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Chapter 9: Global Outreach

As the Laboratory approached its 50th anniversary, science—always an international enterprise— assumed even broader global dimensions. Just as national boundaries were drifting away for the business world, the interests of basic and applied scientists transcended national concerns. Events at the Laboratory during the 1980s and early 1990s reflected this global transition.

The Laboratory's energy-efficiency expertise generated an international demand for its assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development called on the Laboratory to help Third World countries. These countries have growing appetites for fuels but face shortages of reliable and affordable energy services. To keep energy prices down and to minimize carbon dioxide emissions, as called for by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development—the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro—these countries must find ways to supply and use energy more efficiently. Laboratory researchers are providing them with technical assistance and energy planning guidance. 

In its quest for abundant fusion energy, the Laboratory intensified its scientific cooperation with laboratories in other nations. Its environmental research, which focused originally on nuclear power plant effects, expanded to encompass worldwide environmental threats. Its life sciences divisions united with an international program to map and sequence the human genome. Technology transfer, the Laboratory's keynote of the 1990s, aimed to improve the economic well-being of the United States by increasing its competitiveness in world markets. In short, starting as a national scientific laboratory in 1943, the Laboratory had evolved by 1993 into a global science center. 

The cooperation of the University of Tennessee with the Laboratory was emphasized during President George Bush's 1990 visit to Knoxville.
The cooperation of the University of Tennessee with the Laboratory was emphasized during President George Bush's 1990 visit to Knoxville. From left, David Joy, John Quinn, Bush, and Lee Riedinger.

As its global missions proliferated, the Laboratory's top management underwent transition, paralleled by changes at the national level. George Bush, who became president in 1989, had spent most of his career as a federal employee. Unlike Reagan (and even Carter), opposition to the federal government was neither the rallying cry of his campaign nor the centerpiece of his administration. Bush proposed to use government agencies, including DOE laboratories, to advance his goals. 

Specifically, Bush augmented the duties of his science advisor; to advance that goal, the president appointed D. Allen Bromley, who became the assistant to the president for Science and Technology and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Having ready access to the president enabled Bromley to rejuvenate many existing committees that had ceased to function effectively—notably the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology and the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology. 

A new approach to science research and development, called the "Presidential Initiative," also was launched. When such initiatives were announced in global climate modeling, high-performance computing, advanced materials and processing, mathematics and science education, manufacturing technology, and biotechnology, the Laboratory responded with proposals and programs.

Secretary of Energy James Watkins, right, visits the High Flux Isotope Reactor's control room.
Secretary of Energy James Watkins, right, visits the High Flux Isotope Reactor's control room.

To lead DOE, Bush selected Admiral James Watkins, a veteran of Rickover's nuclear navy. Watkins had attended the Oak Ridge reactor school during the 1950s and later recalled that "it was the bright minds of the academics at Oak Ridge, not the blue suit people, who inspired me to go forward in the Navy." From nuclear submarine and ship commander, he rose to chief of operations before retiring from the Navy to become secretary of Energy. 

This national transition was accompanied by changes in Laboratory management. After 14 years at the helm, Herman Postma transferred to the executive ranks of Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc., in early 1988. While Associate Director Murray Rosenthal chaired a committee to recommend Postma's successor, Alex Zucker served as acting Laboratory director throughout 1988, and Bill Appleton served as acting associate director for Physical Sciences. A nuclear physicist, Zucker had come from Yale University to the Laboratory in 1950 to launch its cyclotron program. A naturalized citizen born in what is now Croatia, he offered an international perspective that inspired closer association with the global scientific community. (See related article, Alex Zucker: From Cyclotrons to Central Administration.)

Although not troubled by severe budgetary constraints like those of the early 1980s, Zucker inherited several "crises" demanding Laboratory attention. The least troublesome crisis focused on fears that international terrorism might extend into the United States, even to Oak Ridge. Charles Kuykendall, Laboratory Protection Division director since 1979, marshaled his division's resources to protect the Laboratory against potential terrorist assaults, adding an emergency preparedness department and opening a center for high-technology security. Although ORNL has never been even remotely threatened by international terrorism, the new safeguards proved useful, especially when the 1991 Persian Gulf War heightened concerns about terrorism and again when President Bush visited the Laboratory in 1992. 

A second and longer-lived crisis of the late 1980s and 1990s involved environmental, safety, and health issues at DOE facilities. Under new, more stringent laws and regulations, federal and state environmental officials monitored both remedial and preventive measures designed to protect human health and the environment on the Oak Ridge Reservation and in the surrounding communities and counties. At the Laboratory, scores of air- and groundwater-monitoring devices were installed, and dozens of environmental safety and health physics specialists were hired to ensure that ORNL complied with the stricter standards. As part of this initiative, the Laboratory also investigated and tested new methods of treating and managing waste. 

Estimates indicated that environmental restoration costs at the Laboratory could reach $1.5 billion and that the costs of restoration over 30 years at all DOE installations could exceed $300 billion. The Laboratory's long-standing leadership in environmental restoration technology, it was hoped, could partially offset these staggering costs and provide the Laboratory with new areas of research. Officials even suggested that Oak Ridge might become an international center of excellence in waste management. 

Jack Richard (left) briefs Joe La Grone, Senator James Sasser, and Director Alvin Trivelpiece on the High Flux Isotope Reactor.
Jack Richard (left) briefs Joe La Grone, Senator James Sasser, and Director Alvin Trivelpiece on the High Flux Isotope Reactor.

A third crisis afflicting the Laboratory in 1988 involved ensuring the safety of its nuclear reactors. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in the Soviet Union, DOE closed the Laboratory's five reactors in 1987 for comprehensive safety reviews. The Oak Ridge Research Reactor had been scheduled for decommissioning, and Laboratory officials thought it imperative that the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) and Tower Shielding Facility (TSF) be reactivated quickly to alleviate radioisotope shortages and permit resumption of scientific experiments. Officials also identified important Laboratory research programs that depended on the Health Physics Research Reactor and Bulk Shielding Reactor, but the costs of the prescribed environmental, safety, and health improvements precluded their future operation. 

Pressed by DOE, Zucker initiated a campaign to improve quality assurance. The Laboratory's Quality Department (formerly Inspection Engineering) increased its work force to 28 people. This staff helped clear the way for the restart of the HFIR and TSF reactors, prepared quality assurance documentation in accordance with new standards, and corrected deficiencies identified by internal and external quality assurance audits by DOE, Energy Systems, and other sponsors. 

During Zucker's year at the helm, the Laboratory continued to boost its position as an international leader in materials research by integrating applied materials research, lodged chiefly in the Metals and Ceramics Division, with basic research, found mostly in the Solid State and Chemistry divisions. (See related article, Ceramics and Energy: It's a Materials World.)

In the process, the Laboratory hoped to achieve a broader understanding of surface phenomena and physical properties. Such knowledge, in turn, could be applied in many ways—from improving the efficiency of electricity transmission to enhancing the speed and safety of ground transportation. 

