HANFORD, Wash. - Taking a field trip down Uranium Street may seem strange, but those managing the Hanford nuclear waste site believe it could happen soon.
Hanford historical preservation personnel, along with Washington Senator Patty Murray, are pushing to get the site declared a national park. The title would come with restoration funding and tourism business for the old Hanford High School, the old White Bluffs Bank and B-reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor.
“It’s really important to preserve this site, and really honor those people who gave so much to our country,” Murray said Thursday.
Residents of Hanford had to evacuate in 1943, so their city could become a nuclear production site as part of the Manhattan Project.
However, beyond the historic tribute, Murray argues there would be a positive economic impact on the surrounding communities. She worries with the way Congress has battled over budgets lately, the national parks plan could be seen as a cost the country cannot afford.
“But my argument back is that the money we use important to our history,” Murray said. “It’s important for all of us to remember what was done here in order to win a war, and to really be a great economic development for this community that really deserves it.”
Murray also fears the annual two billion dollars in nuclear waste cleanup allotted to the site each year might be a budget battle casualty. The money is used primarily to put millions of gallons of nuclear waste in leaking tanks -- into new much safer tanks -- before any more ground and groundwater contamination happens.
Murray said the Department of Energy has yet to produce a concrete plan for how cleanup will proceed moving forward. She said she needs the plan to make sure her colleagues in congress know how important the money is to the site.
“We are going to have to make critical decisions about our budget and sequestration,” Murray said. “I need to be able to share with the Senate and the House what the money's going to be spent on, because we're asking for a large amount.”