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RichlandIn common with Oak Ridge, and some of the other nuclear cities, Richland has a large number of government built "alphabet" houses. Though there were fenced in work camps, and construction areas, Richland itself was never a closed city, in the way that Oak Ridge was. Part of the reason for this may be that, unlike Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. Richland was an actual city that had existed prior to the coming of the nuclear facilities. When the government came, it built work camps within the Hanford security area, which were closed areas; but never bothered to close the city itself.
Today the so called Tri-Cities area of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick have a combined population of around 220,000 people. These are not the farming communities that they once were; but are manufacturing and technology centers. The food processing and shipping which gave the area its start has not been forgotten, merely overshadowed by the massive government and technological works. As was the case during the Cold War, the major employer of the area is the Hanford Site, though these days it is clean up, rather than production which is the goal.
though material for bombs is no longer produced here, the decades of operation and nuclear expertise have left third mark in passing. Nuclear fuel is still made her, for power plants, at the Ariva facility. The hammer facility trains security, emergency, and clean up people from around the world, and the Northwest Pacific National Laboratory still does nuclear research, along with what is left of the Hanford site itself. Energy Northwest runs a nuclear power plant here, as well. it is unlikely that the area will ever return to its beginnings as a bunch of sleepy little ranch and farm towns.
Richland itself, after being taken over by the government, was laid out in a grid, as a planned town. Thousands of the original old alphabet houses remain, in the original village at what is now the center of town. There is still a town square, a sort of a mall of the original downtown, and a number of public parks, including one on the banks of the Columbia. Much development has been done, however, and the center of activity seems to be concentrating around the strip malls near the freeway, just south of town where it stretches out towards Pasco and Kennewick. Further development seems to be taking place north of town, towards the Hanford site - this is where many of the research areas, and industrial parks appear to be springing up.
There are the makings of another housing shortage here, mimicking that which occurred during wartime, and during the Cold War expansion. The economy here is good, cost of living is relatively low, and the place is growing rapidly. In the older neighborhoods, by the old alphabet houses, I see indications of renewal and redevelopment. The place seems to be remaking and rediscovering itself as its role changes. Still, this is not a desperate or panicky search. It is more like that of a workman who, having satisfactorily completed one important task, now looks forward to the next, and to the growth and opportunity offered.