For decades, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina has been a backwater of America’s atom bomb heritage. Located nearest the town of Aiken — whose speedy lobsters perhaps owe their zip to their nuclear proximity — Savannah River’s reactors made plutonium for the U.S. hydrogen bomb arsenal.
Oak Ridge, Tennesee, another historic bomb factory, has long been home to an atomic museum. Reactor B at the Hanford Site in Richfield, Washington, just became a National Historic Landmark. The Savannah River Site, however, has languished in tourist obscurity — until now. A group calling itself the SRS Heritage Foundation wants to turn the site into a travel destination, despite an utter lack of interest from the federal government.
An article in the Aiken Standard reports that the Foundation has obtained “one of the few attractive buildings on the site” and plans to open it as a museum. Among its 30,000 artifacts will be 16-foot-tall stainless steel radioactive waste caskets and a complete reactor control room. According to the Standard, visitors will be issued security badges at a fake guard shack and will see a film that “will talk about the dangers of Communism, spies, and atom bombs.”
The Foundation hopes to have a 1.5-mile-long trail at the site open by the end of this year. Tourists will be able to walk through the now-gone town of Ellenton, which was bulldozed in 1951 to make room for the reactors. Markers and signs will show where the businesses, schools, and churches used to be.
If they’re going to use a federal building at SRS then they will be obligated to present the long and often colorful opposition to many of the environmentally destructive big-government programs at SRS. The environment and the economy certainly lost the cold war and it’s gonna be hard to glorify the SRS role in that ugly struggle.
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