In addition to coping with the challenges facing the Laboratory in 1988, ORNL management concentrated on reassuring the staff that advancing science and technology would remain the Laboratory's principal goal. Concern existed among scientists that the Laboratory's preoccupation with the environment, health, and safety, coupled with the prime consideration given to compliance in setting contractor-operator award fees, would render Laboratory research more conservative and less rewarding. To alleviate this concern, the Laboratory initiated planning and program development efforts for science and technology that emphasized the Laboratory's user facilities and opportunities in technology transfer. 

By the time Alvin Trivelpiece became the new Laboratory director in early 1989, the Laboratory had improved its emergency response system, promoted innovative waste management technologies, and stood ready to resume reactor operations. There would be no quick fix, however, to the waste management and reactor operations crises, both of which would help define the Laboratory's agenda in the 1990s. (See related article, Director Alvin Trivelpiece.)


In his first address as director in 1989, Trivelpiece outlined the themes of his administration." As a national laboratory, we need to be able to respond both to inflicted change and to the changes we may cause to occur," he declared. "We need to be a competitor; we need to be serious about competing and to be taken seriously as a competitor in the world's research and development efforts." 

Preparing to meet these challenges, Trivelpiece reorganized Laboratory management. Zucker was appointed associate director for Nuclear Technologies, a post he held until moving to the Energy Systems executive staff in 1992. (Jim Stiegler replaced him, and his directorate was renamed Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies.) Murray Rosenthal was named deputy director and found himself drawn heavily into urgent efforts to upgrade the Laboratory's health, safety, and environmental activities. Bill Fulkerson succeeded Rosenthal as associate director for Advanced Energy Systems, later renamed Energy and Environmental Technologies. Chester Richmond continued as associate director for Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, and Bill Appleton was designated associate director for Physical Sciences and Advanced Materials. 

As part of the reorganization, Trivelpiece supported several program initiatives and organizational changes to nurture new Laboratory missions and directions. He breathed new life into the Advanced Neutron Source project, which the Laboratory hoped would lead to construction of its first new research reactor in more than 25 years. He divided project responsibilities into reactor operations and scientific research, corresponding to the two major challenges Laboratory staff faced in justifying federal expenditures: how reliable the reactor would be and what kind of research it would support. With Colin West as project director and John Hayter as scientific director, the Advanced Neutron Source became a top Laboratory priority. 

A strong proponent of the Superconducting Super Collider, Trivelpiece also encouraged vigorous Laboratory participation in that project's design and development, largely through creation of an Oak Ridge Detector Center. Acknowledging worldwide scientific concern for the potential impact of global warming, Trivelpiece also encouraged creation of a Center for Global Studies. 

The new director also strengthened the Office of Planning and Management under Truman Anderson. To meet the needs of the increasing number of outside guest scientists and users and to coordinate the cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) involving ORNL and industrial groups, an Office of Guest and User Interactions was established. 

In 1991, the Laboratory opened a new Computer Science Reserach Facility to support expanding and interactive mathematical computing, modeling, and analysis.
In 1991, the Laboratory opened a new Computer Science Reserach Facility to support expanding and interactive mathematical computing, modeling, and analysis.

Another Trivelpiece initiative enhanced scientific computing at the Laboratory. He established an Office of Laboratory Computing under Carl Edward Oliver to coordinate Laboratory interactions with central computing and to stimulate improvements in scientific computing. Citing the expertise developed in parallel computing in the Engineering Physics and Mathematics Division under Fred Maienshein and Robert Ward, DOE designated the Laboratory as a High-Performance Computing Research Center--one of only two laboratories granted this responsibility.

The Laboratory was selected partly because of the wide recognition its researchers have earned for their achievements in computational science, especially in parallel computing. For example, Malcolm Stocks and Al Geist received the 1990 Gordon Bell Prize and a Cray Gigaflop Award for a materials properties code, and Geist was co-winner of the IBM Superconducting Competition First Prize for Parallel Virtual Machine software, which enables computers nationwide to be linked together to solve complex problems.

Malcolm Stocks and Al Geist examine a physical model of the electronic structure of a superconductor that they had computed on a new Intel parallel processor at the Laboratory.
Malcolm Stocks and Al Geist examine a physical model of the electronic structure of a superconductor that they had computed on a new Intel parallel processor at the Laboratory.

To promote the use of high-performance computing, a new Center for Computational Sciences was established at ORNL. In partnership with universities and other laboratories, these supercomputers, it was hoped, would help Oak Ridge confront key scientific challenges of the late 20th century—the unknown frontiers in global climate research, human genome sequencing, high-energy heavy-ion physics, materials sciences, and environmental issues such as the transport of groundwater contaminants.

In 1989 Secretary Watkins solicited views and started a consensus-building process to develop a new national energy strategy. ORNL researchers led by Bill Fulkerson and Roger Carlsmith helped formulate this plan by contributing ideas on improving energy efficiency, tapping renewable energy, understanding global climate change, developing energy technologies for Third World countries, and transferring technology. The final report, produced after many public hearings, was the basis for legislation that was debated in Congress and passed as the Energy Policy Act of 1992. 

Chester Richmond, former associate director for Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, and now director of Science Education and External Relations.
Chester Richmond, former associate director for Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, and now director of Science Education and External Relations.

Trivelpiece also enlisted the Laboratory in a campaign spearheaded by Secretary Watkins and President Bush to foster science and mathematics education. In February 1990, he appointed Chester Richmond director of the Laboratory's science and math education programs, an announcement that coincided with President Bush's visit to Knoxville to boost public support for science education. 

Under this initiative, the Laboratory expanded its educational programs designed to foster elementary and secondary science education, largely through hosting student workshops and teacher training seminars. In an effort to attract new students into the world of science, the science education program further strengthened Laboratory cooperation with minority educational institutions. More than 16,000 precollege students visited the Laboratory in 1991, many participating in weekend academies for computing and mathematics. 

When Richmond moved to science and mathematics education programs in 1990, David Reichle succeeded him as associate director for Biomedical and Environmental Research, later expanded to include the Energy Division and renamed Environmental, Life, and Social Sciences. By 1992, this directorate had experienced significant growth and led Laboratory advances into research on global environmental change, economic competitiveness, and human health. 


Restarting its reactors was at the forefront of the Laboratory's agenda. After extensive review and improvements of the HFIR's safety and management, DOE's Oak Ridge Operations manager, Joe La Grone, recommended reactivating the reactor in late 1988. And, in March 1989, Admiral Watkins surprised a Senate committee by announcing that HFIR operations would resume at Oak Ridge. 

The long process of restarting the reactor was managed by Robert Montross, Jack Richard, Pete Lotts, and Hal Glovier. As a result, the HFIR was brought back on line in April 1990 at 85% of its original power. The Laboratory also restarted its Tower Shielding Facility reactor in December 1989, allowing shielding studies for breeder reactors funded by DOE and Japan to proceed. This reactor had been used for many years for shielding experiments developed, designed, and analyzed by Dan Ingersoll and others. The Laboratory mothballed its Bulk Shielding Reactor, Health Physics Research Reactor, and Oak Ridge Research Reactor, however, and initiated steps to decommission them, although Jack Richard and the Laboratory believed the Health Physics Research Reactor deserved retention as a national asset. 


