ORNL: THE FIRST 50 YEARS--CHAPTER 4: OLYMPIAN FEATS
   
   
   This article also appears in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
   Review (Vol. 25, Nos. 3 and 4), a quarterly research and
   development magazine. If you'd like more information about the
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   A symbol of peaceful competition first in the ancient world and
   then in the 20th century, the Olympics were revived after World War
   I, not only in quadrennial athletic performances but also in
   scientific competitions. Sparked in 1953 by President Dwight
   Enternational cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, in
   1955 and 1958 scientists worldwide showcased their achievements at
   international conferences that resembled the athletic Olympics. In
   these competitions, the world-class research at Oak Ridge National
   Laboratory often took the laurels.ften took the laurels.
   
   Science during the 1950s became a full-blown instrument of foreign
   policy, both in Cold War weapons competition and in peaceful
   applications of nuclear science, especially nuclear fission
   reactors and fusion energy devices. As an international center for
   nuclear fission research by the mid-1950s, the Laboratory had as
   many as six reactors under design or construction. The Laboratory's
   chemical technology expertise also made it a leader in reactor fuel
   reprocessing and recovery. Both these programs earned the
   Laboratory much prestige at the 1955 scientific olympics. Also, in
   1958, the Laboratory's tiny fusion energy research effort vaulted
   above larger programs elsewhere to win the gold at the second
   United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy.
   
   The Laboratory and other AEC facilities also embarked on a program
   of experimental reactor development in 1953. That year, the
   Laboratory's experimental homogeneous reactor, under Samuel Beall's
   direction, first generated electric power. Elsewhere, other nuclear
   mileposts were passed: a demonstration atomic reactor to propel
   submarines and an experimental breeder reactor began operating in
   Idaho, and the first university research reactor was unveiled at
   North Carolina State University.
   
   In a dramatic speech on the future of the atom to the United
   Nations in 1953, President Eisenhower pledged the United States "to
   find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not
   be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life." The
   president's "Atoms for Peace" speech, hailed throughout the world
   as a prologue to a new chapter in the history of nuclear energy,
   was to guide the research efforts of the AEC and the Laboratory for
   years to come. The initiative, Alvin Weinberg declared, would make
   nuclear science the "touchstone of peace."
   
   Soon after this address, President Eisenhower signed the 1954
   Atomic Energy Act, which fostered the cooperative development of
   nuclear energy by the AEC and private industry. In response, the
   AEC began a massive declassification of nuclear science data for
   the benefit of private users, and the Laboratory assumed a key role
   in the AEC's five-year plan to develop five new demonstration
   nuclear reactors.
   
   Launched in 1954, the AEC plan called for construction of a small
   pressurized-water reactor by Westinghouse Corporation; an
   experimental boiling-water reactor by Argonne National Laboratory;
   a fast breeder reactor, also by Argonne; a sodium-graphite reactor
   by North American Aviation; and an aqueous homogeneous-fuel reactor
   by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 
   
   Beyond its work on the homogeneous reactor, the Laboratory in the
   1950s--as a national center for chemistry and chemical
   technology--focused on developing fluid fuels for nuclear reactors.
   The Laboratory concentrated on three possible options: fuels in
   solution, fuels suspended in liquid (or slurries), and molten salt
   fuels. Each one posed fundamental challenges in chemistry and
   chemical technology. Moving confidently from solids to liquids to
   gases in support of the AEC efforts on behalf of the atom, the
   Laboratory also conducted research for heterogeneous, solid-fuel
   reactors. It also provided conceptual designs for a transportable
   Army package reactor, a maritime reactor, and a gas-cooled reactor.
   
   The Cold War and President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" speech
   reenergized and refocused the Laboratory's research efforts. In
   effect, it gave the Laboratory a multifaceted research agenda, many
   aspects of which were tied to the development and application of
   nuclear power. Summarizing the impact of the nation's postwar aims
   on the work of the Laboratory, Director Clarence Larson commented,
   "1954 has witnessed the transition that many of us have hoped for
   since the war. The increasing emphasis on peacetime applications of
   atomic energy," he went on to say, "has been a particular source of
   gratification."
   
