Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sat August 01 2015

5 Places To Explore The Atomic Era

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | August 01, 2015

5 Places To Explore The Atomic Era

Photos courtesy of those featured

The 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is approaching, and with that, this week PBS has started to run a series called “The Bomb.”  This series “tell[s] the story of a weapon that transformed history and continues to affect relationships among dueling world powers.” If you are one of the many people who are fascinated by the whole process of the building, testing and deployment of atomic weapons, here are a few places that are worth checking out.

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

In 1942, the United States federal government chose Oak Ridge as the site for development of materials in the Manhattan Project. There were many reasons that it was chosen including low population, which made land easily obtainable, it was easily accessible by road and rail and there was abundant energy and water thanks to the recently completed Norris Dam. 

The town’s population grew from 3,000 to 75,000 in just the period of 1942-1945. Almost none of the people who were employed here knew what they were working on until the bombs were dropped on Japan. Today, you can visit the American Museum of Science and Energy, where you can see what it was like to live in Oak Ridge back in the 1940s, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Y-12, where they processed uranium for atomic weapons, and you can rent or purchase self-guided driving tours that help explore and explain the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge.

Nevada National Security Site – Nye County, Nevada

The Nevada National Security Site (formally the Nevada Test Site) was established in 1951 as a testing site for the atomic bomb. Located about 65 miles from Las Vegas, over 100 atomic tests were conducted at the site.  If you want to see the place, get on the list. 

The Nevada Field Office provides tours once a month. These guided tours lead over some uneven ground and last all day, so dress appropriately and bring a lunch. Photography is forbidden on the tour, so stow the selfies. As of the publication of this article, they are sold out until March of 2016.

The National Atomic Testing Museum – Las Vegas, Nevada

This place is really the bomb. The National Atomic Testing Museum documents everything that went on at the Nevada Test Site from the 1950s to today. They have exhibits on various Geiger counters, radio badges and radiation testing devices as well as a section on Native American artifacts found around the area. Probably the coolest exhibit is the Ground Zero Theater, which simulates the experience of observing an atmospheric nuclear test.

Titan Missile Museum – Sahuarita, Arizona

Located about 25 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, the Titan Missile Museum is located in a former Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile silo. Visitors to the site can go in and learn about the cold war, as well as visit the control room, the cableways (tunnels), the silo, antenna tower and more. A couple of times a month they will run a top-to-bottom tour where they actually visit all seven levels of the silo including the blast zone directly below the missile.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – Nagasaki, Japan

Located within the city itself, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is a memorial to the atomic bombing that took place there and a tribute to the people who are trying to see a world without nuclear weapons. They cover all of the history of the bombing and the events that led up to it. The museum shows in its first room how the city was before the bomb. The next room then shows you what it looked like afterwards.

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