Mike Wilkinson, a pioneer in neutron scattering investigations, directed solid-state physics research at the Laboratory during the 1970s and 1980s.
Mike Wilkinson, a pioneer in neutron scattering investigations, directed solid-state physics research at the Laboratory during the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1989, the National Research Council published a comprehensive study titled Materials Science and Engineering: The Age of Materials. It provided a detailed assessment of the critical roles materials science and engineering would play in the future economic competitiveness and prosperity of the United States. ORNL staff played a major role in this study, and the systematic development of multidisciplinary materials science programs at ORNL served as a case study of why materials were technologically and economically important, and why the 1990s seemed destined to become the "age of materials." 

Materials science, which had begun in earnest during the Laboratory's nuclear airplane project in the 1950s, had slowly evolved from a program defined by disparate agendas into a cohesive and comprehensive research initiative. The Solid State Division, launched in 1950 under Douglas Billington, initially examined radiation effects on materials, but expanded over the decades to explore the physical properties of many types of materials needed for new technologies.

This work was directed by Mike Wilkinson, Bill Appleton, Fred Young, and Jim Roberto. The Metals and Ceramics Division, begun in 1948, steadily moved into broad research and development efforts that included advanced alloys and ceramics, under the leadership of John Frye, Jim Weir, Jim Stiegler, and Doug Craig. 

The interaction of these two divisions, together with support from the Chemistry, Chemical Technology, and Analytical Chemistry divisions, provided a broad multidisciplinary research organization with unparalleled capabilities for characterizing and analyzing materials. Alloys developed to withstand severe radiation damage in reactors were found to have valuable commercial applications. Ion beam facilities built to simulate radiation damage to materials were found useful for the fabrication of solar cells and semi-conductors. Furthermore, the fundamental understanding of materials obtained in previous investigations and the ability to apply a variety of techniques to major projects were the ingredients needed to help meet the research and development requirements of U.S. industry.

Using a scanning transmission electron microscope modified to exploit his innovative technique, Steve Pennycook obtains unusually sharp images of columns of atoms in high temperature superconducting material
Using a scanning transmission electron microscope modified to exploit his innovative technique, Steve Pennycook obtains unusually sharp images of columns of atoms in high temperature superconducting material.

Laboratory staff also contributed significantly to the National Research Council's assessment of materials science. Bill Appleton, for example, chaired the council's solid-state sciences committee, which coordinated the report, and Jim Stiegler co-chaired an assessment panel. Moreover, the Laboratory hosted one of four regional meetings requested by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to follow up the report, edited the combined report, and helped to obtain a Presidential Initiative on Advanced Materials and Processing.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Doug Lowndes and his colleagues used laser technology to make high-temperature superconducting films. Steve Pennycook, in turn, used a new imaging technique with a scanning transmission electron microscope, which he developed at the Laboratory, to view the step-by-step development of these films in an effort to advance the process and improve the product. 

Following in the footsteps of the laboratory's original Graphite Reactor researchers, today's ORNL researchers continue to study carbon. For example, Bob Clausing and Lee Heatherly research thin diamond films that can be used as abrasives and cutting tools in the electronics industry. Laboratory scientists Bob Compton and Bob Hettich have observed that large all-carbon molecules, called buckyballs, can take on additional electrons, which suggests they may find applications in batteries and superconductors. Compton and Hettich also have studied fluorinated buckyballs that may be used as a lubricant.

Claudette McKamey inserts a corrosion-resistant iron aluminide specimen into a furnace to test its strength and ductility.
Claudette McKamey inserts a corrosion-resistant iron aluminide specimen into a furnace to test its strength and ductility.

Carbon is only one source of material investigations at the Laboratory. In alloy development, C.T. Liu, Claudette McKamey, and Vinod Sikka have forged iron aluminide alloys that can be used in corrosive, high-temperature environments. 

In ceramics, George Wei, Ron Beatty, Paul Becher, and Terry Tiegs have shown that silicon carbide whiskers effectively reinforce many ceramics and keep them from cracking at high temperatures. Tiegs and his colleagues also developed a potentially tough cutting material—tungsten carbide bonded by nickel aluminide—which may find many industrial uses. And Laboratory researchers are now guiding development of improved silicon nitride for use in high-temperature engines, such as gas turbines. 

Using polystyrene, the main ingredient of styrofoam cups, ORNL researchers led by Al Mattus in the Chemical Technology Division developed a strong, deterioration-resistant superconcrete that could be used for bridge supports and toxic waste containers. Solid State Division researchers led by John Bates developed thin films for advanced microbatteries to provide backup power for computer memory chips. These developments show that the Laboratory will continue to play an important role in the Age of Materials. 


In 1976, Ron McConathy and Sandy McLaughlin examined foliage at ORNL to explore effects of atmospheric deposition on forests.
In 1976, Ron McConathy and Sandy McLaughlin examined foliage at ORNL to explore effects of atmospheric deposition on forests. 

Laboratory efforts to quantify and resolve threats to the global environment began as early as 1968, when Jerry Olson of the Environmental Sciences Division initiated studies of carbon dioxide levels in the world's atmosphere. David Rose, who spent a few years at ORNL before returning to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stimulated studies of ways to control carbon dioxide emissions. In 1976, Alex Zucker expressed concern about global warming—that is, the potential for Earth's surface temperatures to rise largely because of increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere—and he assembled a team composed of Olson, Charles Baes, and Hal Goeller, all of ORNL, and Ralph Rotty of Oak Ridge Associated Universities' newly formed Institute for Energy Analysis to study the problem and recommend appropriate Laboratory actions.

Observing that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air had increased steadily since the Industrial Revolution, the team identified the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide, pinpointing the crucial role of oceans in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the great uncertainties connected with the problem. 

With DOE support, the Laboratory began analyses of emerging global environmental concerns related to energy use. The burning of fossil fuels and forests was cited as the prime cause of the steady buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Fossil fuel burning also was linked to the formation of acids in the atmosphere, which rain down on forests hundreds of miles from their diverse sources. 

During the late 1970s, Henry Shugart and David Reichle proposed to DOE a study of the global carbon cycle and its relationship to fossil fuel burning. This ORNL proposal was one of several that encouraged DOE to launch a major global carbon dioxide program. With Reichle, John Trabalka, and Michael Farrell of the Environmental Sciences Division providing leadership, the Laboratory adopted an interdisciplinary research strategy to identify the sources, distribution, and consequences of global warming and acidic rain deposition. This effort, in turn, sparked vigorous experimentation at the Laboratory on global biogeochemistry. 

Laboratory scientists used computer modeling to estimate how additional accumulations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might induce future global climate changes. Some models predicted intense global warming, with potentially devastating effects on trees and crops. In the field, Laboratory scientists examined tree rings and fossil pollen grains taken from lake sediments to detect past climatic conditions and trends. For example, using fossilized pollen recovered from sediment taken from Tennessee ponds, Hazel Delcourt and Allen Solomon reconstructed changes in regional vegetation over 16,000 years. With this paleoecological evidence, they estimated the future effects of carbon dioxide concentrations on vegetation and the climate.

Michael Farrell, director of Laboratory research on
Michael Farrell, director of Laboratory research on "greenhouse effects," views global computer image.

