For everyone to see

What's the point in writing a history book that only your family members could read? Not much. Yet that's the degree of visibility that Savannah River Site's most recent historical markers will get.

The markers, citing the vital role the "P" and "R" reactors played in winning the Cold War, won't be visible to the general public, because they're located in a protected area where only SRS workers can go.

Where's the sense in that? Presumably the site's workers already know about the reactors' history. It's the public and tourists who would be interested in learning about the reactors, built in the early 1950s, that for decades produced plutonium and tritium, elements critical to making the nuclear weapons which ensured that the Cold War never turned hot.

In the past, markers were placed along the nearest state highway, even if the highway was some distance from the site itself. More recently, markers have been erected at the site, and at least they are where visitors can see them, not fenced off like the "P" and "R" markers.

"We take care to preserve our history for future generations," says Elizabeth Johnson of the South Carolina Historic Preservation Office, "because what's been done here is important." We agree, and it also should be important enough to place the markers where the public can see and appreciate them.

We also agree with the recent letter to the editor penned by former longtime SRS employee Paul L. Cook, calling attention to the heroic patriotism of the thousands of workers who built and maintained what was then known as the Savannah River Plant at a time when the nuclear industry was in its infancy.

As Cook points out, in the early days "there were no 'cookbook recipes' for performing those dangerous and delicate tasks." Indeed, those workers were pioneers who wrote the first chapters in the industry's still-developing recipes of safety protocols.

Surely, markers should be erected in their honor, too -- at a place where people can see them.

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