Interview with Wayne Snyder

Dublin Core


Interview with Wayne Snyder


Hanford (Wash.)
Hanford Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)
Hanford Waste Vitrification Plant (Wash.)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Wash.)


An interview with Wayne Snyder conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




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

Date Modified

2016-07-21: Metadata v1 created – [RG]

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Bauman, Robert


Snyder, Wayne


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Northwest Public Television | Snyder_Wayne_1

Wayne Snyder: That was always the worst thing when I worked was public speaking. I don't know how they do it. All three of my children are--they all speak about their professions. My son sings publicly and everything, but they came from a dad who isn't that much around—

Robert Bauman: Not much for public speaking?

Snyder: Oh Amos, if you stay down, it's okay.

Bauman: Okay, we good? All right, let's go ahead and get started.

Snyder: Okay.

Bauman: Let's start by just having you say your name and spell it for us.

Snyder: Okay. Wayne Snyder, W-A-Y-N-E, S-N-Y-D-E-R.

Bauman: All right, and today's date is September 4th, 2013.

Snyder: Correct.

Bauman: And we're conducting this interview in Mr. Snyder's home—

Snyder: Right.

Bauman: --in Richland. So let's start by maybe having you tell me about how you came to Hanford, how you heard about the place, when you came.

Snyder: Okay. Well, I was at University of Colorado. I graduated there in 1950 in chemistry, and GE was one of two outfits that interviewed me. They were offering a salary of $54 a week, and that beat out the government job in Rifle, Colorado doing oil shale by about $5 a week. So I accepted this, thinking I was going to the General Electric research laboratory back in Schenectady, New York, but wound up--oh, no, you're going to Hanford. We need to people out there. So I got on the—well, my parents came to my graduation; they put me on the train to Richland. And I got here in the middle of night in Kennewick, and I had only a bus ticket from Pendleton to Kennewick. GE was supposed to pick me up, but they didn't. So I was fumbling around with all my luggage, all of my worldly belongings, and looking for a motel. A lady came by and said, what are you doing? I said, well, I'm trying to get to Hanford or to Richland, if you know where that is. She said, oh yeah. She said, I'm picking up my son who is just off shift down here. Can I give you a lift up to town? So we pulled into Richland, and it was about midnight by this time. And the city lights were pretty much on, and I thought, wow. You know, it looked to me at that time kind of like Las Vegas, all lights lit up, very contemporary. Bell Furniture had its lights on on its sign. And the building I went to was the Hanford House, which was called then the Desert Inn, a structure that preceded the existing building. And it was an old army facility, and everything looked like army around here. And I went in, and I said, I would like to get a room for tonight if I could. And they said, sure. I said, first I got to tell you. I have a check for $35, if you could cash that it would help me to pay for the place. And they said, oh sure. So I spent the night, on the second floor, woke up and looked out my window. And it was the most bare—just place without any life or anything except for the big river that I could see flowing by. And I thought, oh God, if I can just earn enough money to get a car, I'll get out of here. But I'm here later, all this time. Excuse me, my voice is cracking on me. And so I was taken over to the 703 Building, which was at that time where the Federal Building is today. And it was the headquarters for all of the Hanford site General Electric company top dogs, and the AEC, as DOE was in those days. And it was a white—just white, wooden building like everything in town, looking like an army camp, and a big building though. It had a main hallway that extended, I think, five wings, and so you would go in the building, and here's the big lobby. And I was taken to a place where they would interview me again, I think. And they said, oh you're a tech grad aren't you? And that was because I was wearing a blue sport coat and a tie. And he said, oh, yeah, you're not coming to dig ditches. you're coming to be a professional. I said, well, that's good. And so they oriented me and told me where I would be working, and asked if everything was going well. I was living in a dormitory in North Richland at that time, and that was about—what it is, six miles out of town from the Federal Building. So they made sure I could get the bus and get to work and stuff like that, but told me I'd be working out at the bismuth phosphate process, the 200 East 271 Canyon. It's the building that today they are just calling the Queen Mary. Its sister building is, the 271-T. But 271 