Oak Ridge at the Post Cold War Crossroads: A Study of Past and Future Industry in the Oak Ridge Community
In 1991 when the Cold War ended, most people in the United States presumed the reason for high-stakes mutual deterrence would no longer be necessary. The defense would be trimmed down to present modest deterrence. Military base closings were the first sign of a shrinking defense, now weapons design and production facilities are under inspection to determine what is necessary and what is no longer justified. The Department of Energy is responsible for trimming these facilities to offer the best capabilities in a smaller package. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is a Department of Energy town, that is the biggest industry is DOE. As such, Oak Ridge is under inspection to determine what will stay and what will go. For my Senior Project, I decided to look at how the Oak Ridge community, constructed by the Manhattan Project as a defense production town in 1942, would survive budget cuts. I wondered what industry or industries, if any, might replace the undoubtedly-shrinking, federal industry. To find the answer to Oak Ridge's post Cold War future, I interviewed many people, even Russians; took tours of DOE and other facilities; went to public and private meetings; read the local newspaper, the Oak Ridger; and collected other information, such as pamphlets and reports published jointly by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc.(LMES), a guide to Oak Ridge facilities managed by LMES for DOE, and Chamber of Commerce magazines. At the post Cold War crossroads, the future of Oak Ridge balances delicately on the line of a hopeful future, which at any moment can change. Thus far, Department of Energy budget cuts have not been severe for the Oak Ridge Operations, trimming has been accomplished through early retirement and attrition. The city will still be very dependent on the Department of Energy until there is sufficient space for new industry and housing. Whether the city will be able find space outside of DOE property, or will be able to lease the property, through the Community Reuse Organization, and offer industry sufficient enticement to open doors, will not be known for certain for a few more years. Efforts to spin off technology to the private sector have not yet proven to be sure as economically feasible. Cleaning up Oak Ridge's past waste practices is challenging and not guaranteed, as cleanup appropriations in the Department of Energy are a zero-sum game. While most of the hundred plus environmental companies in the Oak Ridge area do assessment and characterization, a few Oak Ridge companies are in position to clean and recycle DOE property and facilities here, and possibly become the future industry in the city and region.
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