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Community celebrates K-25 historic preservation agreement

August 10, 2012 - 12:00pm

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Oak Ridge, TN — In a ceremony attended by representatives of federal, state, and local historic preservation groups, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the formal completion of an agreement that will preserve the historic contributions of Oak Ridge’s K-25 site to the World War II Manhattan Project.

Mark Whitney, the DOE’s new head of Environmental Management in Oak Ridge, opened the ceremony celebrating the recent execution of a memorandum of agreement among DOE, the State Office of Historic Preservation, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the City of Oak Ridge, and the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance. Whitney said the agreement, nearly a decade in the making, lays out a multi-year plan to commemorate the K-25 complex, which contained more than 500 buildings and 12,000 workers at its peak. The project’s enormous scale, which in 1945 included the world’s largest building, was necessary to produce a few grams of Uranium-235 that were used to build the atomic bomb that ended the war with Japan.

Sue Cange, DOE’s deputy manager of Environmental Management in Oak Ridge, said the agreement “was the product of great ideas from a lot people who feel passionately about the need to preserve the history of the important work that was performed at the site.”  “After these buildings are gone, and after we are gone, our grandchildren will know that the men and women who worked here made one of the greatest achievements in American history,” Cange said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the DOE will undertake three broad initiatives to commemorate the history of the K-25 complex and the city’s larger role in the Manhattan Project.

  1. Approximately 40 acres located inside the road that currently surrounds the original K-25 Building will be dedicated for commemoration and interpretation activities. The agreement calls for the construction of a three-story Equipment Building at the property’s southern end that will recreate a scale representation of the gaseous diffusion technology and contain authentic equipment used in the K-25 Building. The building will also house other equipment that was developed and/or used at the site. The project will include a viewing tower and 12 wayside exhibits that will tell portions of the K-25 story.
     
  2. A K-25 History Center will be located nearby on the second level of the Fire Station owned by the City of Oak Ridge. The History Center will provide space to exhibit equipment, artifacts, oral histories, photographs, and video. The DOE has collected more than 700 original artifacts and has archived 70 oral interviews from persons who worked at the site.
     
  3. The DOE will provide a grant of $500,000 to the East Tennessee Preservation Association to support the preservation of the Alexander Inn, a historic structure in Oak Ridge where visiting scientists and dignitaries stayed while visiting the area. The grant will be used to purchase the property and stabilize the structure until the Inn can be transferred to a private developer.

Cange said implementation of the preservation initiatives will begin this fall. “On behalf of DOE, I want to thank the large number of people who contributed their time and ideas, and who never gave up on this project,” Cange said.

The K-25 complex was closed in 1987. Known today as the East Tennessee Technology Park, the original buildings are in the process of being demolished by DOE as part of the largest environmental remediation project in Tennessee’s history. The property is being turned into an industrial park for future economic development.

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