was the B Plant, and it did the batch processing of all of the irradiated fuels in the 100 Areas, dissolved them up, separated them out by this bismuth phosphate precipitation process. Refined them through pretty much a high concentration plutonium nitrate solution. And that went on off to the 330--233 B, which was over in Two West Area. And you are not interested in the rest of the process, because it just gets boring. But anyway, I got out to work. I took the bus out, which became a very, very common thing every day. Run out and catch the bus, and go 30 miles through the desert to the north and get to the 300 Area. Excuse me, the 200 East Area. And go into my little building, which was the analytical laboratories associated with the big processing canyon building. And there I did various analytical tests, you know, determining how much plutonium in the solution, what were the concentrations of the fission products, and what was left? And we started out with the initial dissolution of the batch process, and they would dissolve up in nitric acid. I don't know how many--fuel slugs, we called them in those days--they are now the fuel element. But they were about eight inches long, and about that big in diameter. And a whole batch of them would get dissolved up—you know, half a ton or something like that. And then we would measure all of the concentration of the various elements as it went through the precipitation process. And we took it through the lithium--the wait a second--hafnium fluoride. I'm getting confused here. This has been quite a few years ago--through a concentration and there the f-10 p sample went on to the Two West Area where the oxalate precipitation took place. And at that time, that was the end of the processing at Hanford. It went through a plutonium solution, plutonium nitrate, was bottled up in very safe containers and shipped to either Los Alamos, or to, I believe, Oak Ridge. And Los Alamos was able to go ahead and make metal out of it from which they fashioned to the various bomb pits. And we sort of ended there, but a few years later, as a matter of fact I worked at it, they built what's now called the Plutonium Finishing Plant. But it was at that time the 234-5 Building, and I worked there again as an analytical chemist in the analytical laboratories. And we were measuring the purity of the plutonium, the amount of extraneous materials. And unlike the bismuth phosphate process where we were worried about the radiation—the very high level gamma irradiation—over at 234-5, we were worried more about contamination from the plutonium. Plutonium gives off no radiation that penetrates anything, but if you ingest it, you've had it. And so we'd be in gloveboxes and protective clothing, and I don't think we had anything over our faces. But I remember reaching through the glovebox and refining all of the plutonium. And then I was a spectrometer. We did a spectrometric analysis of the old fashioned kind, where we burned it off, caught the rays that came off of it, and then we could read all of the barium, the cesium, the plutonium, everything in it. And that would go back to the processing, and if it was determined clean enough and everything, it would then be sent on—the metal from which it came--would be sent on to Los Alamos for processing. But very quickly after that, they built the lines, the ABC and whatever line, which went ahead and processed the metal—the plutonium metal into a shape, which was then shaped into the bomb pit that was being built at the time. And it's not thought of that Hanford ever really handled the metal or produced weapons—weapon parts, but we did for quite a few years. And that seems like a long part of my life, those three years from 1950 up until 1953, when I was kind of tired of that. And I think they were tired of me, perhaps, out at that area too. I interviewed for and got a job in radiation monitoring. And the nice thing about it, it was the first time I lived closer to town. It was--that facility was officed in the 300 Area. And it was day shift. That other time I worked shift work the whole time. This was ABCD shift. It was 24/7. The plants were operating constantly. And so I would be working day shift, then swing shift, then graveyard shift, and it's rotated, so that you were cut out of your night life for every two out of three--let me get it straight--weekends. And all my buddies that I was with in the dormitories had all--they were day shift. And they worked Monday through Friday, they would take off weekends for the mountains or for the rivers or for the fun times. And I would get to go every third long weekend. I was off from Friday morning graveyard until Wednesday afternoon swing shift, so I had what's called a long weekend which is four full days of fun and playing except, there was nobody around that I liked, that I enjoyed. There were a lot of people worked those shifts. But most of them were operators in the production plants, or were at