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00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

National Defense Bill Includes Museum At Hanford's B-Reactor

U.S. Department of Energy
File photo of Hanford's B Reactor, the world's first, full-scale nuclear reactor

A bill that passed Thursday in the U.S. House includes big changes for the Tri-Cities. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 would create a new set of national parks in honor of the top-secret Manhattan Project.

That would include a museum at Hanford and other historical sites.

Officials in the Tri-Cities haven’t broken out the bourbon to toast quite yet. This national defense bill still has to pass the Senate intact. And it must be signed off by President Obama.

The bill would make new parks at Hanford, Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. About 10,000 people visited Hanford’s B-Reactor last year.

The new legislation would also open the closed Rattlesnake Mountain to guided public tours and even hiking. Northwest tribes have opposed public tours to that part of the Hanford Reach National Monument for years, saying the area is sacred.

The bill also includes plans to transfer about 1,600 acres from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Tri-Cities community. There’s talk of an energy park.

Senior U.S. Representative Doc Hastings from Eastern Washington is about to retire at the end of this session and Washington Senator Patty Murray has lost some of her power with the change to a Republican-led Senate. So further tries to push these Manhattan parks through next year could be made more difficult.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.