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Hanford B reactor closer to park status

Creating a national park that would include Hanford’s historic B Reactor has been added to the House 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill released Wednesday.

It’s the start of possibly the best hope to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park that would include historic sites at Hanford and in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M.

B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, built as the nation raced to produce an atomic bomb during World War II.

“If we don’t get it this year, it will be a difficult path forward,” said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council.

Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is retiring. He’s responsible for getting language added to last year’s House National Defense Authorization Bill and the bill released Wednesday.

Last year Sen. Maria Cantwell succeeded in getting language to establish the national park in the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, but time ran out before it could be passed out of the committee.

Hanford Communities was pleased to see that the creation of the national park was added to the defense bill, said Pam Larsen, executive director of the coalition of Hanford-area local governments.

“We hope that the Senate will take a similar action,” she said.

Staff of the Senate Natural Resources Committee told Hanford Communities in February that the bill to create the park not only has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but it also has broad support from communities in several states, as well as national associations, she said.

TRIDEC is “extremely hopeful” that legislation will pass this year to approve the new park, Petersen said.

A defense authorization bill has been passed annually for the last half-century. Getting the park included in a bill likely to pass should boost its chances during a time when lawmakers can agree on few bills, say B Reactor supporters.

“It is time for the legislation to pass so that we can get on with building a partnership between the National Parks Service and the Department of Energy to tell the story of the Manhattan Project today and to future generations,” Larsen said.