Manhattan Project National Historic Park an exciting step

GUEST COLUMN

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U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse

Washingtonians have a monumental reason to celebrate an exciting new development for the Tri-Cities community, our state and our nation: the opening of America’s newest national park.

The anticipation has been building for years, and the Manhattan Project National Historic Park was officially dedicated with much-deserved fanfare last week. With the new park, the legacy of the people who spent their lives and labor at Hanford will be preserved for generations to come.

Seventy years ago, the scene of the Hanford site would have been unrecognizable: more than 51,000 workers lived at the site to construct the B Reactor at Hanford. They could not have imagined at the time that in the process, their efforts were contributing to critical developments in our nation’s history.

The B Reactor was a groundbreaking facility—the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor — that was part of the network of government facilities across the nation racing to research and develop an atomic weapon during World War II. Along with facilities in Los Alamos, N.M., and Oak Ridge, Tenn., Hanford’s role was to produce high-grade plutonium used in the development of the first atomic bombs used to end the war.

 The 586-square-mile site was selected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1943 for its relatively remote location and access to the Columbia River. The nearby town of Richland was merely a village at the time. One of the most stirring sites is one of the few remaining signs, that of the Hanford High School, part of the original Town of Hanford, whose residents were evicted by the federal government to create the Hanford nuclear site. The remains of the high school are a reminder of the high cost paid by area residents who were forced to give up their homes.

The Hanford High School is now preserved by the National Park Service and will tell the story of the citizens whose lives were dramatically impacted by Hanford’s role in the top-secret Manhattan Project at the height of World War II.

The work at the site continued to play a crucial role during the Cold War, and Hanford operated for more than 40 years before decommissioning in 1987. Now, after decades of cleanup efforts, successful progress has allowed the opening of sites such as the historic B Reactor to the public. Last year, more than 10,000 people visited the site. With the lifting of the age-restriction, third and fourth-graders from White Bluffs Elementary School visited the Park’s opening ceremony last week at the B Reactor, and they are just the first of waves of schoolchildren who will have the opportunity to ask questions and have their imaginations stirred about the contribution of Hanford to breakthroughs in science.

I applaud the bipartisan effort and hard work of all of those whose commitment made this National Park a reality. I will continue to support timely cleanup efforts, and as those efforts come to fruition, I will work to support opening additional sites for public access—because the story of the people who played a critical role, and whose lives were forever impacted by Hanford, deserves to be told.

- U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside) represents Washington state’s Fourth Congressional District.



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columbiariver 3 years, 3 months ago

2015 is the year of eyes wide open, and the world sees that radioactive waste is not being treated for safe and “permanent” disposal anywhere. It's interesting that Hanford Washington gets to remain the most polluted site on earth, as well as become a National Park. I hope for a nuclear waste free Columbia River always. The Hanford Reservation clean-up is a DOE Washington State; delayed and over budget, radioactive waste remediation project in sited on the Columbia River. Hopefully the Nuclear National Parks awareness will help expedite nuclear waste removal from our land, and water. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said about Hanford WA cleanup. “I’ve told people for 20 years now if we end up contaminating the Columbia River, we can kiss nuclear power goodbye. I would like to hear news of nuclear waste repository plans from, U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse, and even his own back up plans, because there are unresolved issues at the previously Congressional preferred US nuclear waste “permanent” storage locations.

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