Today is Oak Ridge’s 72nd birthday

Y-12 Calutron Operators

Women enriching uranium in calutrons at Y-12 as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II. (Photo by Ed Westcott)


It’s Oak Ridge’s birthday today, September 19.

Oak Ridge was picked for the top-secret Manhattan Project on September 19, 1942. That was the day 72 years ago when General Leslie Groves approved the acquisition of 59,000 acres of land along the Clinch River for what soon became the Manhattan Project, a federal effort to build the world’s first atomic bombs.

By the time President Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Project on December 28, 1942, work on the East Tennessee site where the first production facilities were to be built was already under way.

Oak Ridge became the home of two uranium enrichment plants (K-25 and Y-12), a liquid thermal diffusion plant (S-50), and a pilot plutonium production reactor (X-10 Graphite Reactor). Groves approved Oak Ridge as the site for the pilot plutonium plant and the uranium enrichment plant in 1942. Manhattan Project engineers had to quickly build a town to accommodate 30,000 workers—as well as build the enormously complex plants. [Read more...]


UT engineering students help ORNL, Local Motors print drivable 3D car

3D Car

John Rogers, co-founder and CEO of Local Motors, left, and Douglas Woods, president of the Association for Manufacturing Technology, drive away from the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago over the weekend in a car printed with the help of UT students. (Photo courtesy UT)


KNOXVILLE—The only “car” that most people associate with printers is a “car-tridge” of ink, but that may soon change thanks in part to several students at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Local Motors, Cincinnati Incorporated, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities teamed up to print a working, drivable car over the weekend at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

The Strati 3D, officially produced by Local Motors, which has an office on Market Square in Knoxville, highlighted the show and placed what sounds like a product of science fiction firmly in the realm of reality.

“This brand-new process disrupts the manufacturing status quo,” said John B. Rogers Jr., chief executive officer of Local Motors. “It changes the consumer experience and proves that a car can be born in an entirely different way.” [Read more...]

Photos: Remembering fallen heroes of Sept. 11, 2001

Sept. 11, 2014 Ceremony with Firefighter at Y-12

Y-12 photo courtesy Consolidated Nuclear Security


Area firefighters, police officers, Oak Ridge school students and staff, and others came together on Thursday to remember and honor the fallen heroes of September 11, 2001. There were ceremonies at the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge High School.

The firefighters were at Y-12 this week for their annual Fire Officer Conference, held in conjunction with Safety Fest.

The ceremony at Oak Ridge High School included students and staff, and the Oak Ridge police and fire departments. [Read more...]

Medal of Honor recipients honored at Y-12

Medal of Honor Recipients at Y-12 National Security Complex

Medal of Honor recipients Herschel “Woody” Williams (USMC, WWII, Iwo Jima); Ron Rosser (US Army, Ponggilli, Korea); and Wesley Fox (USMC, Quang Tri, Vietnam) were welcomed by CNS President Jim Haynes (far left) and NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart (far right) at the Medal of Honor Town Hall Forum held at Y-12’s New Hope Center on Friday. (Photo courtesy CNS)


Three Medal of Honor recipients were honored at the Y-12 National Security Complex during a Town Hall Forum on Friday, part of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s annual convention held in Knoxville last week.

The Medal of Honor recipients honored at Y-12 were Herschel “Woody” Williams (U.S. Marine Corps, Iwo Jima, World War II), Ron Rosser (U.S. Army, Ponggilli, Korea) and Wesley Fox (USMC, Quang Tri, Vietnam). They were welcomed at Y-12’s New Hope Center by CNS President Jim Haynes and Steve Erhart, manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office.

The three recipients discussed their experiences and answered questions from the public. Williams and Rosser also toured the Y-12 National Security complex with Haynes and Y-12 Historian Ray Smith. The group visited 9731, Y-12’s pilot plant during the Manhattan Project, and the south ridge of the site.

Many of the honorees also visited area schools, where Tennessee leads the nation in adopting the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s Character Development Program. To learn more about the program, go to

See also this story from the Medal of Honor Town Hall at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

DOE program funds alloy research led by UT; ORNL collaborates

Haixuan Xu

Haixuan Xu

KNOXVILLE—An international research team led by an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville has received a grant to help with work involving a key component of nuclear reactors.

The U.S. Department of Energy grant is worth $800,000 over three years, and it has been awarded to UT Assistant Professor Haixuan Xu. It’s part of the Nuclear Energy University Programs funding and will be used to work on a pair of particular steel alloys, a press release said.

