8: Diversity and Sharing
to Chapter 8
STATES OF THE LABORATORY
In 1951, while serving as
ORNL's research director, Alvin Weinberg offered the first "State of the
Laboratory" address. Since then, Laboratory directors have mused over
the Laboratory's accomplishments, direction, people, and future in an
annual talk that has become a tradition. Early addresses were classified,
subsequent addresses were attended by invitation only, and in 1966, the
public was invited for the first time.
If the directors were to collectively
ponder the activities and nature of the Laboratory, they might agree on
the maxim, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Consider, for example, the
Laboratory's history of concern for environmental management discussed
by directors Weinberg and Herman Postma. Commenting on Laboratory activities
in 1969, "the year of the environment," Weinberg wrote:
The nuclear energy laboratories
have, for obvious reasons, been concerned with the environment since
the beginning of the Manhattan Project. Handling large quantities of
radioactivity without endangering the biosphere and particularly without
endangering man was part of our task in 1943 when ORNL was started,
and it remains an important part of our job. Our concern with the environment
gradually broadened, and now some 10 percent of everything we do at
ORNL is related to the environment.
Postma, given the benefit
of hindsight, later reflected on these same environmental management activities.
In 1989 he said: [There is] growing concern about environmental abuses
that occurred over the years...We understand the problems (and) we now
know how to solve them. . . Our ability to understand, manage, and resolve
environmental problems has been demonstrated but it has required a tremendous
effort and has been costly.
On another score, Acting Director
Floyd Culler called 1973 the "time of transition" and spoke about the
following changes that had rippled through the Laboratory in the wake
of the energy crisis.
If I believed in destiny,
I would be tempted to think that ORNL was predestined to play its most
important roles in the next scenes of the great energy dilemma. Destiny
or not, we now have the challenge to participate in the most difficult
and complex research and development program ever to be proposed. I
think that we are ready for the task, but ready or not, we shall be
Change is not always easy,
however. When in 1972 the Laboratory was increasingly in the public eye,
We find ourselves increasingly
at those critical intersections of technology and society which underlie
some of our country's primary social concerns. During 1972 these involvements
have boiled over into a series of incidents that make many of us long
for the good old days when what we did at ORNL was separate plutonium,
measure cross sections, and develop instruments for detecting radiation.
Trivelpiece delivers a "State of the Laboratory" address.
Twenty years later, Alvin
Trivelpiece offered a similar observation in his 1992 address but with
an additional proviso: "You can't go back again."
Many of us look back
with certain fondness or nostalgia for the good old days of the AEC,
but I don't think there is any way we can work as we did back then.
The Laboratory staff has learned to operate in its present circumstances.
The AEC and the ERDA are gone, and the old ways of doing business are
not coming back.
The American public is
more concerned about the environment than ever before. Today, the public
does not trust DOE. Members of the public want independent verification
of the many facts we generate, and their demand for more audits and
oversight will continue. Such audits are intrusive, invasive, and a
fact of life. We are going to have to learn to work in this climate
and compete for scientific and technical programs at the same time.
It is not easy now, and it is not likely to get any easier.
Other ORNL History