Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to visit B Reactor

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar plans to visit Hanford's historic B Reactor on Sunday at Rep. Doc Hastings' invitation.

It's a chance for Salazar to see the reactor that is expected to become part of the national park system he oversees.

"Sec. Salazar and I discussed his visiting Central Washington in one of our first conversations after I became chairman," said Hastings,R-Wash., in a statement.

Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is preparing to introduce legislation in the next few months to make B Reactor part of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. His committee has jurisdiction over the National Park Service.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., are expected to join Salazar and Hastings on the reactor tour.

Salazar also will stop in Yakima on Sunday for a roundtable discussion on a water resource plan for the Yakima River Basin and then take a fly-over tour of tens of thousands of acres of orchards and farmland irrigated with water from the Bureau of Reclamation's Yakima irrigation project.

"While there are a great many issues that Sec. Salazar and I respectfully disagree upon, and often quite passionately, we share a willingness to work together on matters where there is potential for cooperation and agreement," Hastings said.

In July, Salazar recommended to Congress that a national historical park should be formed to commemorate the top-secret project to develop the atomic bomb during World War II.

B Reactor would be part of it as the world's first full-scale reactor. It produced plutonium for the first nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert and the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war.

Supporters of B Reactor and the Department of Energy had to overcome some initial hesitation on the part of park service officials, who had safety and security concerns about including a reactor in a national park.

The new national park also would include Manhattan Project facilities in New Mexico and Tennessee.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.