A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today takes a major step toward creating a Manhattan Project National Historical Park that could include Oak Ridge, a nonprofit preservation group said.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican who represents the Hanford Site in central Washington. That site would also be a part of the Manhattan Project park along with Los Alamos, N.M.
The bill Hastings introduced todayÂ is a companion to one introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, has co-sponsored that bill.
The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program to create the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II.
“Despite the profound significance of the Manhattan Project for the world, this would be the first time that this history is represented in the national park system,” the nonprofit Atomic Heritage Foundation said in a Thursday afternoon press release.
Hearings on the legislation are scheduled for the Senate National Parks Subcommittee on Wednesday, June 27, and the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands on Thursday, June 28.
The foundation said the major provisions of the two bills are very similar. Both provide that the park will be established one year after the bill is enacted, and they include the same list of Manhattan Project properties at the three major sites at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Hanford.
Two federal agencies, the Interior and Energy departments, would have one year to work out issues of enhanced public access, management, interpretation, and historic preservation in a memorandum of agreement, the press release said.
The foundation said the legislation has bipartisan support in both congressional chambers. Besides Bingaman, Hastings, and Alexander, other co-sponsors are senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington and Tom Udall of New Mexico.
“There is a sincere and shared desire by Chairman Bingaman, senators Murray and Cantwell, and our colleagues to establish the park, and we’ll continue working together with local advocates to accomplish our goal of ensuring these remarkable pieces of our history are preserved to tell the story of the Manhattan Project,” Hastings said, according to the foundation’s press release.
The organization said the Manhattan Project was perhaps the most ambitious scientific and engineering undertaking of the 20th century. It created a unique partnership between the federal government, universities, and private industry.
“In less than three years, scientists and engineers succeeded in harnessing the energy of the atom, a feat comparable to mankind’s discovery of how to control fire,” the foundation said.
It said legislation creating the national park has been in the works for more than eight years.