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Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oak Ridge is a city located in Anderson and Roane Counties in eastern Tennessee, about 25 miles west of Knoxville. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 27,387. Oak Ridge houses the headquarters of IPIX. Its nicknames are the Atomic City and the Secret City.



Before 1942 the area which now comprises Oak Ridge was rural, including several farm communities: Robertsville , Edgemoor , East Fork , Elza , Bethel , Scarboro , and Wheat . These communities were by far overshadowed by their neighbors: Clinton, in Anderson County and Kingston, in Roane County.

The area was chosen by the federal government as a site for developing materials for the Manhattan Project in 1942. Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, military head of the Manhattan Project, liked the area for several reasons. Its relatively low population made acquisition affordable, yet the area was accessible by highway, rail, and water. Because the area was partitioned by ridges and valleys, it provided some natural protection against disasters at the four industrial plants planned for producing materials for atomic bombs.

Beginning in late 1942 the United States Army Corps of Engineers began acquiring more than 60,000 acres (240 km²) for the Clinton Engineer Works under authority of the Corps' Manhattan Engineer District. The K-25, S-50 , and Y-12 plants were each built in Oak Ridge to separate Uranium-235 from Uranium-238. The X-10 laboratory was established as a pilot plant for production of plutonium. Because of the large number of workers recruited to the area for the Manhattan Project, the Army built a town for project workers. The time required for the project's completion caused the Army to opt for a relatively permanent establishment rather than a camp of enormous size. In addition to a city of more than 20,000 residents, temporary construction personnel swelled the wartime population of Oak Ridge to as much as 70,000.

The use of the atomic bombs against Japan demonstrated to the people working at Oak Ridge for the first time just what they were working on. Two years after World War II ended, Oak Ridge was shifted to civilian control, under the authority of the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1959 the town was incorporated, and a city manager and City Council form of government was adopted by the community rather than direct federal control. Three of the four major facilities created for the wartime bomb production are still standing today. K-25, where uranium was enriched by the gaseous diffusion process until 1985, is now being decomissioned and decontaminated. Y-12, originally used for electromagnetic separation of uranium, is still in use for nuclear weapons processing and materials storage. X-10, site of a test graphite reactor, is now the site of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge's scientific heritage is explored in the American Museum of Science and Energy .

The government projects at Oak Ridge have significantly reduced in size and scope; the reduction in workforce and diversification of shopping opportunities have caused Oak Ridge's landmark shopping mall to face demolition during 2005-2006. As of this writing in March, 2005, the Oak Ridge Mall remains open, although with very few merchants and no food court. The mall did benefit by the failure of a movie complex, Tinseltown, to get out of its contract to erect a 10-plex at the gates of the declining mall property. The new theater gave the mall an infusion of consumers, but not enough consumer activity for the mall to remain in tact. The Oak Ridge Mall is scheduled for partial demolition and redevelopment into a more open type of shopping development.

The Oak Ridge Mall is mentioned as one key example of struggles cities face as major economic forces change. Oak Ridge, a proud city with historic international implications, now is challenged to blend into the suburban orbit of Knoxville while its heritage as a "supersecret" government installation subsides. As Oak Ridge redefines its workforce and forges new economic directions, the city must also determine whether its 20th century science roots are sustainable opportunities or simply historic footnotes.


Oak Ridge is located at 35°59'18" North, 84°17'11" West (35.988230, -84.286312).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 232.9 km² (89.9 mi²). 221.6 km² (85.6 mi²) of it is land and 11.3 km² (4.4 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 4.86% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 27,387 people, 12,062 households, and 7,695 families residing in the city. The population density is 123.6/km² (320.1/mi²). There are 13,417 housing units at an average density of 60.6/km² (156.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 86.96% White, 8.18% African American, 0.30% Native American, 2.10% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.76% from other races, and 1.68% from two or more races. 1.93% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 12,062 households out of which 26.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.7% are married couples living together, 11.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% are non-families. 32.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 15.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.24 and the average family size is 2.83.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.4% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 23.6% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 21.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 43 years. For every 100 females there are 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $41,950, and the median income for a family is $57,087. Males have a median income of $45,149 versus $27,500 for females. The per capita income for the city is $24,793. 10.9% of the population and 8.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 17.5% of those under the age of 18 and 5.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

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