The Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (ca 1978)
I grew up working here. We called it the Oak Ridge Gaseous Confusion Plant and sometimes The Bomb Factory.
When it was completed as part of the super secret Manhattan Project in the mid 1940s this building (code-named K-25) was the largest in the world with floor space of 44 acres. The power house in the background (see notes) was capable of generating enough power to light the city of Boston and could provide that power at five different frequencies simultaneously. To combat sabotage, transmission lines from the powerhouse to the gaseous diffusion cascade were enclosed in underground tunnels.
Most of the highly enriched uranium used to fuel 'Little Boy', the Hiroshima bomb, was produced at our sister facility Y-12 in neighboring Bear Creek Valley since K-25 began enrichment operations late in the war. 'Fat Man', the Nagasaki bomb, was an implosion type using plutonium from the Hanford, Washington, site. The Cold War, and later civilian reactors would be the main purpose of our output.
All but three units of the K-25 and K-27 cascades were shut down in 1964 and the entire plant ceased uranium enrichment in 1985. The powerhouse was dismantled in the 1980s and the K-25 building is currently being razed.* K-29 is already just a concrete slab.
Activists attempted to save the northern section of the K-25 building (lower right) as a museum - to no avail.
There was one gaseous diffusion 'cell' located near the Central Control Room (CCR) that was painted and labeled elaborately for visiting VIPs. It was called the President's Cell but no president ever visited it. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter did visit a running cell in K-33.
Now It Can Be Told by Leslie R. Groves.
UPDATE: On December 19, 2013, the 47th anniversary of my Company Service Date, the south wall of K-311-1 became the final portion of the K-25 "U" to be demolished.
The DOE-Oak Ridge Flickr stream documented the destruction here.
from an Ektachrome transparency