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Hanford’s B Reactor put up for National Park Status


The National Park Service Wednesday gave its support to turning part of the Hanford nuclear site into a new national park.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says Hanford's historic B Reactor deserves park status in order to tell the story of the race to build the atomic bomb. 

This is long-awaited good news says the president of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau. Kris Watkins envisions park ranger-led bus tours that culminate with a walk through the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor.

"Every person that we've ever taken out there walks away with such a better understanding," Watkins said. "They're glad they attended. It's definitely worthwhile."

World’s first reactor

The B Reactor is the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor. It was used to create plutonium for atomic bombs during World War II through part of the Cold War. It operated from 1944 to 1968.

The B Reactor produced the plutonium for the first-ever manmade nuclear explosion – the Trinity test in New Mexico – and for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

It's now up to Congress and the president to follow up with legislation that actually creates a new national park. 

The recommendation from the Department of Interior is to combine the Hanford B Reactor with two other Manhattan Project sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  In each place, the Department of Energy would continue as the landlord and carry responsibility for safety and security. 

On the Web:

National Park Service planning documents

Hanford's B Reactor

B Reactor Museum Association

Previous coverage by NPR

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

"B Reactor can be seen between the water towers on the right side of this World War II photo.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.