   
                        HOMOGENEOUS REACTOR
   
   In addition to the Aircraft Reactor Experiment, the Bulk Shielding
   Reactor, and the Tower Shielding Facility built as part of its
   Aircraft Nuclear Project for the Air Force, the Laboratory had
   three other major reactor designs in progress during the mid-1950s:
   its own new research reactor with a high neutron flux; a portable
   package reactor for the Army; and the Aqueous Homogeneous Reactor,
   which was unique because it combined fuel, moderator, and coolant
   in a single solution (designed as one of five demonstration
   reactors under AEC auspices).
   
   Initial studies of homogeneous reactors took place toward the close
   of World War II. It pained chemists to see precisely fabricated
   solid-fuel elements of heterogeneous reactors eventually dissolved
   in acids to remove fission products--the "ashes" of a nuclear
   reaction. Chemical engineers hoped to design liquid-fuel reactors
   that would dispense with the costly destruction and processing of
   solid fuel elements. The formation of gas bubbles in liquid fuels
   and the corrosive attack on materials, however, presented daunting
   design and materials challenges.
   
   With the help of experienced chemical engineers brought to the
   Laboratory after its acquisition of the Y-12 laboratories, the
   Laboratory proposed to address these design challenges. George
   Felbeck, Union Carbide manager, encouraged their efforts.  Rather
   than await theoretical solutions, Laboratory staff attacked the
   problems empirically by building a small, cheap experimental
   homogeneous reactor model. Engineering and design studies began in
   the Reactor Experimental Engineering Division under Charles
   Winters, and in 1951 the effort formally became a project under
   John Swartout and Samuel Beall. 
   
   This was the Laboratory's first cross-divisional program.  Swartout
   provided program direction to groups assigned in the Chemistry,
   Chemical Technology, Metallurgy, and Engineering divisions, while
   Samuel Beall led construction and operations. Beecher Briggs headed
   reactor design; Ted Welton, Milton Edlund, and William Breazeale
   were in charge of reactor physics; Edward Bohlmann directed
   corrosion testing; and Richard Lyon and Irving Spiewak performed
   fluid flow studies and component development. 
   
   A homogeneous (liquid-fuel) reactor had two major advantages over
   heterogeneous (solid-fuel and liquid-coolant) reactors. Its fuel
   solution would circulate continuously between the reactor core and
   a processing plant that would remove unwanted fissionable products.
   Thus, unlike a solid-fuel reactor, a homogeneous reactor would not
   have to be taken off-line periodically to discard spent fuel.
   Equally important, a homogeneous reactor's fuel and the solution in
   which it was dissolved served as the source of power generation.
   For this reason, a homogeneous reactor held the promise of
   simplifying nuclear reactor designs.
   
   A building to house the Homogeneous Reactor Experiment was
   completed in March 1951. The first model to test the feasibility of
   this reactor used uranyl sulfate fuel. After leaks were plugged in
   the high-temperature piping system, the power test run began in
   October 1952, and the design power level of one megawatt (MW) was
   attained in February 1953. The reactor's high-pressure steam
   twirled a small turbine that generated 150 kilowatts (kW) of
   electricity, an accomplishment that earned its operators the
   honorary title "Oak Ridge Power Company."
   
   Marveling at the homogeneous reactor's smooth responsiveness to
   power demands, Weinberg found its initial operation thrilling.
   "Charley Winters at the steam throttle did everything, and during
   the course of the evening, we electroplated several medallions and
   blew a steam whistle with atomic steam," he exulted in a report to
   Wigner, asking him to bring von Neumann to see it. Despite his
   enthusiasm, Weinberg found AEC's staff decidedly bearish on
   homogeneous reactors and, in a letter to Wigner, he speculated that
   the "boiler bandwagon has developed so much pressure that everyone
   has climbed on it, pell mell." Weinberg surmised that the AEC was
   committed to development of solid-fuel reactors cooled with water
   and Laboratory demonstrations of other reactor types--regardless of
   their success--were not likely to alter its course.
   
   Despite AEC preferences, the Laboratory dismantled its Homogeneous
   Reactor Experiment in 1954 and obtained authority to build a large
   pilot plant with "a two-region" core tank. The aim was not only to
   produce economical electric power but also to irradiate a thorium
   slurry blanket surrounding the reactor, thereby producing
   fissionable uranium-233. If this pilot plant proved successful, the
   Laboratory hoped to accomplish two major goals: to build a
   full-scale homogeneous reactor as a thorium "breeder" and to supply
   cheap electric power to the K-25 plant to enrich uranium.
   
