LAS VEGAS – U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) Senior Advisor William “Ike” White welcomed the community to the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas during a ceremony Aug. 2 to celebrate the opening of its newest permanent exhibit.
“As you tour the exhibit of the cleanup effort, you should note how the displays also cover the life span of the production and use of nuclear material in addition to the significant work now required to remediate the environmental legacy of this extraordinary national security effort,” White said.
The brand-new exhibit, created through a partnership between EM and the museum, is titled “Beyond the Manhattan Project: Cleaning up the Legacy of America’s Nuclear Defense and Research Missions.”
The exhibit offers a visual display of EM’s critical work to clean up sites across the country impacted by five decades of nuclear weapons production and government-sponsored nuclear energy research.
About 60 people attended the ceremony, which included a ribbon-cutting and unveiling of the one-of-a-kind exhibit. Museum curator Parker Arecchi provided an exclusive guided tour, and a reception followed.
John Longenecker, chair of the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, joined White to conduct the ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the event.
“We have thousands of student visitors coming through the museum each year, and our goal is to get them informed and excited about possible future careers in national security and environmental management,” Longenecker said.
The creation of the exhibit was inspired by a distinguished lecture held at the museum in July 2021 featuring Todd Shrader, EM’s former principal deputy assistant secretary. In addition to showcasing the cleanup of contaminated nuclear weapons manufacturing and testing sites, the exhibit seeks to increase public awareness of EM’s work with local communities to ensure the health and safety of the public, workforce and environment.
Guests departed the ceremony with a token of appreciation: complimentary pieces of rock salt dating back to the Permian geologic period. Mined from EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), 2,150 feet underground, the salt is more than 250 million years old and safe to handle.
The National Atomic Testing Museum is one of 37 museums designated as an affiliate partner of the Smithsonian Institution. It is a repository for one of the most comprehensive collections of nuclear history in the world.
Covering nuclear history beginning with the first test at the Nevada Test Site — now the Nevada National Security Site — on Jan. 27, 1951, the museum’s exhibitions and programming also address current affairs related to the nuclear industry, completed cleanup projects and information on EM’s collaborative process for identifying innovate solutions and new technology to improve efficiencies.
White noted during the event that the EM exhibit sheds light to another facet of the nation’s nuclear weapons mission and what is, today, the largest cleanup effort in the world.
“Perhaps most important, though, it helps educate a new generation of young men and women about opportunities to be a part of the world’s largest environmental remediation program,” White said.
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