The greenhouse effect and acid rain were truly global challenges, and quantifying their results and devising potential solutions required an understanding of complex physical, chemical, and biological processes on a global scale. The Laboratory's approach, therefore, expanded to include global monitoring, measurement, and modeling using the largest, fastest computers available. The Laboratory took the lead in formulating global carbon simulation models and became responsible for managing the DOE research effort, subcontracting studies to universities and other laboratories and establishing the National Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Center to compile and disseminate data. 

To investigate acid rain and its effects, the Environmental Sciences Division installed rainmaker simulator chambers in a greenhouse and programmed them to control raindrop size, intensity, and chemical composition; for comparison purposes, they built an identical system using unpolluted water. These experiments examined the consequences of prolonged ecosystem exposure to rain polluted by sulfur and nitrogen oxides, ozone, and other materials. The accumulated data helped set regulatory standards for environmental protection. 

In the late 1980s, the Electric Power Research Institute and other agencies funded Laboratory studies of the effects of acids on streams in the Appalachian, Great Smoky, and Adirondack mountains. Ernest Bondietti managed this project, which sought the cooperation of a dozen universities in the eastern forest region. Early results indicated that acids in mountain streams had natural geologic sources in addition to human-induced sources created largely by industry and transportation. 

David Shriner examines bean plants in a rainfall simulator to assess the effects of acid rain on vegetation.
David Shriner examines bean plants in a rainfall simulator to assess the effects of acid rain on vegetation.

ORNL acid-rain researchers made important contributions to the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) as well as the Integrated Forest Study. They found that atmospheric deposition of sulfur and nitrogen oxides is twice as high in the Great Smoky Mountains as in the New Hampshire mountains. They observed that acidic cloudwater is linked to reduced growth in high-elevation trees. They learned that ground-level ozone is more damaging than acid rain to U.S. crops. Relying partly on ORNL research, NAPAP concluded in 1990 that acid rain has harmed only a small number of lakes and forests; even so, the amended Clean Air Act called for stricter controls on U.S. emissions. 

At the Laboratory's Walker Branch Watershed, Dale Johnson and Daniel Richter conducted forest-nutrient cycling research on the soil-leaching effects of acid deposition, and in 1992 the Laboratory announced the watershed would be the site of the first large-scale field studies of the effects of global warming on forest growth. 

This and other research supported a steady growth in the Laboratory's environmental sciences program. With about 200 full-time employees and more visiting university faculty and students than other divisions, the Environmental Sciences Division built an international reputation. 

In July 1989, Trivelpiece announced formation of a Center for Global Environmental Studies to be managed by Robert Van Hook and Michael Farrell from the Environmental Sciences Division. "Its goal," Trivelpiece said, "will be to achieve better understanding of global air, land, and water environments and more accurately predict the consequences of human activities on the world's ecological balance." The center would concentrate on the causes and effects of such global challenges as greenhouse warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, and deforestation. 

By the early 1990s, the Laboratory had conducted major studies of ways to avoid ozone depletion, or what the media commonly call the "ozone hole." In cooperation with industry, the Laboratory joined the search for acceptable substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigerants, insulation, and commercial solvents. Studies at the Laboratory's Roof Research Center in the Energy Division, for example, focused on testing foam-board insulation made with ozone-safe CFC substitutes. 


Fusion energy researchers were shocked when two chemists from the University of Utah announced in a March 1989 press conference that they had achieved cold fusion, or fusion at room temperature. By passing electricity through chunks of palladium metal immersed in jars filled with electrically charged heavy water, they said they had produced heat and the neutron by-products of a fusion reaction. If true, the discovery offered an inexpensive alternative to "hot" fusion as an unlimited energy source. 

Charles Bennett, visiting researcher in 1989 from the University of North  Carolina, examines three
Charles Bennett, visiting researcher in 1989 from the University of North Carolina, examines three "cold fusion" tests cells at the Laboratory.

Trivelpiece learned of this announced accomplishment from the front pages of his weekend newspaper. "I used the only scientific tool available to me that weekend—a push-button telephone," he later remembered, "and called everyone I knew who might be able to help me and I tried to find out as much as I could." 

His discussions with Laboratory colleagues revealed they thought the chances were slim for cold fusion but that the Laboratory should investigate it fully. The Laboratory accelerated studies of cold fusion the following week. Teams in the Physics, Metals and Ceramics, Chemical Technology, and Engineering Physics and Mathematics divisions energized a dozen electrochemical cells to test the claims of cold fusion researchers, using more sensitive neutron detection devices than those available to the purported discoverers of this energy source. 

Michael Saltmarsh of the Fusion Energy Division chaired a Laboratory committee compiling information on these experiments, and within a month, he testified before a House science committee that the Laboratory had been unable to detect excess heat or radiation in its cold fusion experiments. 

This and reports from ORNL and other national laboratories discredited the discovery of cold fusion. Frank Close, an ORNL-University of Tennessee Distinguished Scientist, published a critique of the short-lived cold fusion events, emphasizing the importance of following accepted scientific procedures when "new" phenomena are reported. Still, limited experimentation continued in the hope that some yet-to-be-explained phenomenon was occurring. 

Achieving magnetically confined hot plasma, therefore, remained a major technological challenge at the Laboratory and throughout the world of science. This pursuit assumed cooperative global proportions during the 1980s, especially at the Laboratory's large-coil test stand named the International Fusion Superconducting Magnet Test Facility. 

Fusion Energy Division researchers view the Japanese superconducting magneticcoil in 1982.
Fusion Energy Division researchers view the Japanese superconducting magneticcoil in 1982.

All major industrial nations conducted research on fusion power during the 1980s and on the superconducting magnets to be used in fusion energy production. In cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, DOE approved construction of a large magnetic coil facility at Oak Ridge to test huge superconducting magnets—three designed and fabricated in the United States by General Electric, General Dynamics, and Westinghouse and three overseas in Japan, Germany, and Switzerland. All used specifications written at the Laboratory so that the magnets would fit into the test facility. 

The Laboratory installed the six magnets, weighing 45 tons each, in the toroidal (doughnut-shaped) facility. When its stainless steel vacuum chamber lid was lowered into place atop the magnets and the proper vacuum was achieved, its liquid helium refrigeration system chilled the magnets to almost absolute zero. Paul Haubenreich, assisted by Martin Lubell, managed comparative testing of the magnets during 1986 and 1987, checking their ability to withstand thermal, mechanical, and electrical stresses and determining whether superconducting coils were practical for confining the plasma of fusion reactors. 

The magnet test facility operated reliably during 22 months of testing, and the magnets performed well, setting records as the largest superconducting magnetic coils in size, weight, and energy ever operated. This project marked the first time that four nations—the United States, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland—had submitted unique versions of similar equipment to collaborative testing for evaluation of their performance, reliability, and costs. 

The 1988 report on the experiment stated that the magnetic coils in operation had exceeded their design parameters, indicating that much larger magnets could be built using similar design methods. The report observed that the successful international cooperation marking the large coil tests boded well for other cooperative global ventures in fusion research. 

These conclusions proved useful in the design of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) planned as a joint effort of the United States, Russia, Japan, and the European Community. This thermonuclear reactor was being planned as the first fusion reactor in which studies of ignited and burning plasmas could be conducted.

