Legislation to Preserve Hanford's B Reactor

Source: KNDO

KNDO TV - Rachel Hoops

Two U.S. senators are putting a bill to preserve the Hanford's B Reactor back on the table.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell has teamed up with a Tennessee senator to introduce legislation to create a National Historical Park at Manhattan Project Related sites.

The B Reactor is currently a national landmark, but raising it's status to park would ensure the reactor will not be torn down.

Last year, a U.S. House of Representatives voted down a bill that would have established the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Cantwell released the following statement on the bipartisan bill to preserve Hanford's B Reactor:

Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) teamed up  to introduce bipartisan legislation that would create a National Historical Park  at Manhattan Project-related sites at Hanford as well as Oak Ridge, Tenn., and  Los Alamos, N.M. Cantwell and Alexander both serve on the Senate Committee on  Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), the committee of jurisdiction for this  legislation.

The Hanford sites that would be included in the new  park include the historic B Reactor, the first full-scale nuclear reactor ever  built. Currently designated a National Historic Landmark, elevating the B  Reactor's status to a National Historical Park would ensure it will not be torn  down and increase public access to the historic reactor, helping to attract more  visitors to the Tri-Cities. A National Historical Park designation would give  Hanford sites the same status as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham  Lincoln's birthplace.

U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patty Murray  (D-WA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) are original cosponsors of the bipartisan Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act [bill  text]. Heinrich also serves on the  ENR Committee. The bill must first pass the ENR Committee before going to the  full Senate for a vote. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ENR Committee Chairman,  expressed support for the legislation on February 19, while on a  fact-finding visit to Hanford. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA-04), Chair of the House Resources Committee, oversees the  committee of jurisdiction on the House side and has introduced similar  legislation in the past.

"Designating  the B Reactor as a National Historical Park would secure its long-term  preservation while expanding visitor access to a key site in our nation's  history," said Senator  Cantwell. "Giving  historic sites at Hanford the same status as Independence Hall will help honor  the groundbreaking engineering achievements and tremendous sacrifices of those  who labored there. And it will help boost the Tri-Cities' tourism  economy, supporting local businesses. We're encouraged that Chairman Wyden has  expressed support for this bipartisan legislation, and look forward to working  with the committee and Chairman Hastings in the House to pass legislation giving  Hanford the status it deserves."

"As Americans, we have a special obligation to  preserve and protect our heritage, and the Manhattan Project National Historical  Park will ensure that all Americans learn about the significance of the  Manhattan Project and how it continues to shape our history," said Senator Alexander.

"The B Reactor  is an important part of our nation's history, and the Manhattan Project National  Historical Park will ensure that generations to come appreciate the sacrifices  made by Washington state families to build and operate this facility," said Senator  Murray. "Through their work at the B Reactor, thousands of Tri-Cities  residents played an important role in World War II and the Cold War, and this  federal designation will give them the recognition they  deserve."

The  Cantwell-Alexander bill would also preserve several other key Hanford sites that  tell the story of the Manhattan Project, including the Hanford High School and  Hanford Construction Camp Historic District, White Bluffs Bank building, the  warehouse in the Bruggemann's Agricultural Complex, the Hanford Irrigation  District Pump House, and the T Plant 221-T Process building, which also tell  about the sacrifices of local communities that were relocated due to security  needs. 

Preserving the  B Reactor and other key sites at Hanford would enable future generations to  learn about the scientific contributions and enormous sacrifices made by those  who labored at Hanford during its remarkable run. The cost to dismantle and  "cocoon" the B Reactor would have cost more than $105  million.

The introduction of this legislation builds on years  of efforts to preserve the historic B Reactor. Last Congress, Cantwell and Murray were lead sponsors of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act (S.  3300), and Congressman Hastings  introduced a similar bill (H.R.  5987) in the House.

On June 27, 2012, the Senate Energy and Natural  Resources Subcommittee on National Parks discussed S. 3300 for the first time. During  the hearing, the National Park  Service (NPS) agreed that elevating B Reactor to National Historical Park status  would increase Tri-Cities tourism. Last year, B Reactor tourism brought $1.5  million to the Tri-Cities economy, according to the Tri-Cities Visitor and  Convention Bureau. Since the U.S.  Department of the Interior designated the B Reactor as a National Historical  Landmark in August 2008, opening it to the public for the first time, more than  20,000 visitors have toured the B Reactor from all 50 states and more than 48  countries.

Since 2003,  Cantwell, Murray and Hastings have advocated for the historic preservation of  Hanford's B Reactor.  The Washington state representatives sponsored bipartisan legislation that was  signed into law in 2004 directing the NPS to conduct a study on the potential  for developing and utilizing the B Reactor and other key historic sites on the  Hanford complex. 

In December  2009, the Park Service released a draft study concluding that only part of the  Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory National Landmark District in New Mexico should  be considered for a new national park. The draft study excluded Hanford's B  Reactor and historic facilities at the Oak Ridge site in Tennessee, citing  concerns over public access to Department of Energy (DOE) facilities and how the  site would be co-managed by the NPS and DOE. Following the release of the draft  study, Cantwell, Murray and Hastings all urged the NPS to  reconsider.

On July 13,  2011, the National Park Service finalized its study, which recommended Hanford's  B Reactor be included in a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The NPS'  recommendation was announced along with the results of its long-awaited study,  which determined that "the best way to preserve and interpret the Manhattan  Project is for Congress to establish a National Historical Park at three sites  where much of the critical scientific activity associated with the project  occurred: Los Alamos, New Mexico; Hanford, Washington; and Oak Ridge,  Tennessee."