08 August 2007

Oak Ridge tour is only for Americans


I've stumbled across an item about the secret town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which would make an obvious addition to the Travel List of factory tours and brand museums, were it not for one awkward restriction....only US citizens can go on it!

Oak Ridge is the historic nuclear plant that enriched uranium and constructed the first atomic bomb as part of the 'Manhatten Project'.

In 1942 the US government bought 60,000 acres of land in Tennessee and built a secret city for scientists and workers. Within three years it was the fifth largest city in the state with houses, schools and shops for 75,000 citizens...and guards at the city gates. Only when they read the newspaper one morning in August 1945, did the vast majority learn what they were working on.

Now the city has shrunk to 27,000 citizens, but it does have a name...and it does now appear on maps. However, according to the local tourist office press release....


Of the three Manhattan Project sites that were built to enrich the uranium needed for the bomb, two of them, the Y-12 Plant and X-10 Graphite Reactor, are back behind the fence as a result of the terror attacks on 9/11. But during the months of June through September, a special Public Bus Tour takes visitors (US citizens only) “behind the fence” for a glimpse at several historic sites, including a tour inside the X-10 plant. Other highlights on that tour include a drive to an overlook (not open to the general public) to view the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which at the time was the largest building in the world under one roof; the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), which opened in April 2006 and will be used to further the research of neutrons; the Bethel Church, a pre-WWII structure that stands as a testament to the Appalachian heritage of the region; and the Secret City Commemorative Walk, built to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.

All tours are free with admission to the American Museum of Science & Energy, and are open to US citizens with proper identification.

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