   Initial success stimulated international and private industrial
   interest in homogeneous reactors, and in 1955 Westinghouse
   Corporation asked the Laboratory to study the feasibility of
   building a full-scale homogeneous power breeder. British and Dutch
   scientists studied similar reactors, and the Los Alamos Scientific
   Laboratory built a high-temperature homogeneous reactor using
   uranyl phosphate fluid fuel. If the Laboratory's pilot plant
   operated successfully, staff at Oak Ridge thought that homogeneous
   reactors could become the most sought-after prototype in the
   intense worldwide competition to develop an efficient commercial
   reactor. Proponents of solid-fuel reactors, the option of choice
   for many in the AEC, would find themselves in the unenviable
   position of playing catch-up. But this was not to be.
   
   
                        ARMY PACKAGE REACTOR
   
   Similar initial success flowed from studies at the Oak Ridge School
   of Reactor Technology, where a study group in 1952 proposed a
   compact, transportable package reactor to generate steam and
   electric power at military bases so remote that supplying them with
   bulky fossil fuels was too difficult and costly. 
   
   The AEC and Army Corps of Engineers expressed a great deal of
   interest in this concept, and in early 1953 Laboratory management
   met with Colonel James Lampert and Army Corps of Engineers staff to
   initiate planning for such a mobile reactor. Alfred Boch and a team
   including Harold McCurdy and Frank Neill in the Electronuclear
   Division were given responsibility to design this small reactor.
   They selected a heterogeneous, pressurized-water, stainless steel
   system design that could use standard components wherever possible
   for easy replacement at remote bases. Walter Jordan led a
   Laboratory team that drew up specifications for a package reactor
   capable of generating 10 MW of heat and 2 MW of electricity.
   General Samuel Sturgis, chief of the Army Engineers, decided to
   build the reactor at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where his officers
   could be trained to operate it.
   
   The Army Package Reactor was the first reactor built under bid by
   private contractors. The Army Corps of Engineers, in fact, received
   18 bids that ranged from $2.25 million to $7 million. The Corps
   awarded the contract to Alco Products (American Locomotive Company)
   in December 1954, and Alco completed the reactor in 1957.
   
   With a core easily transportable in a C-47 airplane, the Army
   Package Reactor could generate power for two years without
   refueling; a small oil-fired plant would consume 54,000 barrels of
   diesel fuel over the same period. The Army later built similar
   package reactors for power and heat generation in the Arctic and
   other remote bases.
   
   
                            PURIFICATION
   
   Ancient athletes considered the Olympics a purifying experience.
   Purification was also a preoccupation of scientists who
   participated in the nuclear olympics of the 1950s--not personal
   purification, but fuel purification to enable nuclear reactors to
   operate more efficientlyo a preoccupation of scientists who
   participated in the nuclear olympics of the 1950s--not personal
   purification, but fuel purification to enable nuclear reactors to
   operate more efficiently.nk Steahly, and Floyd Culler sought to
   improve fuel purification by recovering valuable plutonium and
   uranium from spent fuel elements and separating them from fission
   products. Laboratory interest in these efforts was reflected by the
   subdivision of its Technical Division into the Reactor Technology
   and the Chemical Technology divisions in February 1950. The Reactor
   Technology Division carried out Laboratory responsibilities for
   reactor development, whereas the Chemical Technology Division,
   following the lead of the Laboratory's "separations and recovery"
   experience during and after World War II, sought to improve
   chemical separations processes.
   
   The Laboratory's most important achievement during World War II had
   been the recovery of plutonium from Graphite Reactor fuel. Drawing
   on its wartime experience, the Laboratory attained notable success
   during the postwar years recovering uranium stored in waste tanks
   near the Graphite Reactor. Hanford's management called on
   Laboratory staff to address similar recovery problems at its
   plutonium production facilities in the state of Washington. The
   Laboratory also built a pilot plant to improve Argonne National
   Laboratory's REDOX process for recovering plutonium and uranium by
   solvent extraction. The pilot plant served as a prototype for an
   immense REDOX process plant completed at Hanford in 1952. To
   recover uranium from fuel plates at the AEC's Idaho reactor site,
   Frank Bruce, Don Ferguson, and associates improved the so-called
   "25 process," and Floyd Culler completed design of a large plant
   that used this process, also in 1952.
   
