Tri-City area residents can provide early input on plans for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park when Department of Energy and National Park Service officials meet in the Tri-Cities in February.
The public is invited to an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m Feb. 4. at the Richland Library to comment on the park, which will include Hanford’s historic B Reactor and other historic areas of the nuclear reservation.
The park service is interested in what locals think is important to include in the park, the stories that should be told to visitors, what challenges the park may face and what experiences visitors should have.
This will be the public’s first chance to provide input since the park was dedicated in November, but there will be many other opportunities during the next few years, said Tracy Atkins, project manager for the new park. Manhattan Project sites at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., in addition to Hanford will tell the story of the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
With many deeply held and polarized views, the interpretation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be challenging.
Cynthia Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation
Information is being collected for an initial planning document, called a Foundation Document, being written to describe the purpose of the park, its significance to the nation, what resources it should preserve and protect, and broad themes for the information that should be presented to visitors.
The park service plans a deliberate process with thoughtful planning as the park is created during the next three to five years, Atkins said.
Visitors may not initially see many changes to Hanford access. The main change this year will be a new focus on school class visits to B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, now that age restrictions have been dropped. Last year, visitors to the reactor had to be at least 12 years old.
Tours of the Hanford sites that tell the story of life before the land was turned into a nuclear reservation also could be modestly expanded in the coming year. The pre-Manhattan Project sites include buildings such as the White Bluffs Bank and Hanford High School that residents left behind when forced to evacuate to make room for a secret military project along the Columbia River during WWII.
We are deeply concerned about the possibility of exhibits that would strengthen the long-standing perception of the atomic bombings as justifiable acts.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki mayors
One of the park service’s first steps after the Energy and Interior departments signed a joint agreement officially launching the park in November was to gather experts in history, archaeology and other topics to brainstorm potential themes to address as exhibits are prepared.
A newly released report from the session lists potential themes, from illustrating the impact of secrecy and displacement on families during the war, to explaining basic physics central to the project, to exploring questions of how to support peace in a nuclear age.
The gathering of 19 scholars included two from Japan.
“The Manhattan Project has a complex and controversial place in American and world history,” wrote Cynthia Kelly, of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, in a document prepared for the session.
Many people agree with President Harry Truman’s statement that the atomic bomb “was the greatest achievement of organized science in history.” They agree that it brought an end to WWII and has deterred another global war for more than 70 years, Kelly wrote.
I urge that park developers keep in mind the perspectives of local residents who see themselves as prime stakeholders in Hanford’s story.
John Findlay, University of Washington
But others consider the bombing of Japan morally wrong and believe the Cold War proliferation of nuclear materials has imperiled the world, she said.
The new park should promote critical reflection, she said.
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, also sent a letter with the Japanese participants in the scholar’s forum.
“It is necessary to fully describe what happened to the people under the mushroom clouds,” including women, children and the elderly, they wrote. The cities have offered to provide A-bomb artifacts and photos for the park to demonstrate the damage wrought by bombs dropped on the two cities.
Although the mayors have reservations about the national park, it could contribute to the realization of a world free from nuclear weapons, they said.