Stephen Combs adjusts a pneumatic injector developed at the Laboratory to shoot pellets of frozen deuterium into the plasmas of fusion reactors.
Stephen Combs adjusts a pneumatic injector developed at the Laboratory to shoot pellets of frozen deuterium into the plasmas of fusion reactors.

Within the political and scientific communities of the United States, some observers recoiled at the costs of long-term fusion research, fearing that federal research funds would not be available for the long haul. After all, scientists projected that successful fusion energy generation would not occur until the mid-21st century. "Let us not grow weary while doing good," warned William Happer, chief of DOE's Office of Energy Research. Quoting a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, Happer continued, "For in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." 

The Laboratory expected to play a significant role in the ITER program, and Paul Haubenreich, manager of the large coil tests, went to Europe for several years to work in that program. Charles Baker of ORNL is now leading the U.S. effort in designing the ITER. 

After completing the large coil tests, Martin Lubell and the Laboratory's superconductivity team turned to potential commercial investigations of motors using low- and high-temperature superconducting materials. A team that included Bob Hawsey of the Applied Technology Division, Bill Schwenterly of the Fusion Energy Division, Keith Kahl of the Engineering Technology Division, and Ben McConnell of the Energy Division built and operated the first superconducting motor by 1990. Tests and improvements of this device could lead to development of smaller, lighter, more energy-efficient motors. 


Other Laboratory advances in fusion energy research during the late 1980s and early 1990s included improved plasma fueling and heating devices and construction and testing of the Advanced Toroidal Facility (ATF), a stellarator fusion reactor shaped more like a cruller than a doughnut. Much of this work was done under the supervision of John Sheffield, director of the Fusion Energy Division.

The coils of the Advanced Toroidal Facility, an experimental fusion reactor, which was completed in 1987 and produced its first fusion plasma in 1988.
The coils of the Advanced Toroidal Facility, an experimental fusion reactor, which was completed in 1987 and produced its first fusion plasma in 1988.

Pioneered by Stanley Milora and Chris Foster at the Laboratory, fueling fusion plasmas by freezing deuterium and later tritium into pellets and firing them into reactors became the standard fueling method worldwide. The Laboratory became DOE's lead agency for this plasma fueling technology. For the ever-larger fusion reactors, the Laboratory fabricated bigger pellets, discharging them into plasmas using an electron beam accelerator to vaporize their back ends and provide a rocketlike forward thrust. The Laboratory also completed a radiofrequency facility in 1985 to test the use of radio waves for heating fusion plasmas, and it joined with Japan's energy institute to conduct collaborative testing at Laboratory reactors of the structural alloys that are candidates for fusion devices. 

The Laboratory designed and built the ATF to supplant its Impurity Study Experiment tokamak of the 1970s. Called a torsatron or stellarator, the ATF had a helical field for plasma confinement provided entirely by external coils, instead of relying on currents within the plasma as the tokamaks did. Aiming to create more stable plasmas, the ATF afforded a steady, rather than a pulsed, operation, which utility systems prefer for electric power generation. 

After four years of construction, the Laboratory in 1988 completed its precision-crafted stellarator, with more than twice the plasma volume of previous stellarators. Its principal purpose was to determine the plasma pressure and stability limits for improved toroidal designs. Testing soon identified a "second stability" phase in the plasma, which was termed a major advance in fundamental plasma physics. The Laboratory sought funding during 1992 for a restart and continued testing of this stellarator, which was the only fusion machine in the United States capable of operating in a steady state. 

Funding shortages in fusion energy motivated some Laboratory researchers to apply their technologies in other arenas, such as space applications, materials development, and environmental cleanup. Theorists employed computer modeling to design an ion thruster that one day may be used on space missions to Mars and the other planets. Beam experts studied etching technology for improving semiconductor chips, and pellet-injection researchers tried cleaning surfaces with dry ice pellets at high velocities. Fusion researchers Hal Kimrey and Terry White, who used microwaves to heat fusion plasmas, collaborated with other researchers in using microwave processing to sinter ceramics, to treat radioactive waste, and to clean contaminated concrete. 

Interest in microwave technology spread to other Laboratory divisions. Bob Lauf of the Metals and Ceramics Division and Don Bible of the Instrumentation and Controls Division, for example, invented a variable-frequency microwave furnace that employed the same technology used for jamming Iraqi radar during the Persian Gulf War. 

Lynn Boatner and Brian Sales adjust the controls of a particle accelerator at the Surface Modification and Characterization Collaborative Research Laboratory.
Lynn Boatner and Brian Sales adjust the controls of a particle accelerator at the Surface Modification and Characterization Collaborative Research Laboratory.

Although scientists had not achieved a self-sustaining controlled fusion reaction by 1993, clearly the Laboratory's fusion research was producing dividends in a number of practical applications.


Global scientific cooperation is a two-way international highway. In the 1980s, ORNL's Physics Division dispatched two of its large calorimeters and 10 of its scientists under Frank Plasil to the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Switzerland to participate in experiments aimed at observing individual quarks outside nuclei. The experiment fired oxygen nuclei into target nuclei of carbon, copper, silver, and gold at ultrahigh energies, dramatically demonstrating the conversion of energy into matter. The Laboratory calorimeter team saw particles bombarding the gold nuclei multiply into many more particles. 

Tony Gabriel has directed the ORNL effort to design detectors for the Superconducting Super Collider.
Tony Gabriel has directed the ORNL effort to design detectors for the Superconducting Super Collider.

Trivelpiece was credited with persuading the Reagan administration to explore mysteries of the nucleus through construction of a Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), a 53-mile oval track to be built underground in Texas where two opposing beams of protons would circle and collide. Scientists seeking to determine whether quarks are the fundamental units of matter or whether they can be further subdivided will run experiments on this huge proton racetrack. It will be the world's most powerful accelerator, if Congress agrees to fund the project to its completion. 

Laboratory participants in the SSC project have worked on the design of detectors needed to determine the results of particle collisions. In 1989, the Laboratory formed an Oak Ridge Detector Center, directed by Tony Gabriel. The center hoped to be at the forefront of developing central-system particle detectors for the SSC that could track and measure the directions and initial energies of secondary particles produced by the collisions. Recognizing the value of these devices to global science, the Laboratory consulted physicists from many nations for the detector designs, which were still under development in 1993. 


Inspired by an Office of Technology Assessment report on detecting inherited mutations in human beings, the DOE Office of Health and Environmental Research in 1987 launched an international campaign to map and sequence the three billion chemical base-pairs in human DNA. Charles Cantor and colleagues at Columbia University had mapped the E. coli bacterium, and Larry Hood and fellow researchers at the California Institute of Technology had developed automated sequencing equipment. Among the practical benefits of sequencing the human genome could be new diagnostic tests and therapies for genetic diseases.

Scott McLuckey adjusts an ion trap for analyzing ionized DNA fragments.
Scott McLuckey adjusts an ion trap for analyzing ionized DNA fragments.