“Getting support on this will allow us to investigate and understand the defect evolution in these materials,” said Xu, of the UT Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “What we hope to gain is fundamental insight into the effects of radiation on the alloys so that we can better predict and detect how they will break down over time and adjust the materials accordingly.”

The alloys in question would be used in sodium-cooled reactors. Xu’s research is important because little is known about how the materials stand up to high levels of radiation over time. [Read more...]

High Flux Isotope Reactor at ORNL named Nuclear Historic Landmark

High Flux Isotope Reactor at ORNL

The High Flux Isotope Reactor vessel at Oak Ridge National Laboratory resides in a pool of water illuminated by the blue glow of the Cherenkov radiation effect. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


The High Flux Isotope Reactor, or HFIR, now in its 48th year of providing neutrons for research and isotope production at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been designated a Nuclear Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society.

“This designation from the ANS recognizes HFIR’s role in the history of the nuclear age, but it also speaks to the excellence of its design and operation,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said. “HFIR remains one of the world’s most capable reactor-based neutron science, radioisotope production, and materials irradiation facilities, and we expect that to continue for many years.”

The designation was proposed by the ANS honors and awards committee and approved on initial ballot by the board of directors.

“The ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark signifies that a nuclear facility has played an important role in nuclear science and engineering,” ANS President Michaele C. Brady Raap said. “HFIR, with its preeminent role in isotope production and neutron science, certainly meets that criteria.”

The reactor was conceived in the late 1950s as a production reactor to meet anticipated demand for transuranic isotopes (“heavy” elements such as plutonium and curium). HFIR today is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility and one of the world’s sole sources of the radioisotope californium-252, used in industry and medicine. ORNL is a DOE lab. [Read more...]

UT-Battelle donates $100K to Emory Valley Center for capital campaign

UT-Battelle Check to Emory Valley Center

Jennifer Enderson, Emory Valley Center president, accepts a check for the organization’s Capital Campaign from Alan Icenhour, UT-Battelle’s associate lab director for nuclear science and engineering and EVC board member. Also pictured (from left) are Dottie Thompson, Capital Campaign co-chair; John Eschenberg, Emory Valley Center board president; Gene Caldwell, Capital Campaign co-chair, and several Emory Valley Center clients. (Submitted photo)


UT-Battelle recently presented a check to Emory Valley Center in support of their ongoing Capital Campaign for a new facility. The new building will incorporate many features to enhance the lives of people with disabilities being served, including a job training center; life enrichment classrooms; adult day center; medical clinic; speech, physical, and occupational services; gym and more. UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The check was a $100,000 contribution toward UT-Battelle’s pledge of $250,000, the Emory Valley Center said.

Donations from individuals and companies, as well as grant awards, have helped fundraisers reach 75 percent of the total Capital Campaign goal, a press release said. Emory Valley Center is continuing to accept donations for the Capital Campaign from individual and business supporters throughout the community. If you would like to donate, contact EVC Development Director Janet Wood via email at [email protected] or call (865) 813-0576. [Read more...]

Assessment team to visit DOE disposal facility, meet with community

Three members of the consulting team selected to conduct a community impact assessment of the U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed Environmental Management Disposal Facility will visit Oak Ridge on Monday and Tuesday, September 8 and 9. The purpose of the visit is to tour the existing disposal facility and the site of the proposed EMDF, to gather information, and to meet with local stakeholders, a press release said.

The team members are Karl Kalbacher, project manager and director of environment, economics and grant services for The Ferguson Group in Washington, D.C.; Mark Rockel, principal consultant for ENVIRON International Corporation; and Jason Miller, principal of ENVIRON International Corporation.

The team will be available to meet community stakeholders on both days: [Read more...]

Safety Fest TN: ORAU, CNS experts to discuss effective safety communications

Free seminar draws upon lessons learned at Uranium Processing Facility Project

Health and safety experts from Oak Ridge Associated Universities and a communications specialist from Consolidated Nuclear Security, the new contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex, will discuss effective safety communications during Safety Fest TN in Oak Ridge this week.

The ORAU experts are David Duncan and Jeffrey Miller, and the CNS communications specialist is Kathryn King.

Their seminar, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 9, informs organizations on how to improve the effectiveness of safety communications by first examining how communication breakdowns contributed to well-known safety catastrophes, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, an ORAU press release said. They will also present detailed instructions on how to develop an effective safety communications plan, methods for implementing and monitoring the plan, and techniques for measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of safety communications.

