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Hanford's B-Reactor moves closer to becoming national historic park

WASHINGTON, D.C. -The National Park Service this week recommended Hanford's B Reactor be made into a national historic park, following years of work by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to preserve and increase access to the historic reactor and highlight its critical role in America's national security.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA), too has been instrumental in ensuring a study be completed for preservation of Hanford, as well as other sites used for the Manhattan Project.

He authored a congressional bill in 2004, directing the National Park Service to study preservation options for the sites.

The recommendation was announced Wednesday along with the results of the National Park Service's (NPS) long-awaited study, which looked at whether three Manhattan Project sites, including Hanford's B Reactor, should be made into a national historic park. The study was authorized by legislation Cantwell authored and championed into law in 2004 in the senate.

"Hanford's B Reactor tells an important chapter in our nation's history and deserves preservation as part of a new national historic park," Cantwell said.

She said, "Making this site a national historic park would be a tribute to both the scientific contributions and enormous sacrifices made by those who labored at the B Reactor during its remarkable run. I applaud the National Park Service's recommendation today to make Hanford's B Reactor a national historic park and look forward to continuing to work with the Tri-Cities community to enact the law that will make this designation a reality."

Hastings said, "I agree with the recommendation to include facilities at Hanford, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos as part of this effort and I will continue leading efforts in Congress to authorize preservation activities."

He continued, "Anyone who has toured B Reactor knows it provides a real sense of what it might have been like to work at Hanford in the 1940's that cannot be achieved through any history book.

"The Manhattan Project, which played a key role in ending World War II, represents an important part of our nation's history that shouldn't be forgotten."

Hastings said, "The Tri-Cities community deserves a great deal of credit for their work to highlight the significance of B Reactor and the workforce that contributed to our nation's defense for so many years. I look forward to continuing my work with the community and with other stakeholders to ensure that this part of history is preserved and accessible."

Since 2003, Cantwell has advocated for the historic preservation of Hanford's B Reactor, the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor. She and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) 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 Manhattan Project facilities as historical sites. They worked with Hastings to develop the Manhattan Project National Park Study Act and introduced companion legislation in the House.

In December 2009, the NPS 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 sent a letter signed by the Washington state delegation urging the NPS to reconsider.

Hastings is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and will use the most recent report to write legislation authorizing preservation activities. The committee has jurisdiction over the NPS.

In 1943, only months after Enrico Fermi first demonstrated that controlled nuclear reaction was possible, ground was broken on the B Reactor - the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor. The B Reactor produced the plutonium for the first-ever manmade nuclear explosion - the Trinity test in New Mexico - and for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki that helped win World War II. Plutonium production at B Reactor continued until its decommissioning in 1968.

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