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DOE bus tours restart in Oak Ridge

U.S. Department of Energy public bus tours have resumed in Oak Ridge after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo from DOE)

U.S. Department of Energy public bus tours have resumed in Oak Ridge after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tours began running again on July 11, and they are scheduled to continue through November.

“The program is a longtime staple in the community, helping educate residents and visitors about the site’s rich history and current missions,” DOE said in an EM Update newsletter published Tuesday. (EM stands for environmental management.)

The tour program started in 1996 and has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from all 50 states, DOE said.

The three-and-a-half-hour tours allow visitors to see all three DOE sites on the Oak Ridge Reservation, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Y-12 National Security Complex, and East Tennessee Technology Park.

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Updated: K-25 Viewing Platform will be built

Artist rendering of the new Viewing Platform, which will be located next to the recently constructed K-25 History Center overlooking the footprint of the K-25 Building. (Artist renderings by David Brown)

Note: This story was updated at 9 a.m. Feb. 4.

Two federal agencies have agreed to build a K-25 Viewing Platform at the historic site in west Oak Ridge that was used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants during World War II and the Cold War. The design is expected to be complete in March and the building completed by the end of 2023.

The construction agreement for the viewing building at the former K-25 site was signed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The viewing platform will give visitors a view of the large 44-acre footprint of the former K-25 Building. K-25, which was the world’s largest building, was erected during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to help enrich uranium for the world’s first atomic bombs during World War II. The K-25 Building was demolished in 2013, and many other structures at the site have been removed as the federal government turns over property for private development.

The K-25 Building site itself is now part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. That project commemorates the workers, equipment, and processes used during the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

The K-25 Viewing Platform and associated exhibits are the final components of a multi-project agreement that the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management signed in 2012, clearing the way for demolition of the North Tower of the mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building. The projects commemorate the history of the K-25 site, which has also been known as the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

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ETTP cleanup team receives Secretary’s Award

East Tennessee Technology Park, the former K-25 site, is pictured above in west Oak Ridge after most cleanup work, including demolition of the five large gaseous diffusion buildings, was completed. (Submitted photo)

The Oak Ridge team that mostly cleaned up the former K-25 site, demolishing five large gaseous diffusion buildings and more than 500 structures, has received a Secretary’s Achievement Award from U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. The work was done ahead of schedule and under budget, the U.S. Department of Energy said.

Granholm honored the DOE Office of Environmental Management team from Oak Ridge in a virtual ceremony Wednesday, a press release said.

K-25 was used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants from World War II to the 1980s.

It was the first removal of a uranium enrichment complex, and it cleared 13 million square feet of deteriorated, contaminated structures from the site, the press release said.

“The Secretary’s Achievement Award honors a group or team of DOE employees and contractors who accomplish significant achievements on behalf of the department, demonstrating cooperation and teamwork in attaining their goals,” the press release said. “The award was given to the Oak Ridge Vision 2020 Project Team based on its achievements from 2020.”

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National Park Service asks for public comments about Manhattan Project Park

An undated aerial photo posted online by the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management shows the former K-25 Building, once the world’s largest building, in west Oak Ridge. The building has been demolished, but its history is being preserved, including at the new K-25 History Center.

The National Park Service is asking for public comments about the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The comments are being sought as the Park Service prepares an interpretive plan for park programming, exhibits, and media, a press release said. The goal is to capture many different experiences and perspectives.

Discussions with the public are being organized by theme and region. The discussions focused on regions concentrate on the areas around the three Manhattan Project park locations: Hanford, Washington; Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Because of COVID-19, all events will be held virtually (online), the press release said.

The public meetings are Tuesday to Thursday this week. Here is the schedule:

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SSAB to hear about reuse, historic preservation at ETTP

K-25 History Center (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management)

The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board will hear about reuse and historic preservation at the East Tennessee Technology Park, including the new K-25 History Center, during a presentation next week.

The presentation will be given to the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board by Steve Cooke of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management. It is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, in the U.S. Department of Energy Information Center at 1 Science.gov Way off Oak Ridge Turnpike in east Oak Ridge.

Some of the last remaining Manhattan Project and Cold War buildings are being demolished at ETTP, and most major cleanup work is expected to be completed this year.

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Demolition started on centrifuge site, largest remaining complex at ETTP

Workers have begun taking down the second of four sections of the Centrifuge Complex at East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge. Completing this project will move the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management closer to its goal of finishing all major demolitions at ETTP by the end 2020. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management)

Cleanup crews have started tearing down the largest remaining collection of buildings at the former K-25 site, which was built during World War II and enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and power plants through the Cold War.

