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National Park In Oak Ridge To Present ‘Two Sides’ Of Nuclear Story

U.S. Department of Energy

The atomic bombs that detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 brought a horrific, devastating war to a close.

But it also represented the instant and complete annihilation of two cities,  the brutal death of approximately 185,000 Japanese civilians* and the dawn of the nuclear weapons age.

In the 69 years since the first bomb fell over Hiroshima, pro- and anti-nuclear forces have used these two points to engage each other in a heated debate over the ethical necessity of nuclear weapons and their proliferation. 

Officials affiliated with a newly-approved Manhattan Project National Park say both sides to this divisive story will be represented fairly when the three cities of Los Alamos, N.M., Richland, Wash., and Oak Ridge, Tenn. become part of the National Park system.  On December 16, President Barack Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes $21 million to establish a National Park in those three cities, all important contributors to the development of the world’s first atomic weapons. 

“There’s no attempt to glorify war or the bomb, but it is part of our history,” says former Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, the head of the Energy Communities Alliance, a group that lobbied the National Park Service and the U.S. Congress to approve the park.  “It changed the way that we lived because of what happened in Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Richland.” 

*Death estimates from Hiroshima and Nagasaki vary greatly, with some suggesting close to 400,000 died from the initial blast, as well as injuries and disease related to the bombs.  For the purposes of this article, we are using the estimate compiled by the BBCfor its “WW2 People’s War” project. 

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