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Atoms in the Alley Festival celebrates Aiken’s nuclear history via Aiken Standard

Nuclear Science week wrapped up Saturday with the Atoms in The Alley festival in Downtown Aiken.

The festival kicked off with a ribbon cutting for the fallout shelter kiosk, introducing the public to the fallout shelter as well as the exhibit that will open in the Savannah River Site Museum and Heritage Foundation.

“The fallout shelter was built in 1960 by the federal government as a demonstration of what a fallout shelter should look like,” said Walt Joseph, Executive Director of the SRS Heritage Foundation. “It was a model for any number of fallout shelters around Aiken.”

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Albenesius also pointed out the historical significance of locations like the fallout shelter.

“It’s really an understanding of the Cold War and the whole idea of mutually assured destruction,” said Albenesius. “They were poised to obliterate not just each other but maybe the planet.”

According to Albenesius, Aiken would certainly be a different place without SRS and understanding the history behind where Aiken came from is important.

“Aiken is the community it is today in part because of its nuclear background,” said Joseph. “The Savannah River Site was the largest single event in Aiken’s history and has continued to exert a large influence. It’s also a future employer that will keep Aiken viable for strong for a long, long time.”

The Savannah River National Laboratory has produced a virtual tour of the fallout shelter which will be on display at the SRS museum. City officials, museum staff and children all took turns using the virtual reality headset to experience what it would be in the fallout shelter; they were even able to pick up objects and otherwise interact with the environment using two handheld sensors that acted as the user’s hands.

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“This is great for the community,” Laurence said about Atoms in The Alley. “It gets people out, informs them and lets them have a little fun at the same time. This is great for everyone.”

Students from local schools also visited the festival. Eleventh-graders Trinity Kirby and Corianna Durham, from Midland Valley High School, stopped by each vendor, writing a summary about what they saw and who they spoke with.

“I feel like it’s really important because we get to learn about all of the resources in the area and how to handle them,” said Kirby as the pair stood before a table featuring animals like a box turtle, a corn snake and an eastern king snake.

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