On Nov. 10, 2015, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz signed an agreement that officially created the 409th unit of the National Park Service — the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The park includes facilities and lands at the three original Manhattan Project locations — Los Alamos, N.M.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; and here at the Hanford Site in Washington. Together, these National Park sites will allow visitors to learn about the top-secret effort to design, test and build the world’s first atomic weapons.
The story brings together phenomenal scientific achievement, engineering and construction efforts of a scale and at a pace never before undertaken, personal stories of men and women who came from all over the country to work under difficult conditions in total secrecy, and the ethical and moral questions that surround the legacy of the atomic age.
More than 250 local fourth-graders became the first young people to tour B Reactor on Nov. 12, 2015.
Here at the Hanford Site, the park includes the B Reactor National Historic Landmark — the world’s first full-scale nuclear production reactor — as well as facilities from the pre-World War II era that represent the people and towns wiped off the map to make way for the Manhattan Project. The National Park Service (NPS) and Department of Energy (DOE) are honored to be working together to preserve and expand public access to these important places.
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Together, and with this community, we are starting the process of standing up the new park. We will do this with great care and consideration and ask for your help and ideas along the way. The next several years will be busy ones. A Scholar’s Forum, bringing together national and international experts on Manhattan Project history, was held in Washington, D.C., in November, and Foundation Document, which will form the planning basis for the new park, is already under way. Additional planning efforts will follow.
The National Park Service flag is flying at Hanford’s B Reactor, and exciting changes are already happening at the new park. At a community celebration on Nov. 12, 2015, we were thrilled to watch the first-ever elementary school buses pull up to B Reactor following DOE’s announcement that the park sites will now be open to people of all ages. More than 250 local fourth-graders went through the reactor that day — and as they traced the steps of greats such as Enrico Fermi and Leona Woods Marshall, we can imagine them beginning to think of science, math, and history in a whole new way.
DOE will continue to expand access to B Reactor this year, including more school and public tours. The National Park Service, in the meantime, will partner with DOE in 2016 to improve existing interpretation, train docents and provide the ability for visitors to stamp their National Park passports in the new park. The agencies also are beginning to engage community groups interested in working with us, and to solicit the public’s ideas and hopes for the new park. The NPS is also actively seeking information and stories from families and organizations who can help expand our understanding of Hanford’s role in this complex piece of our nation’s history.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park would not exist without the passion and hard work of advocates in the Tri Cities, Los Alamos, and Oak Ridge. The B Reactor Museum Association (BRMA) has been working for more than 25 years to preserve the B Reactor for public access. We’re grateful to BRMA’s members, along with the Tri-Cities Development Council, the Hanford Communities organization, Visit Tri Cities, former Congressman Doc Hastings and Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, for this opportunity.
Hanford is a unique and fascinating place, and what happened here quite simply changed the world. Our agencies are honored to be partners in sharing that history with the nation and to work closely with this community in the years ahead.