least a part of the continuing plutonium production and not into research or other more fun things like they did in 300 Area. Well, I was able to do that for about two more years or so, and in 1955, I was interviewed and joined a group called the Graphite Group. This group was involved in studying graphite, which is the main moderator. It's that big black block in the center of the reactors which slows the neutrons down to absorption velocity, so that they get struck in the 235 and cause it to fission, or are absorbed in the 236, and ultimately through neptunium become plutonium. And the graphite was swelling badly in the reactors. It was a fairly low temperature thing in the reactor, and the power level was around 250 megawatts. I think that was the design level. They ultimately got to operating up over 1,000 megawatts, so that was a lot. But anyway back to the graphite. I would get samples made and little cylinders and get them shaped up by the machinists, and then we would irradiate them in the test holes in the reactors. I would work out at the reactors quite often. We would be putting samples in the test holes. Getting them out, putting them in, taking them out. And then I could measure the graphite samples, as to how much dimensional change they had made. And at that time, all of them grew slightly, very slightly. But in the full size reactor, it was enough growth that the reactor was beginning to really buckle. It sunk in the middle and grew on the edges, so that the process tubes which used to go straight through the reactor began to be a shape that started higher, sunk down in the center, and went out. And they got so bowed that eight inch slugs or fuel elements would not go through them. And they would charge them in for re-irradiation—or for their first cycle, they would almost not go through those process tubes. The process tubes were aluminum. They were surrounded with water which cooled them, and the fuel elements then did its thing, fission, and made all this heat and fission products and stuff that we're still trying to get rid of here at Hanford. But that was really fun because it was day shift, it was not doing analytical chemistry. And I was working with more people who—well, all of the tech grads who did analytical work were really fun, but it got me in with the crowd, like John Fox as a matter of fact. And it just seemed more like what it was supposed to do with my life—a highbrow chemist in a research setting. But with my bachelor's degree, that wasn't the best preparation for highbrow scientific work. And I did some artwork back in those days. It was always a phase of mine. And when I got my chemistry degree, I really wished that I had gotten a bachelor's in fine arts, but I knew that would pay for nothing. [LAUGHTER] So I decided, well, to make it in fine arts, I better do something. So my wife and I got married, and we went off to Mexico where I produced a portfolio of artwork. It was a good enough to get me into one of the best commercial art centers in the country. It was called The Art Center in Los Angeles, California. And there again, I loved it. But I lasted about, oh, four months, I’ll say, into the first quarter. I was doing very well, but the people who were assigning the work would hang over you. And they would evaluate what you did, and they would find it lacking, because it wasn't as professional as they were. And so I enjoyed it though, but I thought, if I'm going to have a wife and maybe a family, I’d better earn a living. So I called my old boss at Hanford. Said, you know this art stuff isn't really working for me. Is there anything back there that I could do? He said, well, come on back, Wayne. So I joined the Graphite Group again briefly, but they let me interview around until I found something that would be a more likely career, something that would actually let me promote in career and stuff. And I joined a job—joined a group called the Programming Group, and it was the first of an outfit being put together that looked at the whole plant's operation. And they were responsible for resolving all of the programs that were going on. So we did the report writing and the final merging of all of the Plutonium Recycle Program, was the primary source of this stuff. And the plutonium recycle program went on from about--I'm going to say '58. I was married '58, so this would be '59. And as a matter of fact, again, joining with John Fox, who was one of the designers of the PRTR. And we were, at that time, probably rooming together in old Bauer Day house which were the first nongovernment owned houses in Richland. Spokane built of an outfit called the Spokane Village, which are the—oh, what would you call them, honey? The houses along George Washington Way, between it and Stevens north of the old Uptown area, those white, two-bedroom, three-bedroom buildings with white, I suppose, asbestos shingles and stuff. Anyway, where am I going from here? You can cut for a second.

