OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - The K-25 History Center celebrated its grand opening with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony adjacent to the original building’s foundation in Oak Ridge. The new history center was created to honor the amazing stories of the men and women who helped construct and operate the K-25 uranium enrichment complex that altered the global landscape during World War II and Cold War.
The grand opening celebration, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, featured remarks throughout the morning from several honorable guests including U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar, U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management Manager Jay Mullis, UCOR President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Rueter, Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch, and the welcome presence of former K-25 employees.
“I applaud the many agencies that helped us bring the K-25 History Center from an idea to an engaging facility that shares the incredible story of a secret city in Tennessee that changed the course of history,” said Dabbar. “The Department of Energy is proud to provide the Oak Ridge community a new educational attraction that preserves that story and highlights the men and women who built the world’s largest building in 18 months and developed first-of-a-kind technology that helped defend and power our nation.”
The new K-25 History Center boasts 7,500 square feet of exhibits offering visitors more than 250 original artifacts on display. Nearly 1,000 oral histories were collected over a span of ten years from former workers to develop the interactive galleries that highlight the historical significance and legacy of K-25.
Upon arrival, visitors will experience history and scientific innovation first-hand, from interacting with virtual tours of K-25’s four floors, to mastering the science of nuclear chain reactions, to uncovering secrets behind the numerous artifacts on display. The K-25 History Center also hosts a Digital Memory Zone, giving former K-25 workers, their families and others the opportunity to leave their memories and oral histories of Oak Ridge.
Originally constructed in 1944, Building K-25 was the largest structure in the world with a 44-acre footprint and carried an equally immense and important mission to help end a global war by producing uranium for the world’s first nuclear weapon. Yet despite its size and urgent work, the public would not learn of its existence in Oak Ridge until the end of World War II.
Uranium enrichment operations ceased in 1985, and the site was permanently shut down in 1987. Afterward, DOE committed to and began a massive environmental cleanup effort to transform the site into a multi-use private sector industrial park for the community. That work is scheduled to be completed this year. DOE completed demolition of the K-25 building in 2013.
The K-25 History Center will be fully operational after the grand opening event, open seven days per week. Admission is free to visitors. For photos from the grand opening event, please visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/doe-oakridge/.
About the K-25 History Center
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management signed a multi-project agreement in 2012 to commemorate the history of the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant – once known as K-25 – which included the construction of the K-25 History Center.
The agency worked alongside the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Atomic Heritage Foundation, City of Oak Ridge, East Tennessee Preservation Alliance, National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, and the Tennessee Historical Commission on the plans and designs for the facility. For more historical information about K-25, please visit www.k-25virtualmuseum.org.