Memorial Day takes on new meaning with a visit to the Savannah River Site
What do the Cold War and a Kentucky Derby competitor horse have in common? Nuclear power and the Mennonites? Opposites collide in a beautiful way in South Carolina’s Thoroughbred Country, situated along I-20, between Atlanta, Georgia, and Charleston – just east of Augusta, Georgia.
Besides an internationally known equestrian heritage in and around Aiken, the quiet Mennonite community in Barnwell and rich arts offerings throughout the area that draw people to this part of South Carolina, a piece of the nation’s Cold War history and its current progressive energy initiatives welcome visitors.
Visit Thoroughbred Country’s Savannah River site – a 198,344-acre key Department of Energy industrial complex, established in the 1950s as a nuclear reservation in the United States in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties, adjacent to the Savannah River, 25 miles southeast of Augusta. The plant was used to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239, in support of the nation’s defense programs. Five reactors were built to produce these materials.
Also built were a number of support facilities including two chemical separations plants, a heavy water extraction plant, a nuclear fuel and target fabrication facility, a tritium extraction facility and waste management facilities. Now a hydrogen production facility, the Site is a top employer in the area. Today the Savannah River Site (SRS) is responsible for stewardship of the environment, the enduring nuclear weapons stockpile and nuclear materials. More specifically, SRS processes and stores nuclear materials in support of the national defense and U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
The Site also develops and deploys technologies to improve the environment and treat nuclear and hazardous wastes left from the Cold War. Visit www.srs.gov/general/tour/public.htm to sign up for one of the limited, free, controlled driving tours, offered on a bus provided by the SRS, requiring advanced registration and credentials and open to the public each year. TIP: You must be 18 years or older to take the tour.
Coming soon, heritage tours will be offered, covering the towns that were relocated due to the building of the SRS, providing a visualization of the history of the area and delving into the lives of the people who were affected by the plant.
To get to Thoroughbred Country, from North Augusta, travel through the area’s charming small towns, including Williston, Blackville, Denmark and Bamberg (the same way you would go to Hilton Head and Charleston) by US 78 and US 278. Venture off the beaten path and take US 301, 321 or 1 as alternate routes – driving through new opportunities for cultural explorations in the counties of Thoroughbred Country located along these pathways. Or follow I-95 on the other side of Bamberg County and take a new route to the final destination.
Thoroughbred Country, TBredCountry.org, 803-508-7070.