Bauman: You were talking about rooming.

Snyder: Yes, thank you. Yes. And so Gerry McCormick and Fox and I got together, and we decided we'd rent one of the Bauer Day—we would rent a Richland Village house. But they would not rent to single people, so we tried the Bauer Day place. And they said, yeah, we'll rent you a house. So we got together. And I worked for Graphite Group, and Gerry was in chemistry on the separations process. And Fox was designing the PRTR. And we just hit it off well, and we were--not to brag, but we were one of the classy bachelor quarters in town. So now I'm preceding my art career, but before going there I was working in this stuff, having all this fun. We'd have--I was day shift of course—weekends off. John and Gerry were, and we'd have parties with 30 some people or so attending. And lots of people came, because we would have lots of hard liquor. And just had a good time generally. So that lasted for a while, but then when I got married, I came back, joined this programing group that I talked about earlier, got involved in the whole site more or less, and reported to a pretty high up guy, Larry McEwen. And he thought that I would be able to help publicize Hanford to the public. I would put together a small exhibition center, a room that showed the process in its entirety, and add some examples of fuel elements and various solvent extraction columns and things like that. And that was really fun, and I enjoyed it. And reported to Larry, and this was right reporting to Herb Parker who of course became the head of all the laboratories. But, another kid, Art Scott, and I were asked to help him write his annual talk, and so we met with Herb which was quite high level thing for us. And we scraped and bowed and did the appropriate things and came together with a script that he could use for the big annual meeting.

And he would go through it, and he would laugh. And he would say, we don't say things like, further on in the evening we will get into. He said, that would kill the talk right there. People are bored and no way would they like to hear, longer on at some time, while they still sat there. But any way, Art and I did okay. And he then joined an outfit called measurements, which was all new in those times. It was a group assigned to measure the progress of the company. How well were they doing? Were they meeting program requirements? And he did that. And I joined--left the Programming Group. And my boss there Kelly Wood said, Wayne, you're going nowhere. He said, you're going to have to do something else if you expect to have a career. And at that time, an offer came up from the technical information crowd. Chris Stevens was manager of a technical library, and they did this work called reviewing reports for declassification. And so it sounded pretty good, and it was more permanent. And so I joined that group, which was much more of a service job again. So I discovered my real career was in service work; it was not in science and engineering and research and that kind of stuff. And so I got over, and I joined Chris Stevenson, and this is a group of about 35 people in the Technical Information Group, most of which processed all of the technical reports that were created at Hanford. We had the technical library, which provided all of the technical information from worldwide scientists and engineers would need. And I reviewed these new technical reports for the appropriate classification: could they go out unclassified, or should they be confidential, or should they be secret? And everything at Hanford was born secret. Unlike the Department of Defense, which wrote stuff and then decided whether it was sensitive, here stuff was sensitive, period, before it was reviewed and allowed to be unclassified. So I would review all of these reports, as boring as they were, and identify things would have to be deleted in order for them to be unclassified. And most of them were high technical reports. They were not about the production programs. They were not about how much plutonium was produced and things like that. It was about the Plutonium Recycle Program; it was about advanced research in materials; it was about lots of interesting things. And so I sort of acquired a knowledge of things that were going on around the whole site, mainly research.

Bauman: About what time frame was this that you were doing this?

