Senate Passes Cantwell Legislation to Preserve Hanford’s B Reactor

Bipartisan provision to create Manhattan Project National Historical Park headed for President’s signature

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to preserve Hanford’s B Reactor as a part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

The provision, included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, cleared the Senate, 89 to 11, after passing the House of Representatives on December 4. Cantwell has been a leader in the Senate on the bipartisan legislation to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

The defense bill also includes other Cantwell priorities, including: a provision to transfer a surplus 1,600 acres at the Hanford site to the Tri-City Development Council for economic development, expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area by 22,000 acres, and designating the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic.

“Creating the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will open the doors for millions of Americans to learn about the scientific achievements made at Hanford,” said Cantwell, who sponsored the Manhattan Project legislation in the Senate. “Preserving the B Reactor as a National Historical Park will increase visitor access and provide a boost to the Tri-Cities tourism economy. Today’s bipartisan passage of this bill is a testament to the hard work of the Tri-Cities community to preserve the region’s history for future generations.”

The B Reactor is currently designated as a National Historic Landmark. Elevating the B Reactor’s status to a National Historical Park will ensure it will not be torn down and increase public access to the historic reactor, helping to attract more visitors to the Tri-Cities.

“The historical significance of the B Reactor and the entire Manhattan Project is long overdue for national and global recognition,” said Maynard Plahuta, President of the B Reactor Museum Association. “The establishment of the Park will help provide historians, researchers and academics the opportunity to more easily carry forth their work.”

“Our community will continue to work closely with Oak Ridge and Los Alamos to build this new National Park into a national historic treasure that will create jobs, increase visitor spending and recognize the 100,000 plus incredible men and women who in 1943 built the towns, buildings and equipment that initiated the beginning of the Nuclear Age,” said Kris Watkins, President and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities Washington.

The National Historical Park designation gives Hanford sites the same status as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. It will also would help promote the site for tourism, which supports local businesses. More than 7 million people visited Washington’s national parks in 2013, which pumped $430 million into surrounding communities and supported 5,269 jobs, according to a recent National Park Service report.

“The passage of the legislation is just the beginning for the significant impact this will have on the City of Richland as thousands of visitors will come to learn about the history of our region,” said David Rose, Mayor of Richland. “This designation will raise national interest and bring more people to the region bringing economic benefit with the increase in tourism.”

“I have been a business owner in Washington for over 20 years and I know that making the B Reactor part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be very beneficial to tourism, economic development and to businesses throughout Washington state,” said Aaron Burks, owner of the Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery in Richland. “This increase in tourism will bring a significant number of additional customers into our restaurants, which will allow us to drive additional sales, jobs, purchases and tax revenue. There is no doubt that we should preserve this national treasure for generations to come.”

“We believe that it is important for future generations to understand the amazing accomplishments of residents of our communities,” said Steve Young, Mayor of Kennewick.

“The National Parks Service is entrusted to tell the history of our country,” said Pam Larsen, Executive Director of the Hanford Communities.  “Their partnership with the Department of Energy will raise national interest in historic tourism which will bring people to our region to see the Hanford site. The economic benefit of increasing the opportunity for tours will benefit businesses throughout the region.”

Cantwell, along with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act in May 2013, which will preserve historic sites at Hanford, as well as Manhattan Project-related sites at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) were cosponsors of the original legislation.  Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA-04) introduced a similar bill in the House.

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 cosponsored 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 the B Reactor and other key historic sites on the Hanford complex.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of Senators Cantwell and Murray and Representative Doc Hastings, the National Park Service may soon open the doors to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor,” said Carl Adrian, President and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council. “Shrouded in secrecy for nearly 70 years, B Reactor is an incredible scientific and engineering feat and the public will soon be able to see for themselves what was accomplished in only 13 months.  There is a compelling story in B Reactor not only from the standpoint of technology, but also from a personal perspective for those who worked at Hanford and those who farmed the land until 1943.”

Along with establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the NDAA legislation also approves the transfer of 1,641 acres of land from the Hanford site to the Tri-Cities Development Council for use as an industrial park. Cantwell has worked over the last few years to urge the Department of Energy to transfer the surplus land -- which is adjacent to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Port of Benton Manufacturing Mall, and the Tri-Cities Research District -- to use for economic development.

“Our community is now looking forward to the time we have this 1,641 acres available to actively begin marketing the land for future economic development and growth for the Tri-Cities,” said Carl Adrian, President and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council.

“Congratulations to all the community stakeholders and leadership that have worked so hard to make the national park a reality,” said Scott D. Keller, Executive Director of the Port of Benton.  “What an incredible effort that will benefit our region and state for generations.  We are also thrilled that the land transfer was complete, as this is a key element of the Port of Benton and City of Richland’s economic development diversification efforts.”

“Richland is very excited about the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that will release 1,641 acres of unneeded land from the Hanford site for economic development and public use,” said David Rose, the Mayor of Richland. “The transfer of this property to our local Community Reuse Organization will help facilitate the growth of the local economy and create new jobs.”