b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEthe mountains to the north and the Snake Buick, was parked between us and the wind and upwind. The winds wouldRiver to the southwest and told the blast. We were at least 50 yards beyondplay a major role in diluting the gasesDetroit consultants that water would be the car. The expert hadnt expected muchand particulates that would exit theplentiful if the wells tapped the stream. 11 to come up, and all that did come up stacks. 15was dust and small debris and one veryIn May Johnston announced that the first lThe U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)a rge surprise boulder that must havecivilian contract would go to A .J . been encased in the lava. It flew toward s analyzed the structure of the Snake Schoonover and Sons of Burley, Idaho, the Buick. Another hundred yards, andRiver Plain aquifer and layers of lavato drill a well at the site selected for youd have made a direct hit on my rock beneath the site, drilling thirty-threeZ i n n s breeder reactor. Johnston had told c a r, said Johnston to the expert. Later, test wells. At a meeting of the Rotarylocal business leaders that most of the when we examined the results, the lavaclub in Pocatello, someone askedIDO contracts would be for amounts less looked as clean as if a saw had cut it. Johnston about the projected use ofthan $100,000, intentionally within the He did a beautiful job. water and if the wastes might contami-1 3capability of Idahos small businesses, nate the underground supply. He replied,and he was as good as his word. T h e In August 1949, the USSR detonated anWaste water returned to the desertwell was exploratory but, if successful, atomic device. The news shocked the drainage will be clear and [as] free ofwould convert to a production well. By citizens of the United States. At AEC foreign matter as pure spring water. ItAugust, it had proven itself. Johnston Headquarters, a sense of urgency was the thinking at the time that thewas pleased. Each new development to infused the reactor program. Priorities soils would absorb atom waste longdate, he said, has indicated that the clearly had to favor defense goals. before the water that might contain itIdaho site will meet every expectation of President Truman ordered the AEC to could reach the aquifer. 16 the AEC as an ideal location for the develop a hydrogen bomb, also knownreactor testing station. 12as the Superbomb. With 1950 came the The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, withKorean War. The U.S. Army sent mili- the Bureau of Land Management, helpedFinding water was far easier than any- tary advisors to the NRTS to facilitate with the purchase of surrounding stateone had imagined. The underground procurement and otherwise move the and private lands. With new acquisi-stream proved to be more like an construction schedule as rapidly as pos- tions, the AEC would control a total ofunderground ocean, and the IDO was sible. The MTR and the Chem Plant, 400,000 acres, more than doubling thenever at a loss to find water for build- aside from their major research mis- Na vy s holding. 1 7ing sites. It did, however, have to blast sions for peaceful purposes, also hadlava rock at times. Bill Johnston along subsidiary defense-related missions of In October Johnston reported to his var-with his driver, Marvin Walker, wit- urgent interest to Los Alamos weapons ious Idaho audiences that three reactornessed one of them at the Chem Plant: researchers. 14 sites had been selected. Hanford wasdismantling its concrete batch plant andI was still Johnstons driver and docu - Johnston continued master planning the shipping it to Idaho. The engineers hadment courier when they started the baseSite, enlisting other federal agencies for- found good sources of sand and gravelment for the Chem Plant. They flew an help. The U.S. Soil Conservation not far from the Navys circle of smalle x p et in from somewhere to oversee the white houses. Cement would arrive byService advised on the re-seeding ofrblasting of the rock. There must have disturbed construction sites. The U.S. rail and be conveyed conveniently tobeen a carload of explosives in that Weather Bureau studied wind and the mixing vats. The pace began toblast. Just placing the charges had takenweather patterns across the Site. quicken. Johnston hired another localseveral days, and when it was ready to Exhaust stacks would soon become part firm to excavate the basement forgo, Johnston and I watched. We were of the landscape, and the architects Zinns breeder, even before Bechtel hadd i rected to a spot quite a distance away,would need to know how high to build been selected as the construction con-and Johnstons AEC car, a black 1950 them and which directions were down- tractor. 184 0'