Manhattan Project National Historical Park Established

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Publication date: 
23 November 2015

The Secretaries of Energy and Interior jointly announced the establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which will preserve and protect key sites that contributed to the research and development of the first nuclear bombs and also laid the groundwork for the national laboratory system and the Department of Energy itself

At a press event held Nov. 10, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed an agreement establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at the Hanford Site in Washington state; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; and Los Alamos, N.M.. The Park preserves and protects historical sites at these three locations, which played key roles in the research, development and production of the first nuclear bombs, including those that the U.S. dropped over two Japanese cities in the summer of 1945, leading to the end of World War II.

Public access currently available at Hanford and Oak Ridge sites, limited at Los Alamos sites

Among the sites included in the park are, in Hanford, Wash., the B Reactor National Historic Landmark, Hanford High School, Bruggemann’s Agricultural Warehouse Complex, and the White Bluffs Bank and Hanford Irrigation District Pump House. The B Reactor, which was the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world, is open to the public for tours from April to September.

In Oak Ridge, Tenn., sites include the X-10 Graphite Reactor and K-25 Building, where gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment technology was pioneered, both on the campus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Public access is already available to the X-10 Graphite Reactor and the former home of the K-25 Building through a bus tour sponsored by the American Museum of Science and Energy.

In Los Alamos, N.M., sites include the Gun Site Facilities, the V-Site Facilities, and the Pajarito Site, although no public access is currently available or planned for these Department of Energy (DOE) sites in 2016, given strict access policies and classified research that is still underway at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Congress authorized Manhattan Project National Historical Park last December after 15-year effort

As FYI reported earlier this year, Congress included a provision authorizing the Department of Interior (DOI) and DOE to establish this park in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. President Obama signed the bill, including the Manhattan Project National Historical Park provision, into law last December.

The bill culminated a 15-year effort, initiated by former Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), to preserve significant sites associated with the development of the atomic bomb. According to the legislation, in addition to preserving and protecting historical sites, the park will “improve public understanding of the Manhattan Project” and “enhance public access.

Park will celebrate the extraordinary scientific legacy of the Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is one of 50 nationally recognized historical parks, among a handful, such as Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio and Thomas Edison National Historical Park in N.J., that highlight American success in science and technology. The Manhattan Project is legendary for changing the course of history during WWII, as the wartime endeavor that gave birth to the “Atomic Age,” and as a clear demonstration of U.S. scientific, technological, and military achievement in the mid-20th Century.

The Manhattan Project also demonstrated the need and laid the historical foundation for federal funding of major science facilities and multi-year research projects. The Manhattan Project’s legacy included a network of national laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Ames Laboratory, which has today morphed into a system of 17 DOE laboratories that continue to engage in large-scale scientific research and provide the nation with world-leading scientific and technological capabilities.

Said Secretary of Energy Moniz at the signing ceremony earlier this month:

The Department of Energy traces its origin to the innovative scientists and engineers of the Manhattan Project and the work that followed through the Atomic Energy Commission. This park will commemorate one of this country’s greatest scientific and engineering achievements. It also celebrates the contributions of communities that were created for this purpose and have continued as partners for DOE’s mission. The Manhattan Project laid the groundwork for our National Lab system which has led to countless scientific breakthroughs that benefit humanity.

Secretary of the Interior Jewell added:

Through the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project, the National Park Service will share with the world the story of one of America’s most transformative scientific discoveries that fundamentally altered the course of the 20th Century. Visitors will soon be able to see the contributions of more than 600,000 Americans who played a role in this significant chapter in history. The park will also serve as a reminder that these actions and discoveries must be handled with great care for they can have world-changing consequences.

The National Park Service (NPS), a division of the DOI, is now responsible for implementation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  On the NPS’ website, you can find answers to frequently asked questions about the park.  The NPS has also already produced a short informational video on the park.