April 2012
Legislative Update
ACHP & NPS Advocate Saving K-25
Atomic Wiki
George Cowan
Bon Voyage, Nick!
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The Atomic Heritage Foundation is pleased to report that "discussion drafts" of legislation to designate a Manhattan Project National Historical Park were recently circulated by both the House and Senate committees. With the National Park Service and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation urging that the Department of Energy preserve a portion of the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge, TN, there is renewed hope that an authentic piece of the Manhattan Project and Cold War history will be spared the wrecking ball.  


Please consider making a donation to help preserve this history and make a Manhattan Project National Historical Park a reality!


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DC in the spring is full of bloom and promise!

Discussion Drafts of House & Senate Manhattan Project National Historical Park Legislation Released


Rep. Doc Hastings
Senator Jeff Bingaman




















We are pleased to report that the relevant House and Senate Committees have distributed "discussion drafts" of legislation to establish a Manhattan Project National Park. The chairmen of the two committees, Representative Doc Hastings of Washington and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, are ardent supporters of preservation of the Manhattan Project heritage and have led Congressional efforts to establish a park. Many thanks to Todd Young and Todd Ungerecht in the House and Scott Miller and David Brooks in the Senate for working with delegation members, constituents, the Department of Energy, the National Park Service, and others to prepare the drafts.


The bills would create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park with units in Hanford, WA; Los Alamos, NM; and Oak Ridge, TN. The legislation will include properties owned by the Department of Energy such as the B Reactor at Hanford and the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge; and properties in the communities such as Bathtub Row in Los Alamos, where many of the leading scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, lived during the Manhattan Project. The draft legislation would allow donations, volunteer services, and other contributions from individuals and organizations toward the preservation and interpretation of the Park.


Establishing such a park should significantly increase tourism to these sites, potentially increasing local revenues by $4 for every $1 invested in the park.  In addition, the park will be an important educational asset for the community.  For example, the park will be an opportunity to engage young people in the problems of science and engineering confronted by the Manhattan Project.  Overall, visitors will have a greater appreciation for the Manhattan Project's legacy for science, technology, and innovation today as well as its continuing impact on history, economics, politics, society, and culture. 


While the "discussion drafts" have to be formally introduced and committee hearings held, we are hopeful that the 112th Congress will enact the legislation. We will keep you updated on any new developments.


To read more, please see Annette Cary's Tri-City Herald article, Hanford's B Reactor Just a Start to Manhattan Project National Historic Park Idea. 


ACHP & NPS Advocate Saving K-25


In our last newsletter, we highlighted the National Park Service (NPS) report recommending preserving a portion of the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) requested the report under Section 213 of the National Historic Preservation Act. In the report, NPS argued, "Because the K-25 building has no substitute, the NPS considers it vital that the maximum practical amount of the original building and equipment be preserved to enable the best possible interpretation of this facility and its operation." 


On April 11, 2012, the ACHP advocated further consideration of the Department of Energy's proposed final Mitigation Plan that would demolish the entire K-25 plant. This recommendation is based in large part on the NPS report. In its comments, the ACHP declares,

"The 213 Report makes a strong case for retention and interpretation of representative samples of both the uranium enrichment equipment...and the 'worker experience'-the equipment and facilities...associated with the enrichment process that were operated by the workers at the site. The report stresses that the equipment and facilities should be displayed as they were used, and should be retained in situ in a part of the north end if possible. Throughout the 213 Report the value of authenticity, for visitors and scholars alike, is emphasized. The on-site preservation of representative examples that expose and illustrate the complexity of the gaseous diffusion process...is viewed as paramount to interpretation of the facility and its history."


Because the NPS report is at odds with the DOE's decision to demolish K-25, the ACHP proposes that DOE convene a meeting to address the NPS report's recommendations. The DOE has invited consulting parties to attend a meeting on Thursday, May 17, 2012 in Oak Ridge.  


In the late 1960s, corporate interests targeted the Grand Central Station in New York City, the world's largest railroad station, for demolition. Jackie Kennedy Onassis led to drive to preserve the iconic station, arguing,


"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for their future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe...this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes."


