No B Reactor national park this year

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldDecember 11, 2013 

B Reactor anniversary overall

October 6, 2013 - B Reactor, which produced plutonium for the atomic bomb during World War II, is in a remote section of Hanford near the Columbia River.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Hanford's historic B Reactor will not become part of the National Park Service this year.

Supporters' hopes for that died early Tuesday morning when a new version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 was released and it failed to include an amendment creating a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Two paths remain available in 2015 to create a new park that includes B Reactor.

Separate legislation to establish a new national park is following a more conventional legislative path and has been approved by a House committee. But it has not advanced to the full House or Senate.

A similar bill passed the House last year but was not brought to a vote of the Senate in December 2012. Because 2012 was the second year of the 112th Congress, legislation had to be reintroduced in 2013.

But the best chance for success may be to get an amendment attached to a bill likely to pass, such as the National Defense Authorization Act. It's been passed for the last half-century, giving it a better chance of passing at a time when lawmakers can agree on few bills.

Rep. Doc Hastings, who attached an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, said Wednesday that he will push to get the amendment attached to the 2015 act.

Hastings added amendments to the House version of the 2014 act for both a new national park and to have the Department of Energy release 1,641 acres of unneeded Hanford nuclear reservation land for industrial development. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., led efforts to introduce a similar park amendment for the Senate version.

The House passed the act with both amendments this year, but the Senate failed to pass its initial version of the act.

This month work started fresh to create a 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that will go back to the House and Senate, but without the two Hanford amendments.

"Sen. Cantwell personally encouraged her colleagues from both sides of the aisle to include the Manhattan Project National Historical Park amendment and the Hanford land transfer in the defense bill," said Jared Leopold, Cantwell's communication director. "She is disappointed that the House and Senate negotiators failed to reach an agreement."

Hastings blames the Senate for failing to include the amendments.

"The annual defense bill represented the best chance to actually achieve these community priorities this year and it's unfortunate that the opportunity has been wasted by the Senate," Hastings said in a statement. "The Senate's failure to even pass an annual defense bill complicated the ability to get this accomplished, but it could have still happened except for the unwillingness of the Senate to simply agree to include the new park in the final bill and complete the land transfer."

Hastings said he was disappointed, but not deterred.

Cantwell will continue working with Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Leopold said.

The proposed new park would include facilities at Hanford and in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., where scientists, engineers and workers raced to develop an atomic bomb during World War II.

Hanford's B Reactor was the nation's first production-scale reactor. It created plutonium for the world's first atomic explosion and for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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