Through participation in long-term international studies of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, Laboratory researchers had obtained experience in human gene studies. During the 1970s, the Biology Division had devised gene-mapping techniques for the study of mutagens and carcinogens. Searching for genes that might inhibit cancer, they had identified individual genes and assigned them to specific chromosomes. Laboratory capabilities were further enhanced by development during the 1980s of improved scanning tunneling microscopes that could obtain images of DNA strands. These microscopes could help determine the locations of genes on cell chromosomes (mapping) and the arrangement of DNA bases in the genes (sequencing) of the human genome. Sponsored by DOE and NIH, the human genome initiative, an immense computer-intensive investigation, became global in scope, with several nations sharing the research and its costs. (See related article, President Zachary Taylor and the Laboratory: Presidential Visit From the Grave.)

Reinhold Mann, Ed Uberbacher, and Rich Mural in 1991 developed the GRAIL computer system to identify genes in DNA sequence data.
Reinhold Mann, Ed Uberbacher, and Rich Mural in 1991 developed the GRAIL computer system to identify genes in DNA sequence data.

The Laboratory, however, had no externally funded human genome projects when the director of DOE health and environmental research programs visited Oak Ridge in 1990. Several "seed" money research projects set the stage for convincing DOE that the Laboratory should be involved in the genome challenge. Six Laboratory divisions were subsequently participating in genome research, focusing on learning the order of chemical bases that make up DNA and locating specific genes to determine their functions. 

Using mass spectrometry, gel electrophoresis, radiolabeling, laser ionization, and other research techniques, the Laboratory obtained information on the genome. It also provided a forum for international exchange of genome information through its Human Genome Management Information System, located in the Health and Safety Research Division. In addition, ORNL developed a computer program called GRAIL (Gene Recognition and Analysis Internet Link) that helps researchers identify genes from DNA sequence data. 

The Laboratory also received funding for human genome research because it has been a gold mine of knowledge about mouse genetics, starting with the research of William and Liane Russell. More recent work, in fact, has been particularly relevant for human health.

Waldy Generoso discovered a genetic repair mechanism in female germ cells.
Waldy Generoso discovered a genetic repair mechanism in female germ cells.

ORNL mouse studies led by Waldy Generoso in the mid-1980s showed that ethylene oxide, which is widely used by health care workers to sterilize medical supplies, can cause mutations in mice. The findings led to regulatory limits on occupational exposure to the gas. The research also suggested that, under certain conditions, women exposed to mutagenic chemicals soon after conceiving may be unwittingly putting their future children at risk. In the 1990s Generoso and his colleagues found that male and female mice respond differently to certain chemicals, and they identified several female-specific mutagens. Their results suggest that certain anticancer drugs pose genetic risks to women but not to men. 

DOE encouraged collaboration between the Laboratory's mouse experts and the genome research centers. A Biology Division program led by Richard Woychik and Gene Rinchik, for example, used transgenic mice for genome research. These mice had genetic material with deliberately inserted foreign DNA to help ascertain the locations, functions, and molecular structure of human genes. In time, this research would advance the understanding of human genetic disorders. 

Rick Woychik injects foreign DNA into fertilized mouse eggs as a molecular tag to locate and characterize the structure and function of the genomic region.
Rick Woychik injects foreign DNA into fertilized mouse eggs as a molecular tag to locate and characterize the structure and function of the genomic region.

The Laboratory, DOE, NIH and, more generally, the international life sciences community hoped to obtain information on genes that would help them determine, for example, which genes are responsible for polycystic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington's disease. With this information, scientists might be able to devise methods for repairing these genetic disorders. Program advocates implied this information might contribute eventually to ameliorating mental health problems by identifying genetic causes of manic depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. The most avid proponents asserted that successful completion of this global project could place humans in control of their genetic destiny, although critics questioned the wisdom and ethics of this goal. 


In June 1989, Admiral Watkins outlined a "new culture of accountability" for DOE to regain its credibility in environmental restoration compliance. He approved providing state agencies access to DOE installations to monitor DOE compliance with environmental standards and regulations. DOE also emphasized environmental, safety, and health compliance in awarding fees to contractor operators of its facilities, mandated full compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, and formed "tiger teams" to assess field agency compliance and corrective measures.

To speed mapping and measurement of contamination, the Laboratory improved a remotely operated vehicle for survey of waste sites.
To speed mapping and measurement of contamination, the Laboratory improved a remotely operated vehicle for survey of waste sites.

These measures were a belated response to the 1984 amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which stipulated that facilities handling hazardous wastes must reduce the generation of such wastes and remediate areas containing waste. It soon became apparent that remediating hazardous wastes would be time-consuming and costly and that no cheap, quick fix would be available. John Gibbons, former staff member of ORNL and director of the Office of Technology Assessment and now President Clinton's science adviser, recently declared, "Decades will be required for cleanup of certain sites while others will never be returned to pristine conditions." 

As an incentive to reduce wastes, the Laboratory adopted a charge-back policy, billing waste disposal costs to the division that generated the waste. Thereafter, Laboratory research and development proposals incorporated waste disposal into their estimated project costs, encouraging researchers to avoid using toxic substances in their experiments. "It's a new mentality, a cultural change," Tom Row insisted. 

Row, who in 1991 became director of ORNL's Office of Environmental, Safety, and Health Compliance, described major changes in Laboratory waste disposal methods reflecting the new corporate culture. Historically, the Laboratory had placed solid low-level hazardous and radioactive wastes, such as contaminated glass and cloth, into unlined trenches; now it packaged such waste in steel cans placed inside concrete vaults that are eventually entombed in earth berms equipped with monitored drainage systems. 

ORNL wastes are now classified and isolated in engineered storage facilities such as this
ORNL wastes are now classified and isolated in engineered storage facilities such as this "tumulus" site.

Low-level liquid wastes, once disposed of using underground hydrofracture, are now concentrated and compacted to reduce the volume, then solidified and stored aboveground. The Laboratory's high-level spent reactor fuel went to the Idaho or Savannah River complexes, which had storage facilities for reactor fuel that required reprocessing. The Laboratory's transuranic wastes were stored on site in specially designed bunkers for eventual disposal at a DOE centralized facility, perhaps the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. One measure of the Laboratory's commitment to environmental, safety, and health programs was its increase of program personnel from 240 in 1988 to 390 in 1990. 

In 1988, about 15% of the Laboratory budget was devoted to waste management and remedial actions—and this was only the beginning. To reduce waste management and remediation program costs, the national laboratories were challenged to find ways to treat the contamination without moving it. One ORNL response involved in situ vitrification, which uses electric currents to heat underground radioactive wastes to high temperatures, thereby converting them into glasslike solids impervious to groundwater. Developed at the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, in situ vitrification was tested by Brian Spalding and colleagues at ORNL to isolate strontium and cesium. Although still an expensive technique, in situ vitrification may be used at some future date to treat the pits and trenches that served as waste repositories during the Laboratory's early years. 

Crane hoists concrete vault containing radioactive waste into place at one of the Laboratory's engineered storage facilities.
Crane hoists concrete vault containing radioactive waste into place at one of the Laboratory's engineered storage facilities.

Another innovation was bioremediation, which uses microorganisms to degrade hazardous chemicals. Laboratory teams developed methane-consuming microorganisms to break down gasoline and other solvents in soil. Additional research was under way in 1992 to identify or modify microorganisms that consume other types of toxic wastes. 

