B Reactor bill passes Senate committee

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMay 16, 2013 

Hanford's B Reactor is another step closer to being part of a new national park.

Members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources stepped off the Senate floor Thursday afternoon for a vote by voice approving a bill creating the Manhattan Project National Park.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and supported by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

A similar bill introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., already has passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee and is awaiting consideration by the House.

The Senate bill was scheduled to be heard in a committee business meeting in the morning, but not enough senators were available to approve it. Instead, three technical amendments to the bill were approved.

"Today marks an important step towards preserving the Hanford B Reactor's place in American history and allowing more visitors to see this historic site," Cantwell said in a statement. "Designating the B Reactor as part of a national historical park is a fitting honor for the groundbreaking engineering achievements and enormous sacrifices of the workers there."

The proposed new park would be composed of historic sites and buildings, most of them already owned by the Department of Energy, at Hanford and also at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M.

The three sites raced to develop an atomic bomb during World War II, amid fears that Germany also was developing an atomic weapon.

B Reactor, built in less than a year, was the world's first full-scale production reactor. It created plutonium for the world's first nuclear explosion and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war.

The Manhattan Project was the start of the Atomic Age as WWII atomic weapon production gave way to Cold War weapon production, plus the use of nuclear technology in medicine, industry and power production.

The National Park Service has pledged to tell the whole story of the Manhattan Project and Hanford, good and bad, if a new park is created.

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