Snyder: Time frame? This would be 19--this was about 1980, I think, when I interviewed with Chris Stevenson and was hired into this Technical Information Group. And that was my career then. I had worked at Hanford for seven years before going to Art Center, and I worked for them for a couple more years, from 1950 and joined the group in 1960, the Programming Group. And so this would have been '63, I think, was when I joined Technical Information Group. Am I off on dates here badly? I hope not. Anyway. It was kind of boring, but I was the classification officer, did all this reviewing, and gained some awareness of how important the information was that supported a technical outfit like Hanford was, partly research and a lot of production stuff. And progressed in that far enough to where when Chris Stevenson resigned, other than just being a reviewer of reports or classification, I became a candidate for running the whole thing. So I became manager of Technical Information section in 1963. And then Battelle Memorial Institute came in and got the contract to run the research parts of Hanford, and the work I was in joined Battelle. And that was, I think, 1965. Things changed a little bit with Battelle. It was a more behavioral kind of a company. GE had been very strict, very much old style corporation, very line management, very much more like normal business. And Battelle came in, and they were used to doing contract research. They would have people come in and say, we have this problem in our material studies for zirconium or something, could you help us solve this problem? So Battelle was used to doing the same kind of research as the Hanford laboratories, but on a much broader scale; more kinds of technology were looked at. And it was a good outfit to work for, and as a matter of fact, I retired from them in 1990. And I had progressed in the technical information work enough that I was really enjoying my job as manager of that outfit. There were about 40 staff members, I'd say, who reported to me, primarily women, but a few professional guys in the technical information work. That I—well, I enjoyed the women too, but the guys, at that time--I shouldn't say this--but were more important than the women, so you tended to associate with guys instead of women in the technical side. And very soon after that, probably ten years, women really came to the front of course in science, and they became bosses around here. But my work had primarily been in a more traditional work through my early career, and through a whole different kind of work as a manager of technical information, being responsible to provide all of the current ongoing world information in science and technology to the Hanford scientists and engineers for their needs in conducting their programs. So that was a very satisfying thing to do, and it acquainted me even further with all of the kinds of things that were going on at Hanford, but without being responsible for making the reactors operate or making the research programs work and things like that. So that a good career. And like I said, I was married in '58, went off to Los Angeles--Mexico and Los Angeles--and then came back and spent the rest of my life, pretty much, in a technical information career. And it's been good.

Bauman: I would go back a little bit. You say when you said you first arrived, you lived in the dorm?

Snyder: Yes. At that time--

Bauman: Could you talk about that a little bit? Where was the dorm? What was the dorm like?

Snyder: Sure. Initially, the City of Richland of course was all government owned. DuPont had had set up, and followed by General Electric company, setting up dorms for single women who were working onsite, and dormitories for single men. And the dorms for men were called M1, M2, M3, M4, whatever. And the women's dorms were called W. What W to do with it? And I was in M9 for a short time. And the company decided set up this dormitory for the single tech grads, and they didn't have an empty men's dorm so they set aside one of the women's dorms, W21. It was built on what would be the parking lot of Albertson's grocery store right now, down on Lee and Jadwin. And that was where I met Fox and McCormick and all these other guys that I still see occasionally today. But it was a whole different style. It was amazing. How could guys be shunted off into a supervised dormitory, practically a continuation of your freshman year in college? We had a house mother even, who made sure we were behaving, not having women into our rooms, and things like that. [LAUGHTER] And today kids would just have a—they would up-rise against this kind of thing. But all of us were pretty pliable. And we were still earning a living. I did get above $52 a week, finally. But still not earning great bucks at that time. So the dormitories, they were $11.50 a month, and the beds were made daily by maids that came in and helped clean up our rooms a little bit. So it was--

Bauman: How long did you live in the dorms?

Snyder: I lived in the dorm for two years. And then that's when I joined the group in Bauer Day house, and became friends with—you know. It's amazing how many people who started then are still alive and still at Richland. And even today we'll get together with maybe 15 guys who were part of dorm W21, and three of which, we're really still close friends. And so--

Bauman: I wanted to ask you about, what was it like living in Richland during the 1950s? What was Richland like as a community?