Support also was given to environmental monitoring to determine the extent of contamination and the success of the cleanup. Tuan Vo-Dinh and Richard Gammage, both of the Health and Safety Research Division, developed various light-emission and -detection technologies, including fiber-optic technologies, for applications such as health and environmental monitoring and enhanced computer memory storage. Alan Witten of the Energy Division developed an acoustic tomography system that uses sound waves and computer analysis to image buried objects at waste sites; the technique also has been used in New Mexico to locate the bones of a Seismosaurus, the world's longest dinosaur. Other ORNL staff monitored air, soil, surface water, and groundwater of the entire Oak Ridge Reservation in support of remedial action projects. They provided new information and analytical methodologies to support environmental restoration and waste management.


To ensure full compliance with environmental, health, and safety programs, Admiral Watkins dispatched "tiger teams" to DOE field organizations for thorough operational and management inspections. 

Within a month after the lengthy inspection, the Laboratory's response team had corrected 366 deficiencies identified by the tigers. 

Trivelpiece declared the tiger team inspection largely a success, although he also pointed out that the Laboratory had not received a completely clean bill of health. "We did not come through unscathed," he admitted. "There are a lot of problems: legacy wastes from past practices and management deficiencies in meeting environmental safety and health regulations." Yet, he thought the tiger team inspection had served as a catalyst for improvement.


Visiting the Laboratory in 1992, President Bush referred to it as an "arsenal of democracy." Although it is not a weapons laboratory, the Laboratory has supported national defense at every opportunity. In addition to assisting the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Laboratory undertook research during the 1980s for the Defense Department that included investigations of defense materials, battlefield logistics, robotics, instruments and controls, and electromagnetic interference. 

Also for the Defense Department, the Laboratory's radioisotopes group directed by Neil Case developed isotope-powered lights using radioactive emissions from krypton and tritium to excite phosphor pellets, causing them to glow in the dark. These "plugless" lights provided landing and distance markers for military and civilian pilots in remote areas. In another case, Cabell Finch and Lynn Boatner, both of the Solid State Division, developed doped crystals for room-temperature promethium lasers. These crystals were suited for satellite-to-submarine communications because their light can be transmitted through water. 

Led by the Energy Division's Samuel Carnes, in 1987 a Laboratory team completed the final programmatic environmental impact statement for disposal of the Army's stockpiled chemical weapons. The team identified on-site incineration as the environmentally preferred method of disposing of weapons. 

When terrorist bombings plagued aircraft during the 1980s, a team in the Analytical Chemistry Division devised an explosives sniffer using mass spectrometry to test the air for suspect chemicals, thereby determining in seconds whether explosives were present. This development interested airport security firms, and Energy Systems licensed the "sniffer" to a private company for commercial use.

Mike Guerin and Mark Wise work at an ion-trap mass spectrometer used for quickly identifying and quantifying pollutants. A portable version of the ORNL system provides on-site soil, water, and air analyses.
Mike Guerin and Mark Wise work at an ion-trap mass spectrometer used for quickly identifying and quantifying pollutants. A portable version of the ORNL system provides on-site soil, water, and air analyses.

In addition, the Laboratory developed a direct-sampling ion-trap mass spectrometer. Installed in a van, this equipment has served as the basis of a mobile laboratory for rapid detection and measurement of concentrations of organic pollutants in air, water, and soil at sites targeted for cleanup. Providing test results much faster than conventional methods, the device is expected to produce substantial savings for the cleanup programs of both DOE and Department of Defense sites. 

Since 1946 when it assumed operation of the electromagnetic separators at the Y-12 Plant, the Laboratory has had a major impact on mass spectrometry, emerging as a world leader in the field. Like an electromagnetic separator, a mass spectrometer uses electric and magnetic fields to separate chemical elements, enabling scientists to identify elements and measure the amounts present. Applications have included safeguarding nuclear materials by determining whether plutonium and uranium have been diverted illegally from facilities for making nuclear weapons. Recently, thanks to the work of Joel Carter, Scott McLuckey, and others, the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory was completed at ORNL for developing and conducting experiments with mass spectrometers. 

Computer models developed by the Laboratory's Center for Transportation Analysis in the Energy Division saw useful application during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The U.S. Transportation Command used the software to schedule deployment of troops and equipment to the Middle East for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the largest airlift operation in history. 

Successful national defense ultimately rests on economic prosperity, and during the 1990s the Laboratory increasingly focused its resources and staff on environmental and economic, not military, matters. The key words for this operation were "technology transfer" and "national competitiveness."


Laboratory efforts to transfer its technological advances to industry began in 1962, when Weinberg established an Office of Industrial Cooperation to reduce the time required for the civilian economy to adopt scientific advances. Carol Oen and Don Jared headed Laboratory technology utilization offices during the 1970s and found partial success through spin-off firms often launched by former Laboratory personnel. ORNL and other Energy Systems sites also helped lure Science Applications International Corporation, System Development, TRW, Exxon, Bechtel, and other corporations to Oak Ridge by increasing public awareness of local technical capabilities. 

Legal barriers involving patents and nonexclusive licensing, however, hampered quick technological transfer. Corporate executives were reluctant to invest in technology without the marketplace advantage of holding the exclusive rights to a particular technology. 

Recognizing these difficulties and the frustration of industry, DOE initiated a technology transfer pilot project centered around newly discovered high-temperature superconductors with the intention of streamlining legal requirements at DOE laboratories. Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Argonne national laboratories were designated as High-Temperature Superconductivity Pilot Centers, and the three worked closely with DOE under industry's watchful eye to devise procedures that would accelerate transfer of superconducting technology from the laboratories to industry. ORNL's Tony Schaffhauser, Louise Dunlap, Jon Soderstrom, and Bill Appleton helped establish the collaborative arrangement that became a model for the CRADAs legislated by Congress. 

Aware of the latent economic potential of the national laboratories, Congress passed the National Competitiveness and Technology Transfer Act of 1989 to encourage technology transfer. The Laboratory's new contractor-operator, Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc., vigorously promoted this initiative. In 1985, for example, Energy Systems signed an exclusive license with Cummins Engine Company for use of modified nickel aluminide alloys in diesel engines. The alloys were developed by C.T. Liu and his colleagues. Energy Systems offered financial incentives to Laboratory personnel who applied for patents as well. Laboratory inventors received the first royalties for their innovations in 1987.

Hal Kimrey and Mark Janney inspect a silicon carbide ceramic tube that has been heated by microwaves.
Hal Kimrey and Mark Janney inspect a silicon carbide ceramic tube that has been heated by microwaves.

ORNL's successful collaboration with industry at the Roof Research Center, High Temperature Materials Laboratory, and elsewhere quickened the pace of transferring information on ceramics, semiconductors, electronics, computer software, insulation, and other commercially promising technologies. As a result, the Laboratory led other DOE facilities in technology transfer, and its program became a model for other government agencies to emulate.

Industrial firms expressed great interest in the Laboratory's development of ceramic gel casting and ceramics reinforced with whiskers made from silicon carbide. By 1989, 11 companies had obtained licenses to use durable whisker toughened ceramic composites in metal-cutting tools. A gel-casting technology for shaping ceramics, invented in the Metals and Ceramics Division, was licensed to Coors Ceramics, Inc., which built a plant in Oak Ridge to pursue this and related technologies.

