A man in a yellow safety vest holds up a photo of a man sitting at a table

Portsmouth Site tour guest Don Morrison holds a picture of his grandfather, George Cooke, in front of the X-300 building, the same facility where the photo was snapped decades ago.

PIKE COUNTY, Ohio – Public tours at EM's Portsmouth Site are often filled with retirees, curious to see what’s new, or local residents, eager to get a first glimpse of the site.

For Don Morrison, a trip to the former gaseous diffusion plant in southern Ohio from Akron, Ohio, carried a deeper meaning. The tour provided him an opportunity to reflect on his grandfather and the secrets of a career Morrison says was always a mystery.

Morrison’s grandfather George Cooke was part of the startup production team in 1953, a time when the work at the Portsmouth Site was not something employees could talk about, even with family.

Cooke held many key positions in his 25 years at the site. He was promoted to plant shift superintendent in 1966 and superintendent of cascade operations in 1974.

Read EM Update's recent wrap-up of a successful public tour season at EM's Portsmouth and Paducah sites. They saw a boost in visitors from across the country. 


Morrison, an engineer like his grandfather, says finally getting a chance to see where his grandfather worked while learning about what he did was emotional.

“He never spoke about what he did, but we knew it was important and secretive,” Morrison said. “Anytime he would visit us in Akron, he would provide the plant with a phone number where he could be reached. I remember him receiving and taking calls in another room so he could talk privately.”

Cooke died in 1979, a year after he retired. If not for the public tour, Morrison would not have had the chance to learn more about his grandfather, even all these years later.

“Since my grandfather was not able to discuss his career, the tour gave me the best idea of what his time here was like,” Morrison said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to learn what he did.”

-Contributor: Cindi Remy