Snyder: Okay. It was--the government township made people feel very irresponsible about—they would rent a house, but the government owned it. So you have--you just paid your rent, $30 a month or whatever and got the comfort of having all of your fuel delivered weekly. And I think you did pay for groceries and things, but the town had a little bit of a government town—a company town situation. And people were good—the higher level--it was supposed to be a community that was totally non-status. Workers, and top dog managers, and presidents would all live in mixed up neighborhoods. You might live next door to a plumber, and there might be an electrical engineer in the next one. But that never worked, and the highbrow executives of the site did get all the houses along the river, which was called pill and skill drill hill, which was the doctors, the dentists, and the executives. And the rest of the population got nice houses, and no problem with it. But again, they're all government owned, and everybody rented them. But came 1958, this government town was sold to the occupants. The government got out of being responsible for any landlord responsibilities or any government--any town operation. And it—my dog is barking, you hear [LAUGHTER]--anyway, it changed. People really owned their own homes. And property was opened up where you could buy property and build your own house. So instead of all this very much alike, six or seven different kinds of houses were built, a large number of them, you now owned them, so you took care of them. But new property was available so that you could build your own house. And that all happened in 1958. The town got a mayor. Fox's first predecessor was a lady named—I can't remember. It was more of a—there was a city council. The city council worked with the General Electric Company and the AEC people to start running our own city. And then in '58 when it was all sold, they literally became the honest government for the town. And they had to set up company-owned, company-operated—I mean privately owned, city-owned fire departments, police stations, and all that kind of thing. By that time, private industry had come in and built the large chain grocery stores like Safeway, and Albertson's, and all those. And the health business had been all company owned, but the Kadlec Medical Center was set up, and it was private again. You went to doctors who were your own. The initial facilities were very primitive. They were just like government military operations. The hospital where all my children were born was just an old clapboard building that could have been any army fort in the country. But it turned private, and it started building on an enterprise basis more so. I bought one of the lots a little bit north of town, and by that time, I had three children in the Bauer Day house. But we built a larger home up on--a block off from the river but--up on Enterprise, which still exists. And the home we built, we had an architect, and we contracted it out. So it was very much a private-type operation. It was not a development house or something. And we lived in that house until two years ago, until 2000—was that it? No, 2011. We had built our house, and we had lived in it then until, like I said, 2011. So it just became a regular community, a regular life. The whole country's looking at Hanford. It was very accepted when it was an important part of defense. We were building weapons as fast as we could to keep up with Russia. The whole Cold War lasted that long period of time, so it was very solid employment. But it was not looked at negatively like today. Today, Hanford being the biggest waste dump in the world is not thought of really highly by a lot of environmentalists and other people like that. [LAUGHTER] It's slowly being realized, but up until that time, it was very patriotic. People thought, yay, we've won the war. We'll continue to be safe; we'll have the biggest arsenal in the world, be able to maintain our security and safety. And then when that was no longer that important, and they shut down the Hanford plutonium operation, the taking care of all the waste products that had been created, stored in the big tanks, stored in crypts and things like that, became a negative to the environmentalists. And so then Hanford site is still accepted and known to be important, but didn't enjoy that win-the-war patriotism, everyone thought highly of you, type situation.

Bauman: I wonder about, especially during those early years in the 1950s, any community events that stand out, that you remember?

