The areas of the original American testing sites for the atomic bomb will soon be opened the public. The testing areas of Oak Ridge, TN, Hanford, WA and Los Alamos, NM will be accessible to people who want to learn about the development of atomic weapons and the associated Manhattan Project. The opening of these areas is part of an agreement between the National Parks Service and the United States Department of Energy.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement, “Through the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project, the National Park Service will share with the world the story of one of America’s most transformative scientific discoveries that fundamentally altered the course of the 20th century. Visitors will soon be able to see the contributions of more than 600,000 Americans who played a role in this significant chapter in history. The park will also serve as a reminder that these actions and discoveries must be handled with great care for they can have world-changing consequences."
By opening these sites to the public, park officials hope that the public will be educated about the history of the Manhattan Project without glorifying the consequences that are associated with the usage of nuclear weapons. While the park will primarily raise awareness of nuclear history, it will also offer perspectives of those from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The families of the scientists who worked on the project will also offer their views.
Originally, these three sites were constructed in 1940s in order to secretly conduct research and manufacture materials for use in the Manhattan Project. At the Los Alamos facility, theoretical work and testing took place. At the sites of Oak Ridge and Hanford, individual components for atomic weapons were developed. Today, the sites of Oak Ridge and Los Alamos contain National Laboratories. The old site at Hanford has been mostly decommissioned.
Oak Ridge City Councilman Chuck Hope said, “It's a great way of telling one of the most significant historical events that happened in our last generation. It's going to be a big factor in letting everybody know how important East Tennessee and Oak Ridge was to that endeavor."
While work on the idea has been in progress for about a decade, the project was only officially signed into law last year. The agreement contains provisions for how the three sites will be built, managed and maintained.
However not everyone is pleased with the plan. Director of the Antinuclear Los Alamos Study Group Greg Mello says that the plan is pure propaganda for the National Laboratory of Los Alamos and that the laboratory still aspires to create global weapons of mass destruction.
Still, most people view it as a good way to inform the public of a historic event, albeit a very controversial one. People will certainly learn a lot about nuclear history by visiting these sites. At the present time, no opening dates have been provided.