Federal Agencies Partner To Offer First Tour Of Los Alamos Manhattan Project Facilities

Battleship bunker: Build in 1944, the Battleship Bunker supported implosion diagnostic tests for Fat Man. The building is known as a battleship building because the bunker’s west end is bow-shaped and shielded with a steel plate. Courtesy/NNSA
Pond cabin: Tours of historic sites featured a visit to the Pond Cabin, which served as an office for Emilio Segrè’s Radioactivity Group studying plutonium during the Manhattan Project. Courtesy/NNSA


 The U. S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office and Los Alamos National Laboratory partnered with the U. S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, to conduct a pilot tour of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Los Alamos July 12-13 as part of Los Alamos ScienceFest.

“The National Park Service and NNSA, along with Los Alamos County and LANL, worked very hard to make this tour happen,” said Steve Goodrum, NNSA Los Alamos Field Office Manager. “I believe today’s tour provided a meaningful experience to all the participants and we look forward to planning the next one.”

“These tours are an important milestone celebrating not only the success of the park but also honoring the great partnership between the Department of Energy and the National Park Service,” said Kris Kirby, Manhattan Project National Historical Park Superintendent. “What an honor to be able to welcome our very first visitors to park facilities that were previously inaccessible to the public.”

The tours featured a visit to the Pond Cabin, which served as an office for Emilio Segrè’s Radioactivity Group studying plutonium; a battleship bunker used to protect equipment and staff during implosion design explosives testing, and the Slotin Building, site of Louis Slotin’s criticality accident. About 100 members of the public from around the nation were able to participate in the tours, which are the first of their kind at Los Alamos.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Los Alamos has a number of buildings located in secure areas where the public is not allowed access. NNSA, NPS, and LANL will continue to evaluate opportunities to host public tours of these historic facilities. In addition, there are opportunities in downtown Los Alamos where visitors can explore the community that was home to the thousands of people who came from all walks of life to work on the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is comprised of the three principal locations where work was completed as part of the Manhattan Project: Oak Ridge, Tenn., Hanford, Wash., and Los Alamos.

Formally established in November 2015 via a Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Energy and the National Park Service to preserve portions of three World War II sites where the United States developed the first atomic weapons, the park marks the history of the people, science, events, and controversy associated with the creation of the atomic bomb in the top-secret effort known as the Manhattan Project. Under the agreement, the NPS and DOE jointly manage and administer the park. For more information on the park, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/mapr/ index.htm

Slotin Building: Louis Slotin was a Canadian physicist who played a key role in the Manhattan Project. He was known for conducting criticality tests on plutonium and the assembly of the ‘Gadget’, the atomic bomb detonated during the Trinity test. Courtesy/NNSA
Slotin gadget: Louis Slotin was conducting an experiment titled ‘tickling the dragon’ in the building above when the plutonium core he was working with briefly went critical. Slotin died several days later as a result of radiation exposure. Criticality safety precautions improved dramatically as a result of the accident. Courtesy/NNSA