Oak Ridge: X-10 Graphite Reactor Virtual Tour

A color photo of a large green and off-white reactor face with the words Graphite Reactor Loading Face at the top of the face.
Take a virtual tour of the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge.



Go behind the fence on a virtual tour of the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Located on the grounds of present-day Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), X-10 was the first full scale nuclear reactor. An evolution of CP-1, the world’s first nuclear reactor assembled at the University of Chicago in 1942, X-10 produced experimental quantities of plutonium. This plutonium was ultimately shipped to Los Alamos for research into developing a plutonium-fueled atomic bomb. In 1944, Hanford, Washington constructed massive plutonium-production facilities to produce enough plutonium to fuel Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

X-10 remained in operation until November 4, 1963, shutting down twenty years to the day from when it first reached criticality. X-10 was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. X-10 is located within the secure grounds of ORNL. In-person visitation is only authorized via guided tours.

Ways to Explore

  • Quick Tour: Launch the tour by selecting the play icon in the middle of the first image below. When the tour opens, select the play button at the bottom left of the screen. 

  • Object Tour: Launch the tour by selecting the play icon in the middle of the first image below. When the tour opens, click on the first hotspot (gray pencil symbol) to your right. A black box will open. Select "Dock" in the upper right corner. From there you can use the arrows to scroll through all objects one by one. 

  • On Your Own: Launch the tour by selecting the play icon in the middle of the first image below. When the tour opens, click on the white circles to choose your path. Click on hotspots (green camera or gray pencil icons) of your choice. 

  • Audio Described Video Walkthrough: Launch the audio tour by selecting the play icon in the middle of the second image for a captioned video of the quick tour.

Audio Described Video Walkthrough


Open Transcript 


In a warehouse-sized room, a maze of pipes and ducts runs overhead on the left.

Stepping forward, a gently curving wall on the right features a painted mural:

Beneath a moonlit sky, a vintage automobile stands beside a curb, its driver’s-side door hanging open. Young Louis Slotin [“SLOW-t(ə)n”] sprints toward a prefabricated cottage. A bleary-eyed man peers out, squinting in the glare of a porch light:

Early in the morning of November 4, 1943, the X-10 Graphite Reactor went critical—or “came online,” hours ahead of schedule. Louis Slotin raced across Oak Ridge to waken head scientists Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi [“FAIR-mee”], and Martin Whitaker.

A darkened hallway leads right. Wood-paneling-and-glass frame 17 lighted posters, most of which bear the heading, “History of the Graphite Reactor”. The posters contain text & sepia-toned photographs, and include the following titles:

• The Atomic Age Opens – (featuring a photograph of Albert Einstein) • The Bombs Drop, WWII Ends • Radioisotope Production

The last two panels are headed, “Neutron Sciences”, and a partially-visible heading: “Nobel Prize”.

In the main room, a wood-and-glass cabinet labeled “Isotopes Development Center” contains samples and data of various elements, according to the Periodic Table.

Opposite, bench seating looks toward the loading face of the X-10 Graphite Reactor. On a parallel platform approximately five feet off the floor, three mannequins in white replicate the motions of workers sliding a long, narrow uranium control rod into one of 1,248 horizontal channels piercing a two-story block of graphite.

Beyond the seating area, a display case houses a model of the X-10 Graphite Reactor. To the right, a metal stairway leads up two flights of steps to a Control Room perpendicular to the Reactor.

The Control Room features a desk, and dozens of wall-mounted, Honeywell analog gauges and monitors which continue along a narrow hallway; most of them rectangular, and measuring approximately two feet wide by eighteen inches high. An unmarked door on the left leads to another part of the building. A glass-paned window overlooks the floor below.

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2 minutes, 27 seconds

A guided, audio-described video of the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge, TN.


Exhibit Panel Text & Descriptions

Explore accessible exhibit panels within the X-10 Graphite Reactor as well as wayside exhibits located throughout Oak Ridge.

Last updated: February 15, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Manhattan Project National Historical Park
c/o NPS Intermountain Regional Office
P.O. Box 25287

Denver, CO 80225-0287


Hanford: 509.376.1647
Los Alamos: 505.661.6277
Oak Ridge: 865.482.1942

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