“Successful case studies will be presented including experiences from the Y-12 National Security Complex’s Uranium Processing Facility Project, where the effectiveness of safety communications has dramatically improved over a three-year period after implementing these methods,” the press release said. [Read more...]

Gehl named manager of ORAU-managed beryllium lab

Ann Gehl

Ann Gehl

Oak Ridge Associated Universities has announced that Ann Gehl, who has nearly 30 years of medical technology and laboratory experience, has become the manager of the Beryllium Lymphocyte Proliferation Laboratory. ORAU manages the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Gehl is replacing Linda Nichols, who has decided to step down from her role as lab manager after 12 years but will continue working in the lab as senior technologist and quality control specialist. Gehl joined ORAU in January 2014 and has been working with Nichols since then to transition work responsibilities.

“We are pleased to bring someone with the Ann’s caliber of experience to lead our staff and continue building upon our outstanding reputation as a high-quality DOE laboratory,” said Donna Cragle, vice president at ORAU. “At the same time, we also wish to thank Linda for her exceptional leadership over these many years and are excited that she will continue as a valued member of our lab team.”

Prior to joining ORAU, Gehl worked at the University of Tennessee Medical Center for more than 20 years, first as a medical technologist in the Transplant Laboratory and then as senior flow cytometry technologist in the Immunology Laboratory. In that role, she maintained and developed procedures used in processing blood samples to help identify biomarkers for lymphoma and leukemia. She also served as an instructor, teaching flow cytometry to students in UT’s Clinical Laboratory Scientist program. [Read more...]

ORNL welcomes first Liane Russell fellows

Liane Russell Reception at ORNL

Lab Director Thom Mason and award-winning scientist Liane Russell welcomed Celia Shiau, Huiyuan Zhu, and Huina Mao at a Thursday reception. Shiau, Mao, and Zhu are the first early-career researchers coming to Oak Ridge National Laboratory under a fellowship named for Russell. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


Renowned mammalian geneticist Liane Russell returned Thursday to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to congratulate the first recipients of a new fellowship named in her honor.

ORNL created the Liane Russell Distinguished Early Career Fellowship to attract a diverse and promising work force of early career scientists and engineers whose interests align with DOE missions.

“It is gratifying to see these opportunities being made available to a diverse group of talented young people because, sadly, in the scientific fields this has not always been the case,” Russell said. “For this reason I am particularly honored to have my name attached to the fellowships.”

The competitive, three-year fellowship is aimed toward establishing long-term research careers at ORNL. It is available to outstanding scientists and engineers who have received their doctorate degrees within the past seven years, with emphasis given to attracting women and minority candidates.

The first three Russell fellows, recognized at Thursday’s reception, are: [Read more...]

Guest column: Explosive interest in ‘Manhattan’

Cynthia C. Kelly

Cynthia C. Kelly

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The WGN America television show “Manhattan” has galvanized the interest of millions of viewers. Shown on Sunday nights, national audiences are riveted by the dramatic tension between rival groups of scientists and the omnipresent security police in Los Alamos in 1943. “Manhattan” follows the scientists as they confront the challenges of making a workable atomic bomb while dealing with an intrusive military force, intense rivalries, and strained marital relations where couples can no longer confide in each other.

The show is a blend of fact and fiction. The primary characters are entirely fictional including the main scientist, Frank Winter; Chinese-American physicist, Sidney Liao; and wunderkind Charlie Isaacs and his most attractive wife, Abby. But “Manhattan” has preserved at least two real persona, J. Robert Oppenheimer as the director of Los Alamos, and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr who visits the laboratory to offer his advice.

The central tension is the race to develop two different approaches to a plutonium-based bomb. Winter believes an implosion bomb offers the best option but most of the scientists—including Oppenheimer—are more confident in a gun-type plutonium bomb similar to the design used for the uranium-based bomb. While the enmity between the two groups is exaggerated for television, “Manhattan” does a good job showing the challenges the scientists and engineers faced knowing little about the newly discovered and quite bizarre element plutonium.

In a 1965 interview with journalist Stephane Groueff, J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled: “I think the set of problems connected with implosion was the most difficult, and it required very new experimental techniques. It was not a branch of physics anyone was very familiar with. It was, from a theoretical, an observational, and a practical point of view, quite an adventure. Plutonium was a terrible test from beginning to end and never stayed quiet: it gets hot, it is radioactive, you cannot touch it, you have to coat it, and the coating always peels. It is just a terrible substance.” [Read more...]