Cantwell Statement on 70th Anniversary of Manhattan Project Establishment

Cantwell is a lead sponsor of a bill that would make Hanford B Reactor, other historic sites a National Historical Park

SEATTLE, WA – Today, on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Manhattan Project, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement:

“Seventy years ago today, the Manhattan Project was established, launching a new era that would stretch the known limits of science and change the world as we know it.

“The Manhattan Project also transformed Central Washington. Almost overnight, Hanford became Washington’s third largest town. In just 11 months, workers built the B Reactor, the world’s first large-scale nuclear reactor. The ingenuity and sacrifice of Manhattan Project workers produced tremendous scientific breakthroughs and helped conclude World War II almost exactly three years later.

“The Manhattan Project tells an important chapter in our nation’s history and should be preserved for future generations as part of a new National Historical Park. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would make Hanford’s B Reactor and other Manhattan Project historic sites a National Historical Park. This legislation would help honor the history, scientific contributions and enormous sacrifices made by those who worked on the project and changed the course of history.”

Cantwell is a lead sponsor of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act (S. 3300), which would preserve historic sites at Hanford, as well as Manhattan Project-related sites at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA-04) has introduced a similar bill (H.R. 5987) in the House.

In addition to Hanford’s B Reactor, Cantwell’s bill would preserve several other key Hanford sites that help tell the story of the Manhattan Project and the sacrifices of local communities that were relocated due to security needs. These sites include the Hanford High School and Hanford Construction Camp Historic District, White Bluffs Bank building, the warehouse in the Bruggemann’s Agricultural Complex, and the Hanford Irrigation District Pump House.

A National Historical Park designation would give Hanford sites the same status as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. Preserving B Reactor and other key sites at Hanford will enable future generations to learn about the scientific contributions and enormous sacrifices made by those who labored at Hanford during its remarkable run. 

Since 2003, Cantwell has advocated for the historic preservation of Hanford’s B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor. Cantwell and Murray sponsored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law in 2004 directing the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on the potential for developing and utilizing 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 and Murray urged the NPS to reconsider.

On July 13, 2011, the National Park Service finalized its study, which recommended Hanford’s B Reactor should be included in a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The National Park Service recommendation was announced along with the results of its study, which determined that “the best way to preserve and interpret the Manhattan Project is for Congress to establish a national historic 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.”