Democratic News

Nov 12 2015

Cantwell: ‘It’s a Great Day for the Tri-Cities’

Sen. Cantwell Joins Dedication of Hanford B Reactor as Part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, participated in the dedication of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at the Hanford B Reactor. The park was officially established on Tuesday at the Interior Department’s headquarters.

Sen. Cantwell has spent more than 11 years advocating for the historic preservation of Hanford’s B Reactor, working with the local constituencies in the Tri-Cities area. She sponsored bipartisan legislation and passed laws to study the potential for protecting the reactor and to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Sen. Cantwell shared the story of when she and former Congressman Doc Hastings learned that the B Reactor was originally not going to be part of the historic park: “Doc and I had something to say about that – the B Reactor is going to be front and center in this national park.”

More than 70 years ago, the Manhattan Project was established, which would stretch the known limits of science and change the world as we know it.  Hanford, Wash., was selected to be part of the Manhattan Project as a nuclear reactor site in 1943. The historic B Reactor was the first full-scale plutonium production nuclear reactor ever built, and it took just 11 months to be constructed.

Today, we are giving people direct access to that national, historic story of scientific accomplishments,” Sen. Cantwell said.

Elevating the B Reactor’s status to a National Historical Park will ensure that it won’t be torn down and that this part of our collective history won’t be lost for generations to come.

Establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will allow people from around the world, of all ages, to visit and learn about the work that took place at Hanford. Local elementary school students attended the event and had the first opportunity as fourth graders to tour the reactor, now that the Department of Energy and National Park Service have announced that age restrictions for reactor tours are being lifted.

Sen. Cantwell told the story of Leona Marshall Libby, an American female physicist who worked with Enrico Fermi on the Manhattan Project and powered up the B Reactor. Leona also helped resolve the issue of when the B Reactor was poisoned by Xenon-135.

I want the young girls in the audience to also think about how young women contributed to this. I hope today that young girls will look at this technology and say – what will my contribution be for the future?” Sen. Cantwell.

In addition to the elementary school students, Sen. Cantwell thanked the seven founding members of the B Reactor Museum Association in the audience: Del Ballard, Madeleine Brown, Rich Evans, Gary Fetterolf, Wanda Munn, Jim Stoffels and Lyle Wilhelmi; as well as Kris Watkins and Visit Tri-Cities; Colleen French of the Department of Energy; Carl Adrian and Gary Petersen of TRIDEC; Pam Larsen and Hanford Communities; the Tri-Cities elected officials and residents; and the current and former workers at Hanford.

Read Sen. Cantwell’s full statement below:

“Well thank you, Colleen, and thank you for your leadership. Isn’t it a great day here in the Tri-Cities? I’m so excited to be here with so many young people who are visiting this park for the first time.

“I want to also thank Secretary Jewell and Secretary Moniz for their collaborative efforts in signing this historic agreement just a few days ago.

“And Chip, thank you so much for being here and your leadership, and for Director Jarvis for all he is doing on this behalf.

“I couldn’t have worked harder on this project with anybody else but Doc Hastings. And I’m so excited to be here with him today because he and I worked very diligently on this effort.

“At a time when people first decided to commemorate this story as part of our national history – a little known fact is that people said, ‘let’s commemorate as part of our national history the Manhattan Project,’ but their first recommendation was let’s leave the B Reactor out of it. Well I tell you what, Doc and I had something to say about that. And the answer was the B Reactor is going to be front and center in this national park. So I’m so happy to be here with him today.

“More than 70 years ago, this Manhattan Project was established and, as Colleen said, it changed the world. And now today we are giving people direct access to that national historic story of scientific accomplishment and achievement and the stories of individuals who helped make this site a reality.

“Our National Historic Park site is one of many as part of our national park system. Places like Abraham Lincoln’s home and the history and contribution of the Wright brothers and the beginning of aviation.

“But now the words ‘Hanford, Washington’ will be in the dictionary followed by the words ‘National Historic Park,’ commemorating both the incredible scientific achievements and, as I said, the incredible work by so many people at this site.

“The Hanford project was selected as the nuclear reactor site in 1943. And the B Reactor was the first full-scale plutonium production ever built, and it took just 11 months to be constructed.  

“Doc, at the signing the other day, one of the park officials said that senators had to go back and vote, but he said ‘you guys don’t vote! He said you’re hardly ever voting.’ So when I got up there, I reminded him that it only took 11 months to build the reactor, but it took 11 years to get DOE and the Department of the Interior to work together to get this thing going.

“So anyway, it was our way of saying we wanted productivity to happen a little faster, but we’re happy nonetheless that it happened.

“As part of Hanford’s story, I just want to mention one person—Leona Marshall Libby—because I want the young girls in the audience to also think about what young women contributed to this. She worked with Enrico Fermi on the Manhattan Project and powered up the first reactor, watching the reactor throughout the day in its use. In fact, she was on hand when the B Reactor shut down from the poisoning of Xenon-135 and helped to resolve the problem and get it running again.

“So, I hope that today a lot of young women and girls will look at this technology and say, ‘what is my contribution going to be for the future?’

“Elevating the B Reactor to ‘National Historic Park’ status will help us continue to share this story for the future. We know because this is the first time that so many young people are coming – again thanks to White Bluffs. Did you think this was a pretty cool site today?

“It’s so important because there are other sites, too, like the Bruggemann Agriculture Warehouse, the White Bluffs Bank, Hanford High School and the Irrigation District’s Allard Pump House that will also be part of the site and it will be commemorated.

“I just want to take a moment to thank a couple of people that have been such stalwarts in this project. First of all, there are seven members of the B Reactor museum here with us today and if they would please stand—Del Ballard, Madeleine Brown, Rich Evans, Gary Fetterolf, Wanda Munn, Jim Stoffels and Lyle Wilhelmi—if they would all just stand and let us recognize them.

“These people have made incredible contributions. I know when a friend of mine, the late Norm Miller who was a part of this association and took me on a tour here several years ago, it actually brought the place to life. Your work and all the docents who’ve been part of this, not just in working here, but in fighting to keep the story and contributions alive so the future generations can learn from it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for all of that work.

“I also want to thank Colleen French for her incredible work from DOE; Kris Watkins and Visit Tri-Cities; Carl Adrian from TRIDEC; Pam Larsen from Hanford Communities; David Reeploeg from my staff who has been to many meetings on this; but also to all the mayors and former mayors, John Fox, Dave Rose, Matt Watkins, Brent Jerry, Steve Young; thank you for continuing to push through on what was an incredible effort by the community to reinforce what these Hanford Museum advocates knew all along. This was worth preserving and now we have this – our national park book and a stamp commemorating this site.

“Thank you all very much.”

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