Snyder: Oh, yeah. There was no real social facility in the town. There was the VFW, the Veteran Foreign's where they had a bar and a dance place. The city itself provided a lot of recreation in the way of athletic courts, tennis courts, swimming pool, and that. But pretty much, you made up your own entertainment. And things were formed like the Dormitory Club, and they would go on hikes at least two to three times a month during the summer. And the Alpine Club would go on climbs. And the athletic events, the local softball teams and things like that went on. But pretty much you made--you used those facilities, but you were responsible yourself to. If you wanted to have a party, you had it in your home. You didn't have a party in some commercial facility. There were no real bars or things like that. There's one place I remember though. When the government sold off the town, and the facilities were no longer needed, people may remember what was called the Mart. And it was like the dining halls out in the Areas. It was a big facility that serve meals to the people who worked in town or people who were off shift and need to go eat. And so it was a huge cafeteria where food was served in great quantities at low price, but when the place sold off, that became pretty passé. You know, people were no longer interested in living like a company town. You're more interested in having clubs built and things like that. And so early on, this Mart building, which was an eating hall mostly, had in the back end of it a little bar with a guy whose name I forget, played a Lowrey organ. And those were the most popular thing in the world with Carmen Miranda and other such names who played that. So we would go down there and dance, or we would go there and have drinks and stuff. And the VFW was popular. And there were other places that got built ultimately. The—what was the Red Robin for a while was earlier on a V-named guy. Anyway, it was a regular commercial eating place. There were places to dance, and there were—something like that. So the early town was pretty much, do it on your—do-it-yourself with your own friends. You didn't get to do anything. A big thing though was the Richland Players, a community acting group, was initiated. And the Richland Light Opera Company, who put on pretty much Broadway musicals, came about. And they did really good work. And Richland Players—I can't recall the names of the plays—but some of the musicals that went on with Richland Light Opera were like Annie Get Your Gun, and Show Boat, the ongoing things. They still produce good plays and good musicals. So that was kind of a way to entertain yourself, and would we spent a lot of time supporting groups like that.

Bauman: I wanted to ask you also about things like Atomic Frontier Days or any things like--

Snyder: Oh, okay. When I first came here the Atomic Frontier Days was an annual celebration of the town, very much like any small Western town. And there was a parade, and there is a Miss Frontiers Day elected. And there was the beard growing thing, who could grow the biggest beard. And a little later on, it turned into the Water Follies, which was the whole Tri-Cities, and that was the beginning of the very big scale hydroplane racing, the Unlimiteds. And they raced on the Columbia right out of Kennewick. And so the Frontier Days folded totally, and Tri-City Days, or whatever it's called now, came into being, which is a much more lavish production, much more important.

Bauman: I know President Kennedy visited the Hanford site in 1963.

Snyder: Right.

Bauman: I wondered if you were onsite at the time, if you have any memories of his visit?

Snyder: Yeah, he came out to inaugurate the N Reactor. It was the first reactor that was not like the old original reactors that didn't produce any power or anything. The N Reactor both produced plutonium, but it also took the heat off the reactor operations with a big turbine and made electricity. And Kennedy came out—that was a pretty important thing nationwide, at least in the nuclear industry—and told people how great they had done and how important it was. And I didn't go out to it, but many of my friends did. And Kennedy was--everybody really liked President Kennedy—anyway, Democrats did. And I was a Democrat, so that made it one for one. And it was just a big deal. Earlier than that, other Presidents had done things out here, like—oh, the McNary Dam when it was built. I think it was President Eisenhower, may not--might have been a little later that--came out and dedicated that facility. And then even after that, we had President Nixon come and visit. And he landed in his helicopter in the new Battelle buildings, the Battelle research area, which was quite glamorous and very beautiful compared to the old facilities, and gave us a good spiel. And this was while he was still somewhat in vogue, you know, before the Cooks bit and Watergate and things like that. [LAUGHTER] And we all loved him, and we waved him off. And we were glad that he dipped his wings to show that he approved of the place. But so the site later on--and even early on with like the McNary Dam and things--had some national popularity, or some popular awareness at least. A lot of people really never did know of Hanford, and may still not, but at least it's a well--a better-known facility. And its purpose is, I hope, better understood by the public, creating an atomic bomb. [LAUGHTER]

Bauman: Are there any--were there any incidents, events, things that happened that--during the years working a Hanford that really sort of stand out in your memory?

Snyder: It doesn't pop into mind. That's not a good statement is it? [LAUGHTER] But it was pretty much an even-keel life for me. It just flowed nicely. You worked hard, you earned money. But you were not--you didn't become a national figure, and that was okay. It's just—it gave a whole bunch of us--I think the '50s were considered to be the best generation’s support that ever happened. It was a good time, and excuse me, a good time to live. I'm getting cracked up.

