A new national historical park that could include Oak Ridge would honor the history of the Manhattan Project, the most significant event of the 20th Century, Mayor Tom Beehan will tell a U.S. House subcommittee in testimony this morning.
The Manhattan Project was a top-secret U.S. program to build the world’s first atomic weapons. The three Manhattan Project sites that could be included in the new park are Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, N.M., and Hanford, Wash.
Despite what some detractors might say, the proposed park is not about weapons, Beehan wrote in prepared testimony.
“I believe this historical park is about scientific and engineering accomplishments at a time when our country was defending itself, both during World War II and the Cold War,” he said.
Beehan said all three communities support the legislation to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, and there is bipartisan support for it in the House and Senate. The bill stalled in the last session of Congress, but it has been reintroduced in the U.S. House and Senate. Sponsors include U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge.
Beehan is testifying today on behalf of Oak Ridge and the Energy Communities Alliance, which he chairs. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.
“Our communities have been working for many years to preserve the history of the Manhattan Project at our sites, and we feel that now is the time to pass a bill that will lead to the establishment of a National Historical Park,” Beehan said in his prepared testimony.
The project began in great secrecy in 1942—Oak Ridge has been nicknamed the “Secret City”—and the work was essentially completed by August 1945, when the Japanese surrendered after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“It is easy for those of us who live in the communities of Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and the Tri-Cities to say that the Manhattan Project changed the world,” Beehan said. “The Manhattan Project is an incredible story that deserves to be preserved and told.”
He said the park interpretation at the sites would give current and future generations “an understanding of this indisputable turning point in American, and indeed world, history.”
A National Park Service study said cultural resources associated with the Manhattan Project are not currently represented in the national park system, and comparably managed areas are not protected, Beehan said. Including them in the national park system “will provide for comprehensive interpretation and public understanding of this nationally significant story.”
He said thousands of people already tour the B Reactor at Hanford, the world’s first full-scale production nuclear reactor; the Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and New Hope Center at Y-12 National Security Complex; and the Gun Site and V Site at Los Alamos, where bomb work was done, as well as the site’s historic center, where visitors can walk the same paths as Manhattan Project scientists such as J. Robert Oppenheimer.
The mayor’s testimony includes five recommendations:
- establish the park now to honor Manhattan Project veterans,
- protect ongoing U.S. Department of Energy missions,
- authorize user and entrance fees,
- set up broad donations authority, and
- allow the inclusion of nationally significant sites.
David A. Vudragovich says
Oak Ridge offers many amenities (green ways, hotels, GREAT FOOD). This will help bring people in and maybe the mall will be ready by then too!