The demolition work is occurring at the Centrifuge Complex at the K-25 site, now known as East Tennessee Technology Park or Heritage Center. The Centrifuge Complex is on the south side of ETTP. It includes the tall, white buildings visible from Highway 58.

Oak Ridge crews began demolishing the K-1200 section of the Centrifuge Complex in February. It’s the second of four sections.

Deactivation and demolition work in the first section of the complex was recently completed. That portion was a Manhattan Project facility built for research and development in 1944.

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‘Mud’ photography exhibit opens at K-25 History Center on Thursday

The new K-25 History Center will be hosting “Mud, a Photographic Exhibition of Life in the Secret City.” The exhibit will open on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, and it will be available for viewing through the month of March. (Submitted photo)

The new K-25 History Center will be hosting “Mud, a Photographic Exhibition of Life in the Secret City.” The exhibit will open on Thursday, February 27, and it will be available for viewing through the month of March.

There will be a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the K-25 History Center at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, February 27.

During World War II, Oak Ridge was a quickly built as a secret government town of 70,000 workers who lived in a camp-like environment of barbed wire, security checkpoints, and code words, a press release said. Workers were fingerprinted, interviewed, assigned a job, and given a clearance badge. Housing was limited and cramped and often unheated.

Oak Ridgers who ventured into Knoxville were easy to spot. The quickly constructed secret city was blanketed in a thick layer of mud. As a result, its residents’ muddy shoes were a dead giveaway as to their origin. “The muddy conditions of Oak Ridge during the war was a commonality that all residents, regardless of occupation, had to contend with,” the press release said.

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K-25 History Center to feature exhibits, artifacts, galleries

K-25 History Center (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management)


The K-25 History Center in west Oak Ridge will feature exhibits with more than 250 original artifacts and interactive galleries developed with help from almost 1,000 oral histories.

There will be a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the K-25 History Center at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, February 27.

“The K-25 History Center was created to honor the amazing stories of the men and women who helped construct and operate the uranium enrichment complex that altered the global landscape during the Manhattan Project and Cold War,” the U.S. Department of Energy said.

The History Center is housed in 7,500 square feet of space on the second floor of the city-owned fire station at the former K-25 site, now known as Heritage Center. It was developed as part of a 2012 agreement that allowed DOE to demolish the North Tower of the former mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building.

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K-25 History Center has grand opening this month

The K-25 History Center will have a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, February 27.

The ceremony, which will include a ribbon-cutting, is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, February 27, at 652 Enrichment Street in west Oak Ridge.

The K-25 site, now known as Heritage Center, was built during World War II to help enrich uranium for the top-secret Manhattan Project, a federal program to build the world’s first atomic bombs. K-25 helped enrich uranium for “Little Boy,” a nuclear weapon dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, shortly before the end of World War II.

After the war, K-25 enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants through the Cold War. The site was shut down in the mid-1980s, and it is being cleaned up and converted into a private industrial park. The site’s large uranium enrichment buildings have been demolished and so have many of the support buildings. Most of the cleanup is expected to be completed this year.

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Crews start demolishing ETTP Centrifuge Complex

ETTP Centrifuge Complex Aerial View
Demolition work has started on the Centrifuge Complex at the front side of the East Tennessee Technology Park, the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge. The work is part of the project to finish cleanup at ETTP by the end of 2020. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management)

The largest and most visible buildings remaining at the East Tennessee Technology Park are being removed.

Demolition is under way on the Centrifuge Complex, according to the “EM Update” newsletter published last week by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management.

The demolition work is part of the project to finish cleanup at ETTP, the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge, by the end of 2020. One of the three main sites in Oak Ridge, K-25 was built as part of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret federal program to build atomic weapons during World War II. The site continued to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants through the Cold War. Its operations ended in the mid-1980s, and the site is now being converted into a private industrial park.

The Centrifuge Complex has more than 235,000 square feet, and sections of it reach heights of 180 feet. It was built in stages to develop and test centrifuge uranium enrichment technology, the “EM Update” said. The last of these facilities ceased operation in the mid-1980s.

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K-25 Visitors Center grand re-opening is Monday

Image from Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association

There will be a grand re-opening celebration for the K-25 Visitors Center and Overlook in west Oak Ridge on Monday afternoon, according to the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association.

It’s a kick-off party for National Travel and Tourism Week. There will be food trucks, live music, interactive exhibits, and more, the ORHPA said.

The celebration is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Monday, May 6, at 2013 Highway 58.

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