Manhattan Project National Historical Park One Step Closer

On June 14, 2013, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included an amendment to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. If passed by the Senate, this newest park unit would include areas in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and the Northwest’s very own B Reactor in the Hanford Site outside of Richland, Washington.

Together, these sites tell the story of the building of the first atomic bomb. NPCA has worked for several years with Congressman Doc Hastings and members of Congress from Tennessee and New Mexico in efforts to make this park a reality. We believe that this national park will allow visitors to consider the project’s many ethical, cultural, and scientific implications. This is not a park to celebrate the creation of atomic weapons, but to put into context the impacts, both positive and negative, that resulted from splitting the atom.

As NPCA’s Ron Tipton stated, “The National Parks Conservation Association applauds the leadership of House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings and the bipartisan support for national parks demonstrated by our House of Representatives in passing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act. The complex story of the Manhattan Project and the resulting impacts of atomic power and nuclear technology are an ideal topic for the National Park Service to interpret and to facilitate thoughtful discussion.

“With only a very small percentage of our national parks currently dedicated to interpreting science and technology, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park would help enhance our National Park System–particularly as we look to its 2016 centennial celebration.”

Cindy Kelly, president and founder of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, echoed Ron’s sentiment and remarked, “Recognition of the Manhattan Project as an important part of America’s story is long overdue. Looking ahead, the Manhattan Project National Park should be a source of inspiration for many generations of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to come. The project not only harnessed the energy of the atom, but produced thousands of innovations that led to high-speed computers, the human genome project, outer space exploration, nuclear medicine, and energy. The new park will also help citizens understand and reflect upon the complex role that nuclear weapons have played in history, politics, economics, culture and society.”

Denise Kiernan, author of The Girls of Atomic City, added, “A moment in history that had, and continues to have, as much of a worldwide impact as the Manhattan Project should be preserved and studied from as many different perspectives as possible.

“The proposed park is not simply about preserving scientific and technological history, but also recognizing and better understanding the experiences of thousands of women and men from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who lived and worked on the three main Manhattan Project sites.

The results of their work—nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and nuclear medicine—continue to influence our lives today in myriad and complex ways. The origins of that science and the roles that ordinary individuals played in its development deserve to be understood and shared with future generations of inquisitive minds.”

NPCA urges our Senate leaders to pass the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act and the president to sign the legislation!

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