National Nuclear Security Administration

Manhattan Project NHP: A new and budding partnership

January 12, 2017

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Rangers were on hand to learn about the Y-12 National Security Complex's role in the Manhattan Project during an event at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site.In a little more than a year since the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Park Service (NPS) signed an agreement establishing Manhattan Project National Historical Park (Manhattan Project NHP), great progress has been made.

As the direct descendant of the Manhattan Engineer District, DOE owns and manages the federal properties at most of the major Manhattan NHP sites, including Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. The inauguration of the Manhattan NHP capped more than a decade of work and launched a new partnership between the agencies.

Numerous events took place in all three sites during the first year. Most were focused on increasing public awareness and providing access to the sites.

Oak Ridge sites:

The control room of the X-10 Graphite Reactor,, a pilot nuclear reactor that produced small quantities of plutonium. The sites at Oak Ridge include: X-10 Graphite Reactor National Historic Landmark, a pilot nuclear reactor that produced small quantities of plutonium (part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory); the 9731 Pilot Plant and the Beta calutrons in Building 9204-3 at Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), that housed  the electromagnetic separation process for uranium enrichment; and the K-25 Building site, where gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment technology was pioneered.

  • Y-12 unveiled an introductory film to educate visitors about the history of the site since public access is limited. A virtual tour of the two historic buildings is in the planning stages.
  • Hundreds of people participated in public tours of Buildings 9731 and 9204-3 during the Oak Ridge Celebration in late 2015 and during the Secret City Festival held in June 2016.
  • A few tours of Y-12 have started to take place.DOE expanded the availability of the public tour program for the Oak Ridge facilities.In 2016, more than 3,500 people took these tours, which were consistently filled to capacity.
  • NPS and DOE collaborated on a new exhibit at Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport. The Tennessee National Parks Exhibit opened in April, highlighting all of the national parks in Tennessee, including Manhattan Project NHP.

Hanford

NPS rangers have led thousands on tours of the Hanford Site.The sites at Hanford include: the B Reactor National Historic Landmark, which produced the fuel for the Trinity and “Fat Man” plutonium bombs; Hanford High School; the Hanford Construction Camp Historic District; Bruggemann's Agricultural Warehouse Complex; and White Bluffs Bank and Hanford Irrigation District Pump House, which together provide a glimpse into the history of the Hanford area before the arrival of the Manhattan Project.

  • Schoolchildren listen as a expert talks about Hanford Site's B Reactor.Hanford park facilities are now open to the general public, with approximately 13,000 visitors to the site in 2016.
  • About 400 people came to hear two concerts by the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers when they performed the first-ever full scale choral concert inside a decommissioned nuclear reactor.

Los Alamos

The Los Alamos site currently includes:

  • The Gun Site Facilities: three bunkered buildings, and a portable guard shack. These buildings were associated with the design of the “Little Boy” bomb.
  • The V-Site Facilities: used by laboratory personnel to assemble components of the Trinity device.
  • The Pajarito Site: Slotin Building, Battleship Control Building, and the Pond Cabin. Buildings here were used during the World War II for plutonium chemistry research and later became the main site for critical assembly work at Los Alamos afterwards.

The NPS shared a visitor center with the Los Alamos Historical Society.Highlights during the year:

  • The Los Alamos community celebrated the grand opening of the Manhattan Project NHP with presentations by NPS staff at Fuller Lodge and at the Los Alamos ScienceFest.
  • During most of 2016, NPS and the Los Alamos Historical Society shared visitor center space provided by Los Alamos County. This should improve with the reopening of the Los Alamos History Museum by the end of the year.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) published an iPhone/Android app that uses augmented reality and other gaming features to provide users a way to experience and explore the facilities as they were during the Manhattan Project era.
  • The NPS worked with LANL to allow historic preservation staff to provide assessments of key historic sites in the park.