RICHLAND – A guard tower that stood over the Columbia River at Hanford for half a century came crashing to the ground Wednesday.
“It’s really an iconic symbol of Hanford plutonium production,” said Gary Snow, director of deactivation and demolition for Department of Energy contractor Washington Closure Hanford.
Taking it down is part of environmental cleanup of the area around Hanford’s ninth plutonium-production reactor, N Reactor, which is legally required to be complete at the end of the year.
The 62-foot tower was bolted to the deck of a building along the Columbia River that housed seven pumps, most of them used to provide cooling water from the river for N Reactor.
Guards would climb five flights of steps into a guard shack perched high above the river to watch for intruders onto the nuclear reservation during the Cold War.
The shack was wrapped with bullet-resistant steel plating and had inch-thick bullet-resistant glass.
On Wednesday, former Hanford guard Joe Rodriquez came out to the river to watch the tower be pulled down with a cable attached to a bulldozer.
“It was a sad moment to see it go away,” he said.
He would have preferred to see it saved as a part of Hanford history. But he still has great memories of his hours spent in the tower, noting the changing of the seasons and spotting elk, deer and wild horses, he said.