   Recovery, separation, and extraction--the primary components of
   fuel purification--were big business at the Laboratory during the
   1950s. Such efforts played a major role in developing the Plutonium
   and Uranium Extraction (PUREX) process selected in 1950 for use at
   the Savannah River Plant reactors. Two huge PUREX plants were built
   at Savannah River in 1954 and a third at Hanford in 1956. Later,
   large plants using the PUREX process were built in other nations,
   and some Laboratory executives believe the PUREX process may
   constitute the Laboratory's greatest contribution to nuclear
   energy.
   
   By 1954, the Laboratory's chemical technologists had completed a
   pilot plant demonstrating the ability of the THOREX process to
   separate thorium, protactinium, and uranium-233 from fission
   products and from each other. This process could isolate
   uranium-233 for weapons development and also for use as fuel in the
   proposed thorium breeder reactors.
   
   During the 1950s, the Laboratory's Chemical Technology Division
   served as the AEC's center for pilot plant development, echoing the
   Laboratory's wartime role in plutonium recovery and extraction. The
   succession of challenges it had to meet--uranium-235 recovery,
   PUREX development, and construction and operation of the REDOX and
   THOREX pilot plants--swelled the ranks of the Chemical Technology
   Division from fewer than 100 people in 1950 to almost 200 in 1955.
   A similar expansion took place in the Analytical Chemistry
   Division. Its staff increased from 110 people to 214 people during
   the same period.
   
   The fuel purification program brought Eugene Wigner back to the
   Laboratory in 1954. Wigner had been working for Du Pont on the
   design of the Savannah River reactors when he agreed to return to
   Oak Ridge to apply his chemical engineering expertise to design a
   solvent extraction plant. Labeled Project Hope because it promised
   to extend the supply of fissionable materials for energy
   production, Wigner's 1954 study resulted in the design of a
   processing plant able to recover uranium-235 from spent fuel for
   reuse in reactors at a cost of $1 per gram, much lower than the
   prevailing cost of $7.50 per gram of uranium from ore.
   
   His study helped turn the attention of the Laboratory's chemical
   technologists from improving individual processes for recovery of
   uranium, plutonium, and thorium to developing an integrated plant
   capable of separating all nuclear materials at a single site. The
   proposed power reactor fuel reprocessing facility would have
   competed with private industry, however, and eventually the AEC
   decided not to construct it.
   
   
                    OAK RIDGE RESEARCH REACTOR
   
   In 1953, the Laboratory received AEC approval to build a new
   research reactor. The reactor design, blueprinted by Tom Cole's
   team, combined features of the Materials Testing Reactor and the
   Bulk Shielding Reactor. With a thermal power rating of 20 MW, its
   neutron flux--the neutron beam intensity so critical for
   research--was 100 times greater than that of the Graphite Reactor
   and was exceeded only by that of the Materials Testing Reactor in
   IdaTesting Reactor and the Bulk Shielding Reactor. With a thermal
   power rating of 20 MW, its neutron flux--the neutron beam intensity
   so critical for research--was 100 times greater than that of the
   Graphite Reactor and was exceeded only by that of the Materials
   Testing Reactor in Idaho.supporting many scientific advances. 
   
   Physicists Cleland Johnson, Frances Pleasonton, and Arthur Snell
   performed the first scientific experiments at the Oak Ridge
   Research Reactor. Examining the relative directions of neutron and
   electron (beta particle) emissions in the decay of helium-6 nuclei,
   they confirmed the electron- neutrino theory of nuclear beta decay.
   The results guided the improvement of the recoil spectrometry
   techniques pioneered by Snell and his colleagues. Information on
   the masses, energies, and nuclear particles of fission fragments
   was obtained at the ORR by John Dabbs, Louis Roberts, George
   Parker, John Walter, and Hal Schmitt. Jack Harvey, Bob Block, and
   Grimes Slaughter used time-of flight spectrometry to obtain data
   for the design of fission power reactors. 
   