Like the eloquent Jackie, the Atomic Heritage Foundation believes in the importance of preserving our historical sites for the education and inspiration of future generations.


Knoxville News Sentinel senior writer (and author of the excellent Atomic City Underground blog) Frank Munger has published pieces on the NPS report, the ACHP's comments, and AHF's Cindy Kelly's reaction to this new development.


NBC affiliate WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Channel 10, will be airing a two-part series on the K-25 on May 14-15 with a possible third part on May 16. Cindy Kelly was interviewed for the program. We look forward to the story and will link to the WBIR-TV website. 


 Check Out Our Atomic Wiki!


A few years ago, AHF created the Atomic Wiki site as an online resource for teachers, students, history buffs, and other individuals interested in the Manhattan Project and its legacy. The Wiki site includes articles on the general history of the Manhattan Project and the sites and science involved. The site also features lessons plans for K-12 teachers teaching the Manhattan Project.


We are in the process of overhauling the Atomic Wiki site to make it easier to navigate and update.  We are currently adding pieces on the leading scientists, Manhattan Project sites and facilities, and expanding our Atomic Timeline. We hope that the Atomic Wiki will continue to be a useful resource for teachers, scholars, veterans, and anyone interested in learning more about the Manhattan Project.


We regularly feature an "On This Day in the History of the Manhattan Project" update on our Facebook page. To follow our historical updates, please "like" our Facebook page


George Cowan: A Man of Science and Society


George Cowan, a Manhattan Project veteran, died at 92 in Los Alamos on April 20, 2012. Cowan was a truly remarkable person who throughout his long career sought ways for science to help society. He was on the cutting-edge of nuclear science but was also entrepreneurial, founding the Los Alamos National Bank and the Santa Fe Institute. Throughout his life, Cowan was curious about the way the world worked and sought to address the full gamut of its problems, recognizing the valuable role of science in society.


In 1941, Cowan earned his BS in chemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and went to work with Eugene Wigner at Princeton on fission experiments that proved critical to the design of the early reactors. On his first day at Princeton, physicist and prankster Richard Feynman walked into his office and removed a piece of his telephone. Later, Cowan found himself riding in a convertible with a highly flammable uranium metal powder in a canister, covered with dry ice, between his legs.  They were exciting times, indeed.


In 1942, Cowan went to work at the "Met Lab" (Metallurgical Laboratory) with Herbert Anderson, Enrico Fermi's right-hand man. Among other things, he machined graphite blocks for the "pile" that became the first controlled nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-I. Cowan also worked at New Chemistry ("New Chem") trying to separate plutonium from uranium solutions. In 1945, Cowan joined John Dunning's nuclear physics program team at Columbia University. From Columbia, he went on to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for nearly 40 years.


Physicists John Dunning, Enrico Fermi, and Dana P. Mitchell in front of the Columbia cyclotron

He enjoyed speaking to teachers at the AHF-sponsored New Mexico Teacher's workshops over the last three years, regaling the teachers with stories of his time in the Manhattan Project. In 2006, he gave a thoughtful speech at AHF's symposium on the Manhattan Project on whether there could be a Manhattan Project in the twenty-first century.


To read more about Cowan's Manhattan Project experiences, we highly recommend his delightful memoir, Manhattan Project to the Santa Fe Institute. His intelligence and tenacity are emblematic of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project. He will be missed.


 Bon Voyage, Nick!


Nick Albanese, a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, has served us well as our spring semester intern. Nick has done an excellent job patiently transcribing Manhattan Project veteran oral histories, and has also taken the lead in updating our Atomic Wiki site. He leaves us for a summer abroad in Moscow, where he will be studying Russian and working for an international security and public policy think tank. We wish you the best, Nick, and thanks for your hard work!


Thanks very much for your interest in the Manhattan Project and preserving its history for future generations. To realize the full potential of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, we need as strong a partnership as there was for the original Manhattan Project. Your contributions help us continue to work on preserving the Manhattan Project's historic sites and creating a national historical park. 


Thank you very much for your support!



Atomic Heritage Foundation