ORNL will require COVID-19 vaccinations

The main entrance at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo courtesy ORNL)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory will require all staff members to have a current COVID-19 vaccination by October 15, and new employees will be required to provide proof that they have been vaccinated.

UT-Battelle LLC, which manages the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, decided to require vaccinations after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, August 23.

The main entrance at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


  Oak Ridge National Laboratory will require all staff members to have a current COVID-19 vaccination by October 15, and new employees will be required to provide proof that they have been vaccinated.

UT-Battelle LLC, which manages the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, decided to require vaccinations after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, August 23.

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Summit at ORNL remains No. 2 in world

The Summit supercomputer, a 200-petaflop IBM system that is the world’s second most powerful, is pictured above at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo courtesy Katie Bethea/ORNL)

The Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory remains the fastest supercomputer in the United States and the second most powerful in the world.

Summit, an IBM system, was the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2018 to November 2019, when the U.S. Department of Energy had the two fastest systems in the world.

DOE still has two of the three fastest supercomputers, Summit at ORNL and Sierra at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. And it has three of the top five systems in the world. DOE has a new supercomputer, Perlmutter, ranked at number five. It’s at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, California. Perlmutter was the only new system in the top 10 in the semiannual TOP500 list released Monday.

Summit was bumped from the top spot on the TOP500 list by a Japanese supercomputer, Fugaku, in June 2020.

Fugaku, which is in Kobe, Japan, remained in the top spot on the TOP500 list released in November and again on the list released Monday. The TOP500 list uses a benchmark test to rank the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

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Demolition work at ORNL radioisotope lab could be complete this spring

A view of the demolition of a hot cell inside a protective cover at the former Radioisotope Development Lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo courtesy UCOR)

Demolition work at a former radioisotope laboratory in Oak Ridge could be complete this spring.

The U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and UCOR announced earlier this year that UCOR, a contractor, had begun removing the two remaining structures at the former Radioisotope Development Lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“This project launches our next phase of major demolition and cleanup at ORNL,” said Nathan Felosi, OREM’s portfolio federal project director for ORNL. “Our work is eliminating contaminated structures, like this one, that are on DOE’s list of high-risk facilities and clearing space for future research missions.”

Known as “hot cells,” the structures being demolished are heavily shielded concrete rooms that provided researchers protection from highly radioactive material during the years the laboratory was operational, a press release said.

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ORNL names operations deputy

Alan Icenhour has been named deputy for operations at ORNL. (Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy)

Alan Icenhour has been named deputy for operations at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He will succeed Jeff Smith, who is retiring this spring after serving in the role since UT-Battelle began operating the lab in 2000, a press release said.

Icenhour joined ORNL in 1990 as an engineer, and he served most recently as associate laboratory director for the Isotope Science and Engineering Directorate. He led the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate from 2014 until the isotopes directorate was formed in October 2020. Icenhour has held a variety of other leadership positions as well as an assignment as senior technical adviser to the National Nuclear Security Administration, the press release said.

“Alan is a disciplined, thoughtful leader with broad experience at ORNL and proven success in a variety of roles,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said in the press release said. “His ability to evaluate complex problems, find creative solutions, and build highly productive relationships will ensure the operational excellence necessary to support world-leading research and development.”

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Hear from ORNL scientists who worked on Perseverance mission

Video published on YouTube by Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Three scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory will discuss their work this afternoon on technologies for the Perseverance rover, which uses plutonium-238 produced at the lab and will touch down on Mars on Thursday.

Perseverance is scheduled to make its final descent into Jezero Crater on the surface of Mars on Thursday. It’s the first NASA mission that uses plutonium-238 produced at ORNL.

The plutonium-238 is encased in iridium-alloy cladding, and it is insulated by carbon-bonded carbon fiber. It’s used in the heat source module that fuels Perseverance’s multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator. As the plutonium decays, the heat that is released is converted into electricity, charging the rover’s batteries and powering the onboard advanced imaging and sensor systems. (Learn more about the Mars mission here.)

The online event today featuring the three ORNL scientists is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

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