OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Some things are worth the wait. After a two-year pause due to the COVID pandemic, DOE’s public bus tour at Oak Ridge officially kicked off a new tour season last week with a new attraction thanks to the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM).
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. Since it began in 1996, the tour program has attracted tens of thousands of visitors with representation from all 50 states.
Matt Mullins, marketing and communications director for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, discussed what draws visitors regionally and nationally. The museum is the departure point for the bus tour.
“You see where that big science happened, and you realize in those three small facilities the fate of the world shifts. The small secrets that Oak Ridge held to themselves have gone public, and on this tour, you get to see where that action really happened,” Mullins said.
The three-and-a-half-hour tour allows 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.
This year’s tour will be the first to feature the newly constructed K-25 History Center. The facility, an OREM project, opened only weeks before the COVID pandemic began. It offers 250 original artifacts on display. Nearly 1,000 oral histories were collected from former Manhattan Project and Cold War-era workers that museum professionals used to develop the exhibits and interactive galleries inside.
OREM is currently advancing plans to complete its historic preservation commitments, which includes constructing the K-25 viewing platform and wayside exhibits around the K-25 Building.
Among the other stops, visitors on the bus tour go inside the Graphite Reactor at ORNL. The national historic landmark is a key component of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. It houses the world’s oldest reactor and served as the pilot plant that led to the first production of plutonium.
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