Report coming on B Reactor

A revised and final report that makes recommendations on Hanford's historic B Reactor is expected to be delivered to Congress at January's end by the National Park Service working with the Department of Energy.

By then, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., will be chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which will receive the park service's recommendations on a possible Manhattan Project Historical Park and whether to include B Reactor.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also will receive the report.

A year ago, the park service released a Draft Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment of Manhattan Project Sites. It looked at Manhattan Project sites for possible inclusion in a Manhattan Project Historical Park or other preservation.

However, it concluded that only part of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory National Landmark District in New Mexico should be considered. It excluded not only B Reactor, but also historic facilities at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge, Tenn., site, although the park service might be willing to play a limited role at the sites.

The park service has been urged during a public comment period to expand possible plans for a Manhattan Project park when it releases its final report.

Hastings questioned what he called the "vague assertions and conclusions" in the draft study.

None of the alternatives in the draft study appeared to provide for the preservation and interpretation of the most historically compelling facilities at Manhattan Project sites at Hanford, in Tennessee or even in New Mexico, he wrote in a letter to the park service then.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, all Democrats, also urged park service preservation and interpretation of Hanford's B Reactor after the draft study was released.

B Reactor was the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor. Built in about 13 months, it produced the plutonium for the world's first nuclear explosion and for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping to end World War II. It continued to produce plutonium as one of Hanford's nine production reactors during the Cold War.

Now tours of B Reactor are held from spring through fall, but do not keep up with demand.

Supporters of preserving the reactor as a museum want it included in a national park to assure its long-term future and to benefit from the park service's international reputation.

At hearings on the draft report, public support was strong for including sites at Hanford, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos in a national park, said Keith Dunbar, National Park Service regional chief of planning and compliance.