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Senate Committee Approves Manhattan Project Park Act

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Senator Wyden at the B ReactorSenator Wyden at the B ReactorOn May 16, 2013, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act, S. 507The bill will now be sent to the floor for a vote, as yet unscheduled. 

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is chaired by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who visited the B Reactor at Hanford in February and pledged support for the proposed park. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sponsored the bill in the Senate, with Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Patty Murray (D-WA) as co-sponsors. The House version of the bill, H.R. 1208, has been approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources and has been sent to the House floor for a vote, also currently unscheduled.

Senator Maria CantwellSenator Maria CantwellSenator Cantwell issued a press release after the vote, stating, "Today marks an important step towards preserving the Hanford B Reactor's place in American history – and allowing more visitors to see this historic site. Designating the B Reactor as part of a National Historical Park is a fitting honor for the groundbreaking engineering achievements and enormous sacrifices of the workers there."

Her press release goes on to note that in 2012, B Reactor tourism brought in $1.5 million for the Tri-Cities economy. With a national historical park increasing accessibility and tours, as well as providing greater publicity, to the B Reactor and other Manhattan Project sites, the economic benefits to the local communities will undoubtedly further increase.

With strong advocates and bipartisan support, the Atomic Heritage Foundation is guardedly optimistic that the legislation will pass and the new park established.

Developing a National Traveling Exhibit on the Manhattan Project

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The Enola Gay today on display at the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center.The Enola Gay today on display at the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center.On May 15, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) Forum blog published an article by Atomic Heritage Foundation Program Manager Alexandra Levy on The Manhattan Project: Interpreting Controversial History. The article discusses AHF's goal of developing a national traveling exhibit on the Manhattan Project, the challenges of creating such an exhibit, and why the time is ripe for such a project.

AHF hopes to develop a national traveling exhibit in time for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the creation of the Manhattan Project in 2017. The exhibit would focus on such themes as the morality of the bomb, secrecy, the international race to make an atomic bomb, and the scientific innovations that came out of the Manhattan Project and which continue to influence our world today.

The Manhattan Project: Interpreting Controversial History discusses the furor that erupted over the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s attempt to create an exhibition on the Enola Gay and the atomic bombing of Japan in 1995 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Veterans opposed the exhibition’s proposed narrative, concerned that it didn’t give enough credit to the bomb for ending the war and was too sympathetic to the Japanese. The uproar over the Enola Gay exhibit has caused national museums to shy away from tackling the topic in a meaningful and comprehensive manner.

The Oppenheimer House at Los AlamosThe Oppenheimer House at Los AlamosThis past February, AHF hosted a workshop, funded by the National Science Foundation, to bring together historians, humanities scholars, and museum and science education experts to explore how to put together a national traveling exhibit on the Manhattan Project. The participants discussed how to present a balanced narrative featuring diverse voices, which should help diffuse opposition to the exhibit.

AHF is currently using the recommendations to begin work on and fundraising for the national traveling exhibit. With the likely prospect of Congress establishing a Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act this year, this is the right time to plan a comprehensive exhibit on the Manhattan Project and its legacy.

From Japanese internment camps, to sites of massacres of Native Americans, to Civil War battlefields, America has a contested history. But that does not mean such episodes should be screened from public view and that the sites where they occurred should be demolished or forgotten. AHF, in partnership with NTHP, the National Parks Conservation Association, and other organizations, is working to make sure that the Manhattan Project is remembered, in all its complexity.

April Newsletter Available!

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cherry blossomsThe Atomic Heritage Foundation's April 2013 newsletter summarizes the exciting progress Congress made in April toward establishing a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The Atomic Heritage Foundation is very encouraged by the speed at which Congress is moving this year to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Creating the new park will ensure that important facilities and original artifacts remain and the stories of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project are not forgotten.

