The Atomic City at 75: Oak Ridge evolves from bomb-maker to global research leader

The Atomic City at 75: Oak Ridge evolves from bomb-maker to global research leader

Source: WBIRJohn North | November 1, 2018

It started as an all-out effort in the early 1940s to help build a nuclear bomb. Today, the Oak Ridge reservation is a hub of research that’s directing the future of mankind.

“In the course of the last four months it has been made probable … that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.”

If America wasn’t careful, Albert Einstein went on in his 1939 letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler’s Germany could very well create its own nuclear bomb that would threaten all of Western civilization.

Roosevelt listened to Einstein, and he acted.

By 1943, the government had acquired thousands and thousands of rural East Tennessee acres that would eventually become known as Oak Ridge — all part of a national race to harvest enough bomb-making material to bring a decisive end to World War II.

This year, across the federal reservation and in Oak Ridge, scientists, historians and local leaders are observing the 75th anniversary of the founding of the federal facilities. Work at the plants known as X-10, Y-12 and K-25 changed the course of history, not just for the United States but for mankind itself.