   Neutron scattering research at the ORR by Wallace Koehler, Mike
   Wilkinson, Ralph Moon, Joe Cable, and Ray Child examined the
   magnetic properties of rare earths and other materials. Using a
   triple-axis spectrometer at an ORR beam port, Harold Smith,
   Wilkinson, Bob Nicklow, and Herb Mook gained new insights on the
   dynamic properties of solids and the interatomic forces in various
   crystals. Henri Levy, Selmer Peterson, Smith, Bill Busing, and
   George Brown pioneered automated single-crystal neutron diffraction
   studies, producing information on the structure of such materials
   as sugar crystals. 
   
   A Physics Division team composed of Philip Miller, James Baird, and
   William Dress worked at the ORR in collaboration with Norman Ramsey
   of Harvard for a decade, conducting a series of experiments on an
   electrical charge characteristic of neutrons. They designed and
   operated a novel neutron spectrometer based on Ramsey's separated
   oscillatory-field method for magnetic resonance. For this work and
   other investigations of the fundamental characteristics of the
   proton and neutron, Ramsey was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics
   in 1989. 
   
   Another example of pioneering research at the ORR was completed
   from 1974 to 1978 by Kirk Dickens, Bob Peelle, Temple Love, and Jim
   McConnell of the Neutron Physics Division together with Juel Emory
   and Joe Northcutt of the Analytical Chemistry Division. They
   measured the rate of heat generation from the decay of fission
   products in reactor fuel, an effect crucial to determining what
   might happen during loss-of coolant accidents at reactors and how
   much emergency cooling would be required for reactor cores. 
   
   Using sets of capsules moved mechanically into and out of the ORR's
   neutron stream, nuclear fuels for reactors were tested. These
   capsules often had colorful names, such as the "eight-ball capsule"
   used to test spherical fuel for a German gas-cooled reactor. For
   gas-cooled reactor experiments led by John Conlin, John Coobs, and
   Edward Storto, two fuel irradiation test loops using circulating
   helium were installed at the ORR. 
   
   To qualify a second reactor core for the nuclear ship Savannah, I.
   T. Dudley installed a pressurized-water loop at the ORR. Donald
   Trauger, who had charge of the tests using capsules and loops,
   notes that the testing facilities were later copied for similar
   testing of reactors in the Netherlands and elsewhere. 
   
   Clifford Savage built and operated an engineering-scale test loop
   at the ORR to study fuel behavior and corrosion rates for the
   Laboratory's Homogeneous Reactor Experiment. Although not the first
   of their type, these engineering-scale experiments were the most
   advanced of their time. 
   
   During the last experiments at the ORR before its operation ceased
   in 1987, its highly-enriched uranium fuel was replaced with
   low-enriched fuel containing only 20 percent uranium-235. The last
   experiments revealed that low-enrichment fuel could be substituted
   for highly enriched fuel in most research reactors. Such a switch
   could allay fears that highly enriched fuel might be diverted into
   nuclear weapons production. 
   
   The research reactor's presence caused scientists and engineers
   from throughout the world to seek assignments at the Laboratory.
   For the less scientifically inclined, the reactor became a tourist
   attraction. An impressive structure, silhouetted by the blue glow
   of Cerenkov radiation emanating from the core within its protective
   pool, the Oak Ridge Research Reactor was admired in person by
   Senator John Kennedy, U.S. Representative Gerald Ford, and other
   noted and aspiring political figures. Thanks to relaxed security
   requirements in the wake of President Eisenhower's call for
   international cooperation, the reactor also lured many foreign
   scientists and dignitaries, such as the queen of Greece and the
   king of Jordan, who came to the Laboratory on other business but
   could not pass up an opportunity to see one of the facility's most
   notable pieces of equipment.
   
   
                        1955 GENEVA CONFERENCE
   
   The Laboratory's new research reactor was being ds were being made
   for the first United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic
   Energy. That conference was scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland, in
   August 1955. A staid, professional scientific meeting, organized in
   response to Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" initiative, it also
   became an extravagant science fair with exhibits from many nations
   emphasizing their scientific achievements. ng their scientific
   achievements. 
   
   Never before had the accomplishments of nuclear power been placed
   on such a public stage. And never before had scientists so openly
   presented their findings as symbols of national prestige. Just as
   the athletic Olympics in the post-World War II era emerged as
   peaceful arenas for venting Cold War animosities, the 1955 Geneva
   conference on the atom became a platform for comparing the relative
   strengths of science in capitalist and communist societies.
   
