OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — The U.S. Department of Energy is planning to provide a new perspective on the site of what was once the largest building in the world.
The DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management announced Wednesday that is has signed an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a viewing platform at the K-25 History Center. The new facility will provide visitors a complete view of the building’s once massive 44-acre footprint, as well as the installation of 12 wayside exhibits.
“The community has been excited about the idea of this facility, and we are looking forward to fulfilling our commitment through the assistance and special skills the Corps provides,” said Oak Ridge Office Acting Manager Laura Wilkerson.
The construction of this facility and the wayside exhibits are the final components of a multi-project agreement OREM signed in 2012 to commemorate the history of the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, where the K-25 Building was located.
Originally constructed in 1944, Building K-25 was the largest structure in the world and produced uranium for the world’s first nuclear weapon. The public would not learn of its existence in Oak Ridge until the end of World War II.
The Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District will oversee the project. The project will be a homecoming of sorts for the Corps.
“The Nashville District was involved with the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge between 1943 and 1945, so we are excited to be part of this project that draws attention to a larger National Historic Preservation effort to commemorate the importance of the historic K-25 building,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Sahl, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district commander.
The Corps will perform a constructability review of the design before putting the project out for bid and will manage the selected construction subcontractor.
Construction is expected to begin by this fall with the viewing platform completed by the end of 2023.
While the K-25 History Center focuses on the men and women who built and operated the Oak Ridge Diffusion Plant during the Manhattan Project and Cold War, this facility will help visitors understand the scope and magnitude of the site.
Uranium enrichment operations ceased in 1985, and the site was permanently shut down in 1987. Afterward, DOE committed to and began a massive environmental cleanup effort to transform the site into a multiuse industrial park. That effort involved tearing down five enrichment facilities, including the K-25 Building, and 500 other structures that supported operations at the site.
OREM and its contractor UCOR completed demolition of the K-25 Building in 2013 and finished all demolition at the site in 2020. That accomplishment marked the first time in the world an enrichment complex has been taken down. OREM and UCOR completed the effort four years ahead of schedule saving taxpayers $500 million.
The K-25 Building footprint is within the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park Service that contains sites in Oak Ridge; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington.