A bill to set up a Manhattan Project national park that would include Oak Ridge has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bipartisan legislation was reintroduced on Friday in the U.S. House by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican; Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican; and Rep. Ben Luján, a New Mexico Democrat.
The legislation—H.R. 1208—would establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park that would include facilities in Oak Ridge; Hanford, Wash.; and Los Alamos, N.M.
It was reintroduced last week in the U.S. Senate as S. 507 by Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat.
The bills are essentially the same as the legislation that stalled in the last session of Congress, said Cindy Kelly, president of the nonprofit Atomic Heritage Foundation.
The Manhattan Project was an unprecedented top-secret federal program to build the world’s first nuclear weapons during World War II. It combined military and scientific resources and involved hundreds of thousands of workers.
“The Manhattan Project is a significant chapter in America’s history,” Hastings said in a press release. “The establishment of this park will ensure that this history is preserved and that facilities, such as Hanford’s B Reactor, will remain open and accessible for future generations to visit. I’ll continue to work with advocates in these local communities, as well as with my colleagues in both the House and the Senate, towards the goal of getting this bill enacted into law.”
Under the bill, the Manhattan National Historical Park would be set up as part of the National Park System within one year, and it identifies the facilities and areas at each of the three locations that are eligible for inclusion. Most of the facilities and areas are now owned by the federal government and managed by the U.S. Department of Energy. The bill directs DOE and the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement that will include provisions for enhanced public access, management, interpretation, and historic preservation, the press release said.
It said the creation of the Manhattan Project National Park is supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.
Fleischmann said Oak Ridge and the other Manhattan Project sites played a significant role in national and global security.
“Creation of this park will provide access to the public and help spread the story of the outstanding work done by the men and women of East Tennessee and the other sites,” Fleischmann said.
“More than 50 years ago, Los Alamos National Laboratory was created to build an atomic explosive to counter the threat posed by the German nuclear development program during World War II,” Luján said. “It is important that we preserve this story and the others of the nuclear age so that future generations can understand the impact of this project on the world for both the good and the bad. This legislation ensures that the legacy of the Manhattan Project and the people who were instrumental to its goal will not be forgotten. A national historical park in these communities will help tell this story and allow us to reflect on how this project changed the world and how we can move forward ensuring peace and prosperity.”
The bill received a bipartisan, majority vote last Congress. However, it did not receive the two-thirds support necessary to pass when it was brought to the floor under “suspension of the House rules”—an expedited and abbreviated process for considering and voting on bills.
Oak Ridge sites that have previously been identified for possible inclusion in the park have included facilities, land, or property interests at Buildings 9204-3 and 9731 at the Y-12 National Security Complex, the K-25 Building site at the East Tennessee Technology Park, and the former Guest House, now called the Alexander Inn, in central Oak Ridge.
Kelly said the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, which oversee national park-related legislation, will consider the bills in mark-up sessions. From there, they would go to chamber floors for votes.
“The legislation may move forward quickly, so stay tuned,” Kelly said.