Why Congress Should Establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

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NPCA supports legislation to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  

Under a veil of secrecy, workers in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington, built the world’s first production-scale nuclear reactor, assembled the atomic bomb—and created a lasting impact on world history. While the project was masterminded by leading scientists including J. Robert Oppenheimer and Maria Goeppert Mayer, most of the tens of thousands of workers were unaware of the actual “product” that they were helping to create. The Manhattan Project empowered thousands of women to join the workforce, from those adjusting controls of the Calutrons at Oak Ridge to scientists involved at the project’s highest levels.

If legislation is passed, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park would be established at three different educational sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington.

Why preserve this controversial part of American history?

  • A new national park would help the public understand the Manhattan Project in the context of World War II. The creation and use of the atomic bomb by the Manhattan Project was one of the most important and pivotal events of the 20th Century. National Park Service interpretations of this event would help the public understand the place of the atomic bomb in the context of the war. Balanced viewpoints would include divergent opinions on the bomb’s significance and the complex emotions of project participants.
  • A new national park would give visitors insight into the continuing relevance of the atomic bomb to American and world history.
    The Manhattan Project continues to inform military and national security issues, geopolitics, investment in scientific research, and advancements in atomic energy and nuclear medicine. Learning more about the Manhattan Project is essential to understanding its complicated political, moral, and cultural legacy.
  • A new national park would preserve the historic places that convey the human, social, and political reality.
    Preserving the sites where events actually took place gives the public an authentic experience of the places that shaped history. Similar to sites commemorating the Trail of Tears, or Civil War battles, or the assassinations of historic figures, the ability to be present on hallowed ground honors the fallen and fosters a deeper public understanding.
  • The Manhattan Project National Historical Park sites would enhance our National Park System.  Currently, a small percentage of our national parks are dedicated to interpreting science and technology. Exhibits and programming at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park sites would cover such topics and help continue to diversify and strengthen our National Park System, as we look to its 2016 centennial celebration.
  • A new national park would have minimal costs associated with it. The government already owns the land and historic Manhattan Project properties. The Department of Energy would save an estimated $100 million by preserving the Manhattan Project properties—such as the famous B Reactor at Hanford, Washington—rather than destroying and disposing of them. The National Park Service study recommends that it make use of existing museums and interpretive centers such as the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Los Alamos Historical Society Museum in New Mexico.
  • Creating the Manhattan Project National Historical Park would stimulate local economies.
    Research shows that national parks generate $10 in value for every federal dollar invested. Further, visitors to national parks spend more than $14 billion annually in the local regions around the parks.
Manhattan Project

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