Bauman: I wonder what you consider, like, the most challenging aspects of working Hanford, and maybe the most rewarding aspects of working there.

Snyder: Of course rewarding was earning a living. A satisfaction in what you did, your coworkers, the local community—that was a big plus. No single event that stands out, like I won a Nobel prize or anything like that. [LAUGHTER] But very good, and so that was a very plus thing that stands out. Negative, other than some of the change of the environment, the Cold War ended, thank goodness, and our--the need for Hanford became less, so there was just some less feeling of being critical to the well-being of United States. We still feel it's very important, but not as critical as it was in early days.

Bauman: You talked a little bit earlier about the Cold War and the importance of being part of that, sense of patriotism.

Snyder: And earlier than the Cold War even. The Korean War, and there were still some wars going on, but no atomic as it was called in those days. No nuclear weapons were required.

Bauman: Right. Most of the students I teach now were born after the Cold War.

Snyder: Yeah.

Bauman: After the Cold War ended. And they have no memories of it, and know very little about it, so I guess my question would be, what would you like today's younger generation or future generations to know about working at Hanford, Richland during that period?

Snyder: I think to some degree Hanford has a negative connotation. And I guess I would like for it to be known--excuse me--Can we just cut it off for a second?

Bauman: That’s fine.

Snyder: Whoa!

Bauman: It's okay.

Snyder: I told Peg I might do this.

Bauman: Mm-hmm, it’s all right.

Snyder: I guess we can go on. I'll compose myself.

Bauman: Sure.

Snyder: Oh I was--I would like for it to be known that—I can't say it.

Bauman: Okay, it’s all right. We can skip to something else if you want. That's fine.

Snyder: I don't know. Excuse me. I have no idea why this is becoming so real.

Bauman: It's all right.

Snyder: Are you leaving, hon? Oh, aren't you going to go to the store?

Peg Snyder: Well, I can't get the car out, so we're just going to go a couple of blocks.

Bauman: Oh, my car’s in the way.

Peg: That's okay. We're going to go in a couple of hours.

Snyder: What's wrong with the car? What's wrong with the car?

Peg: They’re parked in front of the garage.

Bauman: We're parked on your driveway.

Snyder: Oh, okay.

Man one: But we can--I can move stuff if you want.

Peg: No big deal.

Snyder: Maybe—are we about wound up, do you think?

Bauman: Yes, I just had one or two items—one or two questions.

Snyder: I see. Well, I was trying to say, the acceptance of Hanford--the need for it--I would like to be known.

Bauman: One of thing I want to ask you about is, I understand you were very involved with the Richland Library.

Snyder: Not the Richland Library, no. The Technical Library at Hanford.

Bauman: Okay. That's what you were talking about in terms of the declassification.

Snyder: Yes. And the provision of technical information—books, reports, anything that provided that.

Bauman: Okay, great. All right. Anything that I haven't asked you about that you would like to talk about, that you think be important to talk about?

Snyder: No, I think I pretty well covered my relationship at Hanford. It's been a good one. And you've done a good job.

Bauman: Well, I want to thank you for talking to me today and letting us come to your house--

Snyder: Oh, sure.

Bauman: --and interview you. We really appreciate it.

Snyder: You're more than welcome.

Bauman: Thanks for--



Bit Rate/Frequency

230 kbps

Hanford Sites

703 building
200 East
271-T Area
B Plant
100 area
330-233B Area
300 Area
271 Canyon

Years in Tri-Cities Area


Years on Hanford Site

ca1950-1955; ca1960-1990;

Names Mentioned

Fox, John
McCormick, Gerry
McEwen, Larry
Parker, Herb
Scott, Art
Stevens, Chris
Miranda, Carmen
Kennedy, John F.
Eisenhower, Dwight D.
Nixon, Richard


Snyder, Wayne.jpg


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Wayne Snyder,” Hanford History Project, accessed June 24, 2024,