The newsletter highlights oral histories recently added to "Voices of the Manhattan Project," including an interview with Darragh Nagle. After adding Nagle's interview to the website in early April, AHF President Cindy Kelly called him to let him know his interview was now online. He was very pleased and talked about many of the people he worked with at Columbia and Los Alamos. Sadly, a few weeks later, on April 22, Nagle passed away. He will be missed. 

 The newsletter also pays tribute to Ted Rockwell, a Manhattan Project veteran and advisor to AHF, who passed away on March 31, 2013. AHF has lost an invaluable friend and advisor.

Other current project include continued expansion of our Atomic Wiki. AHF staff have been adding more articles as well as photographs and multimedia to the site, to make it more interactive. 

House Committee Approves Manhattan Project Park Bill

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The B Reactor at HanfordThe B Reactor at HanfordOn April 24, 2013, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved H.R. 1208, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act, by unanimous consent. The bill will now be sent to the floor for a vote, as yet unscheduled.

H.R. 1208 has bipartisan support. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, introduced the bill along with Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN). The legislation would create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Los Alamos, NM; Oak Ridge, TN; and Hanford, WA. H.R. 1208 was considered by the full committee with a number of other bills, and was passed out of the committee by unanimous consent.

In a statement, Rep. Hastings said, “Today the Manhattan Project National Historic Park is one step closer to becoming a reality.  This has been a long process and I’m grateful to the community leaders and advocates who have worked tirelessly on its behalf.  I’m committed to bringing the bill to the House floor this Congress and working with the Senate to get it signed into law.  These facilities have an important, interesting, and historic story to tell and this bill would ensure that their doors remain open to visitors for years to come.”

Rep. Doc HastingsRep. Doc HastingsThe Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the companion bill, S. 507, on April 23. The Senate Committee may markup the bill in May or June, and the bill will then be sent to the Senate floor for a vote.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation is very encouraged by the speed at which Congress is moving this year. It has been nearly a decade since Congress directed the National Park Service to study whether a Manhattan Project national historical park would be “suitable” and “feasible.”  In anticipation of the park, some of the most significant Manhattan Project icons such as the B Reactor have been preserved.  But others have been lost, such as the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant at Oak Ridge.  Creating the new park will ensure that important facilities and original artifacts remain and the stories of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project are not forgotten.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Manhattan Project Park Act

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Senator Martin HeinrichSenator Martin HeinrichOn April 23, 2013, Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO) chaired hearings of the National Parks subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The hearings considered 14 bills, including S. 507, to designate the Manhattan Project National Historical Park; S. 285, to designate the Valles Caldera National Preserve as a unit of the National Park System; and two other bills that create national parks (in Connecticut and Rhode Island). The hearing focused on legislation that had hearings by the committee in the 112th Congress.  Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director for Operations of the National Park Service, and Ingrid Kolb, Director of the Office of Management for the Department of Energy, testified for the Administration.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), who was elected to former Senator Jeff Bingaman’s seat, thanked Bingaman for his efforts on the Valles Caldera and Manhattan Project National Historical Park legislation. Ingrid Kolb spoke about the Manhattan Project, its history, and the importance of bringing one of the most significant events of the twentieth century to a wider public audience. Peggy O’Dell reiterated the Department of Interior’s support for the proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park. She explained that the annual cost of the new park would be $2.45 million to $4 million.

Senators Mark Udall, the chairman of the national parks subcommittee, and Rob Portman, the ranking member.Senators Mark Udall, the chairman of the national parks subcommittee, and Rob Portman, the ranking member.Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) expressed concern that the National Park Service had an eleven billion dollar maintenance backlog, and asked whether creating four new national parks was prudent. Ms. O’Dell responded that the communities involved in the four proposed new national parks were very supportive of the legislation, and that the National Park Service expects that the new parks will be an economic benefit to each region. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) also recognized the value of the parks to the local communities.  

To watch the committee hearing, click here.

On April 24, the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold up a markup on various legislation, including the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act. We will be there and will keep our followers updated.

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