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B Reactor historic park closer to reality after House vote

Inside the historic B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor, Hanford Site Public Tours participants watch a video presentation while sitting in front of the deactivated reactor core where uranium was irradiated to produce plutonium used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. (File)
Inside the historic B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor, Hanford Site Public Tours participants watch a video presentation while sitting in front of the deactivated reactor core where uranium was irradiated to produce plutonium used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. (File)
Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press

Plans to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes the B Reactor at Hanford, have advanced in Congress.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the proposal is included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015.

House and Senate negotiators on Wednesday agreed to create the new park at Hanford and related nuclear weapons sites in Los Alamos, N.M. and Oak Ridge, Tenn., Cantwell said.

The bill has passed the House and will be voted on by the Senate next week, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has worked on the proposal with Cantwell for years, said Thursday.

The NDAA legislation includes other provisions:

• Transferring 1,641 acres of land from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to the Tri-Cities Development Council for use as an industrial park. Cantwell has for several years urged the Department of Energy to transfer the surplus land to use for economic development.

• Expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area by 22,000 acres.

• Designating the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic.

The historical park would tell the story of the race to build an atomic bomb during World War II. Hanford, located near Richland, was created to make plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.

“They literally won a war by what they designed and built there,” Murray said Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., introduced a similar measure in the House.

“Congress passing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will allow millions of Americans to better understand the tremendous scientific achievements of men and women at Hanford,” Cantwell said.

The park “would provide a shot in the arm for the Tri-Cities tourism economy,” Cantwell added.

The B Reactor was built during World War II and was the world’s first full-sized nuclear reactor. It is currently designated as a National Historic Landmark. Elevating its status to a National Historical Park would ensure it will not be torn down and increase public access, Cantwell said.

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.

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