It’s Oak Ridge’s birthday today, September 19.
Oak Ridge was picked for the top-secret Manhattan Project on September 19, 1942. That was the day 72 years ago when General Leslie Groves approved the acquisition of 59,000 acres of land along the Clinch River for what soon became the Manhattan Project, a federal effort to build the world’s first atomic bombs.
By the time President Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Project on December 28, 1942, work on the East Tennessee site where the first production facilities were to be built was already under way.
Oak Ridge became the home of two uranium enrichment plants (K-25 and Y-12), a liquid thermal diffusion plant (S-50), and a pilot plutonium production reactor (X-10 Graphite Reactor). Groves approved Oak Ridge as the site for the pilot plutonium plant and the uranium enrichment plant in 1942. Manhattan Project engineers had to quickly build a town to accommodate 30,000 workers—as well as build the enormously complex plants.
Also approved was the removal of the relatively few families on the marginal farmland and extensive site preparation to provide the transportation, communications, and utility needs of the town and production plants that would occupy the previously undeveloped area. At first, this location was known as “Site X” and later changed to the Clinton Engineer Works, named after the nearest town. After the war, the name was again changed officially to Oak Ridge.
For much more on this story, visit the Oak Ridge page on the Atomic Heritage Foundation website: http://www.atomicheritage.org/location/oak-ridge-tn.
Local officials and volunteers had a 70th birthday celebration for the city two years ago.