A decade worth of discussions over whether to preserve a part of the historic K-25 uranium-enrichment building in west Oak Ridge could conclude at the end of this month.
A final plan has not been presented, but a final memorandum of agreement could be drafted by May 31, said Susan Cange, acting manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Management program in Oak Ridge.
“We believe we are near the end,” she said.
During a four-hour meeting Thursday, there was support for a plan to demolish all of K-25, including the North Tower, and build a replica, possibly on the original building’s concrete slab. It was a difficult decision for some who have worked for years to preserve a piece of the 44-acre K-25 plant, whichÂ was once the world’s largest building under one roof but is now being demolished.
“With the limited resources we have, the best use would be to spend those resources on other things besides preserving the North Tower,” former Oak Ridge Mayor David Bradshaw said. Bradshaw is president of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, and he was a consulting party representative at Thursday’s meeting.
Cange said there was consensus among nine parties, including the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office, federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, City of Oak Ridge, East Tennessee Preservation Alliance, Atomic Heritage Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board, and Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee.
The National Park Service has presented several options for preserving the North Tower of K-25, a mile-long U-shaped building. The options included building a replica of the tower, which is at the bottom of the U, to preserving the outer shell of that part of the building as well as two complete cells inside, or about 1/12 of the North Tower.
The price tags would range from about $15 million to roughly $60 million.
Building a replica is the least preferred option for the Park Service, NPS official Jeff Durbin said.
The consulting parties would like a viewing tower at the site, which was built during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project.
“It’s not possible to get an idea of how large the site is unless you’re up in the air,” said David Adler of DOE’s Environmental Management program.
Other proposals include a virtual Web-based museum, a history center, and a grant, possibly $350,000 or more, to save at least part of the historic Alexander Inn in Oak Ridge.