The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and its contractor URS/CH2M Oak Ridge hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on February 27 for the new K-25 History Center on the site of the former uranium enrichment plant. Located next to the original foundation for the K-25 building, the center was built to honor and preserve the stories of the workers who constructed and operated the K-25 complex during World War II and the Cold War.
“I applaud the many agencies that helped us bring the K-25 History Center from an idea to an engaging facility that shares the incredible story of a secret city in Tennessee that changed the course of history,” said the DOE’s undersecretary for science, Paul Dabbar. “DOE is proud to provide the Oak Ridge community a new educational attraction that preserves that story and highlights the men and women who built the world’s largest building in 18 months and developed first-of-a-kind technology that helped defend and power our nation.”
The DOE completed the decommissioning of Oak Ridge’s K-25 building, once the world’s largest building under one roof, in 2014 (NN, Feb. 2014, p. 43). Built in 1944 as part of the Manhattan Project, the building became part of the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which ceased operations in 1985. As part of a 2012 agreement, the DOE committed to preserving and sharing the plant’s historical significance, including the establishment of the K-25 History Center. The K-25 footprint is part of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park.
The center comprises 7,500 square feet of exhibits, with more than 250 original artifacts on display. Nearly 1,000 oral histories were collected over a 10-year span from former Manhattan Project and Cold War–era workers that museum professionals used to develop the exhibits and interactive galleries. The K-25 History Center is open to the public free of charge seven days a week.
Following the closure of the gaseous diffusion plant in 1987, the DOE began a massive environmental cleanup effort to transform the site, which once contained more than 500 buildings, into a multiuse private-sector industrial park, known as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). On February 25, the DOE announced that the demolition of the site’s largest remaining building, the Centrifuge Complex, had begun. According to the DOE, the removal of the building will allow the department to reach its goal of completing all major demolition projects at the ETTP this year.