ACA's Nuclear Vacation Recommendations

Inspired by the summer weather and Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger's new book Nuclear Family Vacation, the Arms Control Association staff recommends you spend part of your vacation communing with America's nuclear history. And don't forget to bring the latest issue of Arms Control Today along with you for the trip.

Hanford Site, Richland, WA:

The Department of Energy offers scheduled tours of the infamous Hanford Site in Southern Washington State. Hanford is home to the now-decommissioned B-Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium reactor in the world. The B-Reactor produced the plutonium for the "gadget" used in the Trinity test and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Hanford is designated the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is undergoing a long-term "environmental restoration." Visitors can view cleanup efforts, visit a waste burial ground, and take a walking tour of Reactor B. Click here for tour registration and a radiation-free virtual tour.

Trinity Test Site, Tularosa Basin, NM:

The Trinity Test Site, home of the world's first nuclear test on July 16, 1945, is open twice a year, free of charge, to visitors. The site is on the White Sands Missile Range, located between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, New Mexico. After ushering in the atomic age, Trinity was closed until 1952, when the Atomic Energy Commission bulldozed the site and removed remaining quantities of Trinite, the mildly radioactive glassy residue left over from the heat of the explosion.

Trinity's next open house is scheduled for October 4, 2008. Visitors can walk to ground zero, view a gallery of "historical photos" and a ground zero monument, and examine the Fatman original casing and a preserved portion of the original crater. White Sands management assures visitors that radiation is only 10 times greater than usual (about one twelfth of the radiation received from an X-ray). Trinity's website features directions to the site, a map and a section devoted to dispelling myths about the adverse effects of visiting the site.

National Atomic Museum, Albuquerque, NM:

On your way back from the Trinity Test Site, take a pit stop in Albuquerque to visit the National Atomic Museum, which lauds itself as "the nation's only Congressionally-charted museum on nuclear science and history." The Smithsonian-affiliated museum features an array of exhibits on famous nuclear scientists, the Manhattan Project, nuclear medicine and educational resources for kids. Equally entertaining are the museum's use of nuclear-related puns, including "What's Hot, What's Not - Radiation in the World Around You," and "Up 'n' Atom" educational outreach for kids. Visit website for details.

Nevada Test Site, Mercury, NV:

A trip out West wouldn't be complete without a jaunt to the site that witnessed the greatest number of nuclear bomb explosions. Sixty-five miles from Las Vegas, the Nevada Test Site was home to 1,021 nuclear explosions between 1951 and 1992. The area, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island, is still the site of sub-critical testing. Guided tours occur several times a year, and the next one if August 26th. Before you hop on that tour bus to Mercury, be sure to check out Las Vegas' Atomic Testing Museum, which offers a "multi-sensory" experience of atomic testing in the "Ground Zero Theater." Pictured is the "Ice Cap" test in October 1993, which was cancelled as a result of the "1992 Nuclear Test Moratorium Act" approved by Congress in response to an existing Soviet/Russian nuclear test moratorium.

The Enola Gay, Chantilly, VA:

No tour of American nuclear history would be complete without a visit the iconic B-29 plane that dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Named after pilot Paul Tibbits' mother, Enola Gay Tibbitts, the aircraft was given to the Smithsonian Institution in 1946. In 1994, the Smithsonian featured a controversial exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. The exhibit was cancelled in 1995 in response to an outpouring of criticism over the Smithsonian's decision (under pressure from lawmakers) to edit out material highlighting the devastating impact of the bombing. Despite its charged history, the restored aircraft is still displayed at the National Space and Air Museum's Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, D.C. The center is open daily, with free admission. Details here.

Bikini Atoll Artwork, Washington, D.C.:

The Naval Historical Center, which houses 15,000 military-related pieces of artwork, has an exhibit entitled, "Operation Crossroads: Bikini Atoll," featuring artwork inspired by the series of initial nuclear tests after World War II in the Marshall Islands. The two detonations - one atmospheric and one underwater - were conducted in July 1946. Located in Washington, D.C., the Center's website includes visiting information and an online gallery of Bikini Atoll artwork.

Emergency Relocation Center, White Sulphur Springs, WV:

Underneath West Virginia's luxurious hotel, The Greenbriar, is the once-secret Emergency Relocation Center, built by the government in the 1950s as an emergency bunker for Congress in the event of a nuclear war. The facility, designed to house over 1,000 occupants, has 18 dormitory units, a cafeteria, hospital, meeting rooms and television broadcast center with a faux-Washington, D.C. backdrop. The bunker is preserved to appear as it would at the height of the Cold War. Decommissioned in 1993, the facility is open for guided tours several times a day. Since ticket prices are a steep $30, some may prefer to take PBS' virtual tour of the bunker. (While waiting on the real or virtual line, we recommend another viewing of the ultimate nuclear Armageddon thriller, Dr. Stanglove.)

Hiroshima Memorial, New York, NY:

A tall statue of the Japanese Buddhist monk Shinran Shonin stands on Riverside Drive between 105th and 106th Streets as a memorial to the Hiroshima bombing. Taken from the debris of Hiroshima, the figure was brought to New York City in 1955. Every year on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, people gather in front of the statue for a peace memorial. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the New York Buddhist Church, the statue and its accompanying plaque can be visited free of charge, at any time.

Visited any of these attractions? Know of other nuclear-related sites? Add a comment below.

1 comment:

Jon Wolfsthal said...

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