Senate panel urged to create park honoring Manhattan Project veterans

By:  Annette Cary
Source: Tri-City Herald

The Energy Communities Alliance urged a Senate subcommittee Wednesday to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park soon to honor veterans of the World War II project and the Cold War.

The bill discussed before a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks would give the Departments of Energy and Interior a year to work out what roles each would play and then the park automatically would be formed.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is an original cosponsor of the bill, said she hoped that deadlines in the bill could be met because there still are people who can give firsthand accounts of the early work at Hanford and other sites.

The two agencies might need more time to thoroughly work out issues, but if the bill has a one-year deadline, that is what will be met, said Ingrid Kolb, director of the DOE Office of Management.

Three years to complete a management plan is appropriate and that much time may be needed, given the proposed new park would include sites in three states and that security and safety issues will have to be worked out while DOE work continues elsewhere at the sites, she said.

The proposed park would tell the story of the start of the Atomic Age during World War II, including the role played by Hanford's historic B Reactor, which produced plutonium for the world's first nuclear bomb and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping to end the war.

Manhattan Project facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., also are proposed for inclusion.

"The reason we would have the three sites is all three were integral to the Manhattan Project," Kolb said. "All three would be presented as a whole."

The proposed park would give current and future generations an understanding of a turning point in the history of America and the world, said Oak Ridge Mayor Thomas Beehan, the chairman of the Energy Communities Alliance, which includes Hanford-area local governments.

"Despite what some detractors may claim, this is not a park about weapons," he said. "I believe this historical park is about scientific and engineering accomplishments at a time when our country was defending itself, both during World War II and the Cold War."

The National Park Service would address all viewpoints to give visitors to the proposed park a full and fair picture, he said.

The Energy Communities Alliance also recommended that a modest entrance fee be charged to the proposed park to help with long-term care. The park should be permitted to accept both property and financial donations to support the park and the tours of the site, Beehan said.

Congress also should allow flexibility to allow the park service to work with communities to add sites that are nationally significant and suitable to include in the park, he said.

At Hanford the park could include not only B Reactor, but eventually T Plant, which processed irradiated fuel to remove plutonium, and buildings left by early settlers forced to give up their homes, businesses and farms to make way for the top-secret nuclear project.

Today a companion bill will be discussed in a House Natural Resources subcommittee.