WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) — Three test sites that were used in the U.S. government’s Manhattan Project — the development of the world’s first nuclear bomb — are now accessible to the general public, officials said Thursday.
The three sites, located in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest and Southeast, will be operated jointly by the Department of Energy and the Interior’s National Park Service, officials said in a news release Thursday.
Scientists began work on the Manhattan Project in 1939 after German scientists developed nuclear fission — both as a means to end World War II and beat the Nazis in producing an atomic weapon.
Multiple sites across the United States were used for the project. The three locations that will be the focus of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park are Los Alamos, N.M., Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.
The actual bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos site, while the Washington and Tennessee locations were mainly used in the uranium enrichment process.
The Manhattan Project lasted between 1939 and 1945 and culminated with the first nuclear test ever conducted, about 180 miles south of Los Alamos at the White Sands Missile Range in July 1945. The first atomic bomb actually used in warfare was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, three weeks later.
“This park will commemorate one of this country’s greatest scientific and engineering achievements. It also celebrates the contributions of communities that were created for this purpose and have continued as partners for DOE’s mission,” Moniz said. “The Manhattan Project laid the groundwork for our National Lab system which has led to countless scientific breakthroughs that benefit humanity.”
“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,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell added. “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.”
The new national park was made possible by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, legislation that granted budget authority of the the Department of Energy, which owns the Manhattan Project sites.
The parks at each of the three sites are now open. The Los Alamos site opened Wednesday and the other two opened Thursday.