By Atomic Heritage Foundation
The birthday of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes Oak Ridge, is now set for November 10, 2015.
While the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act became law on December 19, 2014, the Act requires that the Departments of Energy and Interior reach an agreement within a year of enactment on their respective roles in implementing the new park. At that time, the park will be officially established.
We understand that the Departments of Energy and the National Park Service leaders are close to an agreement. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell are scheduled to have a signing ceremony on Tuesday, November 10, in Washington, D.C.
The Manhattan Project Park Act passed after the National Park Service’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget was in place, so the funds available in 2016 for NPS’s work on the park are limited to $180,000.
NPS Associate Director Victor Knox talked about 2016 as a transitional year for the new park, as the Park Service assumes management and focuses on how best to interpret the story of the Manhattan Project. The Department of Energy and its laboratories have been funding a variety of activities this year and have developed a five-year budget plan for restoring and providing public access to its historic assets.
Despite a bidding contest for the designation for the park’s headquarters, the National Park Service’s draft agreement names the Denver Service Center (DSC) as the headquarters. The DSC provides integrated park planning and developed the special resource study, prelude to creating the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in 2010, and the Memorandum of Agreement to be signed in November.
What can you expect next year? Be patient. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis expects that it will take two more years to complete the planning and three to five years after that to prepare the sites for public access. For example, while the V Site at Los Alamos was restored under a Save America’s Treasures grant in 2005, the public will not have regular access to it until the Los Alamos National Laboratory consolidates its operations in the area. Similarly, the T-Plant at the Hanford site will not be on the tour route as work continues inside the former chemical separations plant.
But there are still many sites that will be available to the public. Local museums are eagerly awaiting an influx of tourists at each of the three sites. In addition, virtual tours will be available through the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s Ranger in Your Pocket website. Visitors to the new park can access these tours on their smartphones and tablets to listen to Manhattan Project veterans recount their experiences working on the project that changed the world. Stay tuned!
Note: The Manhattan Project was a top-secret World War II program to build the world’s first atomic weapons. Besides Oak Ridge, the new park includes Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico. The B Reactor in Hanford is included in the new park, and there are four DOE sites in Oak Ridge that are eligible for inclusion: the former K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park, the Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and buildings 9731 and 9204-3 at the Y-12 National Security Complex. The Alexander Inn, a non-DOE site, is also eligible to be included.
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