And I also at that time, I was downtown, and I used the kind of flexible hours and I was starting to farm. And so early in the morning I’d make the rounds of circles to see if everything was all right. Then I’d call my friend that I later on worked for to tell him it’s fine, and then I’d go to work. And I would be able to—I got my time in, but I got a little bit different hours than some of the others and it worked out pretty well. After a couple, three years on that, I decided to retire.

It was after kind of—you might want to edit this out, too. My boss sent me out to talk to the psychiatrist. I called him the shrink. He happened to be—after he was the head of the—superintendent of Pasco Schools, I think. But anyhow long after that I decided to go farming full-time.

When I didn’t have a long commute to Hanford, I suddenly found myself with a lot of spare time. Along with the spud farming and so forth, I decided to put a vineyard in, a wine grape vineyard in Block 1. We did that—I think that was 1982 that I retired. ’82, yeah. We put the first half of the vineyard in in 1983 and the second half in 1985. We got crops and we didn’t intend to stay in business, but I had Dr. Clore, my consultant at that time. When we got a crop, the varieties and the yields and whatnot established on the vineyard, that’s when we decided to sell it. That’s what our original plan was. It was located along the river, a good location, but I had grown spuds prior to that, but it was a little too rocky for spud-growing, so that’s why we put the vineyard in.

Franklin: What did you do after you sold it? You just retired full-time?

Alford: Yeah. I retired and I farmed full-time, spuds and corn and wheat, down in Oregon a little bit. But most of it around here. And then the wine grapes.

Franklin: Okay. Oh, sorry, were you going to say something?

Alford: Pardon?

Franklin: Oh, nothing, never mind. In what ways did the security or secrecy at the Hanford Site impact your work there?

Alford: Did--?

Franklin: How did security and secrecy affect your work at the Hanford Site?

Alford: Well, we had to, one thing, if our filing cabinet wasn’t locked, security would make the rounds, and if it was unlocked, they would call you at home and you—we didn’t have to immediately go out, but the next morning we had to out and verify that everything was the way it was. When you’ve got four drawers and they’re not all secret documents, but there’s enough there that there’s no way that I could remember what was—but we managed to get by it.

Franklin: Did that ever happen to you?

Alford: No.

Franklin: Oh.

Alford: No, but another thing that’s a little bit humorous that happened to be at B Plant was, I would find orange peelings on my desk sometime when I’d come in. And we finally tracked it down. I had the shift people to keep an eye out, and it was a raccoon that came in and floated around and got in the waste basket. [LAUGHTER] That’s where he—

Franklin: That’s pretty amazing. All that security and the raccoon was just kind of moving in there as he pleases.

Alford: He was—I don’t know what kind of clearance he had or not.

[LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Did you ever encounter any snakes?

Alford: Not that I can recall.

Franklin: Okay. Any other ways that secrecy or security impacted you when you were working there?

Alford: No, I don’t think so. I was pretty careful not to bring stuff home. Because it was—Patrol—I very seldom brought work home. I never brought anything home, you know, that required a Q clearance.

Franklin: Okay. It says here in your bio that at times you accompanied the personnel department on trips to universities to interview students to work at Hanford.

Alford: Yeah.

Franklin: I’m wondering if you could talk a bit about that. What kinds of people were you looking for?

Alford: Yeah. We usually, I would go as an operations-type. But the personnel office, they’d invite maybe an engineer, they’d invite me and a manager or something like that. We were looking at third-year kids, mostly. Most of my—I can’t remember every—University of Colorado and University of Wyoming and Brigham Young University, and Utah State were some of them. I guess there were others. But if a student looked like a reasonable hire, we’d bring him in for an interview. And then somebody—but there were only third year students, so—I’ve forgotten now. There’s—I can’t recall just exactly how that intervening year, that subsequent year, how we handled that. But the personnel department would keep in touch with these students that looked good to us. But we didn’t have the authority to hire anybody in, but we were just scoping—

Franklin: Did you ever get asked any strange questions by students, or did they ever ask you things you couldn’t talk about?

Alford: They what?

Franklin: Did they ever ask you any strange questions, the students, or—

Alford: Oh, they may have. But I can’t recall. In Salt Lake one time, I was interviewing in the morning, and I went out to lunch—you know, it’s right on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains. We had quite a snowfall. Oak Ridge, I had to go there a couple of times. I think I’ve forgotten—anyhow, the place we stayed at—these trips are all set up for us—the place I stayed at, they had a flood or I’ve forgotten what the deal was now, but I had to eat down in the basement.

[LAUGHTER]

Franklin: That doesn’t sound like too much fun. My last question is, what would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford during the Cold War?

Alford: Would you repeat that?

Franklin: Sure. What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford during the Cold War?

Alford: Well, our main—I may have mentioned, I think—my main goal was to beat Germany to the bomb. Well, I can’t answer your problem directly, I don’t think. The fact that we could build buildings and we could do things—if you have a real goal in mind, a lot of times, the politics have to come separate. That’s kind of the way it was when I worked out there. We could do—even on reactors, it took us ten or fifteen years just to get the paperwork and the licensing and things like that. The Frenchmen could do all that in five years, and we knew that. But still—if we could get rid of the paperwork, it saves money and gets the job done much quicker.

Franklin: Okay. Well, Doug, is there anything else that you’d like to say before we close the interview? Anything else you haven’t mentioned or I haven’t asked?

Alford: No, I think you’ve done pretty good job.

Franklin: Okay.

Alford: Sparking my memory, but I just—I’ve kind of lost a lot of my memory now. I’m getting on in years.

Franklin: No, thank you so much for interviewing with us. You’ve had a really remarkable career, and I appreciate you taking the time to share that with us today.

Alford: Thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed it.

Franklin: Good. Okay. Yeah.

Hanford Sites

300 Area
100 Areas
200 East
PUREX
B Plant
Plutonium Finishing Plant
234-5 Building
Tank Farms
200 West
Basalt Waste Isolation Project (BWIP)

Years in Tri-Cities Area

1951-

Years on Hanford Site

1951-1982

Files

Alford, Douglas.JPG

Citation

“Interview with Douglas Alford,” Hanford History Project, accessed February 18, 2020, http://hanfordhistory.com/items/show/2069.

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