Some of our comments below are negative. Normally we try to emphasize the positive about places we visit, but in this case we were disappointed because there is so much interesting potential in the story of Oak Ridge. The problem is that the story told by a variety of places in Oak Ridge is filled with statements that ignore the full picture of the impact of the nuclear weapon materials produced here. Everywhere we turned, the messages seemed rooted in the 1950s & 1960s vision of nuclear energy, versus the reality that has be learned in subsequent years. Thus our disappointment.
The day began at the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) in Oak Ridge. The museum dates from the late 1960’s and hasn't seen much updating since then. Furthermore, beyond the historical aspects of the exhibits, the rest of the energy exhibits are polluted with descriptions that advocate the use of Nuclear power -- a nice idea if there weren't so many problems with Nuclear power. As a result, Harry found the museum a turn-off and the information couldn't be trusted. The Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos is much more objective and as a result, more interesting.
There is also a newer museum at Oak Ridge called the New Hope Center (whose name was clearly influenced by post cold war wishful thinking by the worried military industrial complex of Oak Ridge) but is closed on Friday’s which didn't give us much New Hope...
There is a bill currently in the Senate toward making the three Manhattan Project sites into a National Historic Park.
- Oak Ridge, TN - where the uranium used in the 1st atomic bomb was purified.
- Hanford, WA - where the plutonium used in the 2nd atomic bomb was created and purified.
- Los Alamos, NM – where both bombs where designed and built.
It would be great if the Manhattan Project National Historical Park happens, because Oak Ridge doesn't seem to have a clue how to promote its historic sites.
The exhibit of the history of Oak Ridge and the role it played in the Manhattan Project at AMSE was interesting although dated. We watched one of their films, which was at least 50 years old. It was interesting and at the same time excruciating to watch because of the lack of objectivity as well as the style of narration..
The one site that came close to how Oak Ridge should be presenting its history was at the overlook of the K-25 (gaseous diffusion plant off Tennessee Rout 95. At the time (WWII) K-25 was the largest building in the world with one dimension being 1/2 mile.
The two major facilities at Oak Ridge were the Y-12 Plant and the K-25 Plant. Both plants were used to separate the Uranium isotope U-235 that is useful for an atomic explosion from the more common Uranium isotope U-238. Y-12 used electromagnetic separation while K-25 used gaseous diffusion.