Trane Company, a worldwide manufacturer of air-conditioning and refrigeration systems, acquired a license for gas-powered absorption chillers invented at the Laboratory by Robert DeVault. These gas chillers were more economical and much more efficient than electric chillers; the new devices could reduce primary energy requirements as well as summer demands for electricity by shifting commercial building air-conditioning loads to natural gas. 

Energy Systems issued its first royalty-bearing license in nuclear medicine to Du Pont in 1989. Prem Srivastava and associates in the Health and Safety Research Division synthesized a chemical compound to make radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies more useful for cancer detection. Du Pont expected to market this development to medical research institutions. 


The National Competitiveness and Technology Transfer Act of 1989 amended the Atomic Energy Act to make technology transfer a principal mission of DOE and its laboratories. The act allowed contractor-operated laboratories such as ORNL to work directly with industrial firms, universities, and state governments on jointly sponsored research and to share information through CRADAs. "The labs are now open for business," proclaimed William Carpenter, Energy Systems' chief of technology transfer. (See related article, Industrial-Strength Science.)

In 1990, the Laboratory entered its first CRADA, joining an international chemical consortium to study chemicals that could serve as alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons. More CRADAs followed. During his February 1992 visit to the Laboratory, President Bush highlighted this technology transfer program at the signing of a CRADA with Coors Ceramics to develop precision machining of ceramics. 

O. O. Omatete and Mark Janney demonstrate the
O. O. Omatete and Mark Janney demonstrate the "gel casting" process they invented to mold ceramic components for engines.

Touring the High Temperature Materials Laboratory and addressing a crowd in front of the building, President Bush praised the $3.6 million CRADA with Coors as an excellent way to take technology directly to markets and create new jobs. "The High Temperature Materials Laboratory is a world-class facility," he declared, "and in the race with other nations in making precision parts, America will get there first." After Trivelpiece and Joseph Coors signed the CRADA, the Coors executive presented the president with a ceramic golf putter as a light-hearted sample of the products that could flow from the materials research. (See related article, The Bush Visit: Molding the Future.)

Speaking in Knoxville later that day, the president promised significant increases in funding for science education and the National Science Foundation. Thus, the president's brief visit to Oak Ridge and Knoxville framed, in national terms, two of the Laboratory's most important initiatives of the 1990s—technology transfer and science education. 


When listing the future priorities of the "broadest based and most multidisciplinary of the DOE national laboratories," Alvin Trivelpiece highlighted his hope that the Laboratory will become the center for excellence in research reactors. Its HFIR and TSF reactors were back in service, although the latter, which was funded primarily by a Japanese-sponsored program for breeder reactor shielding studies, was shut down in October 1992.

P. C. Srivastava and John Allred developed new techniques for radiolabelingantibodies to detect cancer.
P. C. Srivastava and John Allred developed new techniques for radiolabelingantibodies to detect cancer.

In 1992 the Laboratory continued to press for funding to design and construct a major new reactor to replace the aging HFIR. Named the Advanced Neutron Source (ANS), studies of this proposed reactor had begun in 1984 as a Director's Fund project, with initial funding from DOE coming in 1987. Leadership in neutron scattering research had passed from the United States to Europe during the 1970s when a reactor was built at Grenoble, France, with a neutron flux and experimental facilities superior to those at Oak Ridge and other DOE laboratories. Backed by reports of several important national committees, Laboratory management insisted that building the ANS would regain world leadership for the United States by providing the most intense steady-state neutron beams in the world and state-of-the-art neutron scattering facilities. The ANS research reactor would also be used for isotope production, neutron activiation analysis, and research on radiation effects in materials. 

Managed initially by Ralph Moon and David Bartine, the project was later placed under Colin West, who directed the conceptual design of the ANS with the aid of prominent scientists throughout the world. Surrounding the reactor would be a national research center, with adjoining structures housing laboratories for neutron scattering and other experiments, as well as offices for scientists from both the Laboratory and elsewhere. 

The initial ANS design called for heavy water to cool the reactor fuel and reflect neutrons back into the core. (The High Flux Isotope Reactor uses ordinary water as coolant and beryllium as a neutron reflector.) Studies by the Laboratory and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory led to selection of a split-core configuration with uranium silicide fuel in aluminum-clad plates. These features would permit a 200- to 350-MW powerhouse, compared with the original 100-MW rating of the High Flux Isotope Reactor. 

Noting that the Laboratory had built and operated 14 nuclear reactors (counting the 1955 Geneva conference reactor and the Pool Critical Assembly), Murray Rosenthal observed that the proposed ANS would become the Laboratory's 15th reactor and the first one built since 1966. Colin West estimated that the 350-MW reactor and modern beam facilities would provide neutron beams with intensities at least 10 times those of the HFIR and at least 10,000 times greater than those available to Ernest Wollan and Clifford Shull at the 1943 Graphite Reactor. John Hayter, scientific director for the project, said that plans for the new reactor include about 30 beam lines and beam guides, many of which would serve more than one instrument. The facility would have special features such as neutron mirrors for beam delivery and two cold sources (tanks of liquid deuterium) to slow some of the neutrons before they are transported to the "guide hall" for experiments. 

The conceptual design involved personnel from national laboratories, industries, and universities, plus researchers from Germany, Japan, and Australia. More than a thousand non-Laboratory scientists are expected to conduct research annually at the ANS when it becomes operational.

Ralph Moon at at triple-axis neutron spectrometer of the High Flux Isotope Reactor. His principal research concerns neutron scattering to study magnetic materials.
Ralph Moon at at triple-axis neutron spectrometer of the High Flux Isotope Reactor. His principal research concerns neutron scattering to study magnetic materials.

With the aging High Flux Isotope Reactor operating at slightly reduced power to prolong its life, early completion of the ANS seems vital. "When the HFIR reaches the end of its useful life, we will need a new reactor to enable U.S. scientists to conduct neutron scattering studies to make progress in certain key fields," Trivelpiece asserted. "I think we need to make a full court press, and I regard this project as the highest-priority technical facility pursued by the Laboratory." 

Other ongoing reactor programs at the Laboratory included the modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor research program, promising safety and investment protection features unavailable in other efficient reactor concepts. The Laboratory also provided research and design review support for the liquid-metal fast reactor with potential for greatly extending the nuclear fuel supply, and it reviewed and researched DOE's work with improved light-water reactors of modular size and improved safety characteristics. Laboratory work on advanced controls for reactors for DOE and renewal of the licenses of aging nuclear power plants for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was expected to continue. 

Established in 1943 as a nuclear reactor site, chemical separations facility, and scientific laboratory, the Laboratory continues to build upon these traditional strengths in 1993. Nevertheless, ORNL's broadening investigations of alternative energy sources; environmental, safety, and health concerns; and strategies for improving national economic competitiveness absorb ever-larger portions of the Laboratory's budget and energies as it approaches the end of the 20th century. The Laboratory's future seems to lie not so much in its ability to do research in specific nuclear projects as in its deeply rooted ability to undertake large-scale, complicated projects that address national and international needs and concerns. How well it performs in a variety of energy and environmental fields could well determine the Laboratory's future. These efforts, in turn, could help chart America's future, helping the nation retain its leading role in an increasingly complicated and competitive world. 

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