I live in Oak Ridge, TN [The Atomic City or The Secret City] Mommy thought it might be fun if we told you about this place we live in - and maybe some of you will tell us the history of your town as well. Please note that we just happen to live here. This is NOT an endorsement of anything that was created or is currently being created in Oak Ridge.
Oak Ridge was established in the early 1940s as a base for the Manhattan Project— the massive U.S. government operation that developed the atomic bomb.
The US Army Corps of Engineers started “acquiring” the area for the Manhattan Project in 1942 leaving eviction notices on the doors of people living here giving them 6 weeks to get out. After the people were forced out fences and checkpoints were placed around the city to keep people out.
Even tho the Manhattan project’s K-25 uranium separating facility covered 44 acres and was the largest building in the world in 1945 Oak Ridge remained an official government secret. It did not appear on maps and was not formally named until 1949. All workers wore badges and the town was surrounded by guard towers and a fences with seven gates.
Beginning in late 1942, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began acquiring more than 60,000 acres (240 km²) for the CEW under authority of the Corps' Manhattan Engineer District (MED). The K-25, S-50, and Y-12 plants were each built in Oak Ridge to separate the fissile isotope uranium-235 from natural uranium, which consists almost entirely of the isotope uranium-238. During construction of the magnets which were required for the process that would separate the uranium at the Y-12 site, a shortage of copper forced the MED to borrow 15,000 tons of silver bullion from the United States Treasury to fabricate into wire for the electromagnet coils as a substitute. The X-10 site, now the location of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was established as a pilot plant for production of plutonium.
It was not until the first atomic bomb against Japan was discharged on August 6, 1945 that the people who worked at the plant in Oak Ridge discovered what they had been working on. That must have been a real shocker to them!
These days we are no longer “secured” by guard towers and fences but the areas around the plants and research facilities are.
K-25, where uranium was enriched by the gaseous diffusion process until 1985, is now being decommissioned and decontaminated.
Y-12, originally used for electromagnetic separation of uranium, is still in use for nuclear weapons processing and materials storage.
X-10, site of a test graphite reactor, is now the site of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The entire city remains a “no fly” zone [we never see airplanes] and there are a LOT of places where you will lose your cell phone service because they have all these microwave signals messing it up so the bad guys can’t listen in. All news feeds going in to computers are on a separate server to make sure that nothing gets in or out that shouldn’t. And you NEVER ask anybody who lives here “what did you do at work today?” ‘Cause they won’t tell you – and if they do, they’ll have to shoot you afterwards! Rumor has it that the “codes” are kept here in Oak Ridge - but who knows? One of our neighbors is an old timer who has been here since the 40’s. He was an hot shot at K-25. I know that he used to be in charge of “the codes” - but I don’t know for sure that they’re still here…they probably are tho because it is “the major facility protecting our nation against nuclear attack”…whatever that means!
Sometimes people who try to prove that “high target” areas are vulnerable to terrorist attacks try to get in to Y-12 – but those big guys from Wackenhut always stop them and they get into a lot of trouble…and they NEVER get in. So don’t try to do that because Y-12 is dedicated to making our nation and the world a safer place and they don’t like people trying to break in! Y‑12 helps ensure a safe and reliable U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent.
That’s where I live - what’s your town like?