Cantwell Bill to Preserve Historic Hanford B Reactor Clears Key Committee

Cantwell: ‘An important step towards preserving the B Reactor’s place in American history’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a bill championed by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to preserve Hanford’s B Reactor was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) by a voice vote. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration. 

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act (S. 507), would preserve Hanford’s B Reactor as part of a new National Historical Park. The bipartisan legislation is led by Cantwell and ENR Committee member Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) are original cosponsors of the bill, along with ENR Committee member Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

“Today marks an important step towards preserving the Hanford B Reactor’s place in American history – and allowing more visitors to see this historic site,” said Cantwell. “Designating the B Reactor as part of a National Historical Park is a fitting honor for the groundbreaking engineering achievements and enormous sacrifices of the workers there.

“This designation would give Hanford the same status as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. It would also increase visitor access, supporting local businesses in the Tri-Cities and the area’s tourism economy. I look forward to working with the full Senate and Chairman Hastings in the House to pass this bipartisan bill and give Hanford the status it deserves.”   

The S. 507 bill would create a National Historical Park at Manhattan Project-related sites at Hanford as well as Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M. The Hanford sites that would be included in the new park include the historic B Reactor, the first full-scale nuclear reactor ever built. A National Historical Park designation would give Hanford sites the same status as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. For more information on the legislation, click here. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA-04), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, oversees the committee of jurisdiction on the House side and has introduced similar legislation (H.R. 1208).

The B Reactor is currently designated as 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. Last year, B Reactor tourism brought $1.5 million to the Tri-Cities economy, according to the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau.

The introduction of S.507 builds on years of efforts to preserve the historic B Reactor. At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on April 23 the bill received favorable support from the Department of Energy and the National Park Service. 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.

In 2004, Cantwell, Murray and Hastings championed legislation into law directing the National Park Service to conduct a study on the potential for developing and utilizing the B Reactor and other Manhattan Project facilities as historical sites. That study, finalized in 2011, laid the groundwork for today’s legislation.