   Because critical assessments of the exhibits, especially those
   brought by the Soviets and Americans, were expected, the AEC asked
   its laboratories for spectacular exhibit concepts. At Oak Ridge,
   Tom Cole's suggestion that the AEC build and display a small
   nuclear reactor was welcomed.
   
   In early 1955, a Laboratory team led by Charles Winters and William
   Morgan designed and fabricated a scaled-down version of the
   Materials Testing Reactor, operating at 100 kW instead of 30 MW.
   The Laboratory designed it as the first reactor to use low-enriched
   uranium dioxide fuel. When the fuel plates were fabricated,
   however, a reaction between the uranium dioxide and aluminum caused
   the plates to distort. Jack Cunningham's team finished resetting
   the plates just before shipment.  
   
   After testing, the reactor was disassembled and sent by air from
   Knoxville to Geneva, where the Laboratory team reassembled it in a
   building constructed on the grounds of the Palais des Nations.
   Designed, built, tested, transported to Geneva, and reassembled in
   only five months, it became the most spectacular display at the
   conference, admired by political dignitaries such as President
   Eisenhower as well as by the public and media. The reactor and the
   28 scientific papers presented to the conference by staff members
   gave the Laboratory a claim to the laurels of the international
   competition.
   
   Heralding the multifaceted applications of peaceful atomic power,
   the Geneva conference captured the public's imagination. After the
   conference, the U.S. exhibit returned home for a triumphant
   national tour, minus its most eye-catching element. The Swiss
   government had purchased Oak Ridge's model Materials Testing
   Reactor to use at a research facility.
   
   At the same time, the Laboratory acquired its own version of the
   Geneva reactor. To ensure against loss of the reactor during
   shipment to Switzerland, Charles Winters had made duplicates of all
   its components. These were assembled in the pool of the
   Laboratory's Bulk Shielding Reactor and became known as the Pool
   Critical Assembly. John Swartout later recalled the chiding he
   received from AEC management for allowing the Pool Critical
   Assembly to be built without advance AEC approval. Swartout pointed
   out that if the reactor were safe enough to be operated within the
   city of Geneva, it certainly was safe within the confines of the
   Laboratory.
   
   "Our Laboratory stands today as an institution of international
   reputation," exulted Alvin Weinberg, who became Laboratory director
   shortly after the conference. "This we sense from our many
   distinguished foreign visitors, from the numerous invitations which
   our staff receives to foreign meetings, and in the substantial part
   which we played at Geneva. But with international reputation comes
   international competition." And, as any Olympic champion will tell
   you, as difficult as it is to win the first gold medal, it is even
   more difficult to sustain a level of performance unequalled by
   others. 
   
   
                          GAS-COOLED REACTOR
   
   International exchange on nuclear matters brought the Laboratory a
   new assignment from the AEC: to explore gas-cooled nuclear reactor
   technology.  Although U.S. studies of gas-cooled reactors waned
   after investigwaned after investigations into the Daniels Power
   Pile were halted in 1948, British scientists successfully designed
   and built several large gas-cooled reactors in the early
   1950s.reacted to the British advances by directing the AEC to gain
   first-hand experience with gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors. 
   In response, AEC turned to the Laboratory, which formed a study
   team headed by Robert Charpie.  The team's key task was to compare
   the feasibility and costs of gas-cooled and water-cooled reactors.
   
   Encouraged by the initial findings, in 1957, the AEC asked the
   Laboratory to design fuel elements for the Experimental Gas-Cooled
   Reactor (EGCR), which the AEC planned to build in Oak Ridge.  By
   early 1958, the Laboratory had completed a conceptual design for a
   helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor.  Its core was to consist
   of uranium oxide clad in stainless steel.  A team led by Murray
   Rosenthal also studied fuel elements coated with graphite as an
   alternative.  John Conlin, Frank McQuilkin, and Don Trauger led a
   team that assessed these competing concepts.
   
   In 1959, after the Tennessee Valley Authority agreed to become the
   reactor operator, the AEC arranged for the EGCR to be constructed
   on the banks of the Clinch River near the Laboratory.  The reactor
   was to serve as a prototype for electric power generation and
   TVA--the nation's largest public utility--hoped to participate in
   a demonstration that held great promise for helping the agency meet
   its customers' future power needs.  In line with its previous
   research, ORNL was given responsibility for developing and
   fabricating the EGCR's fuel elements and moderator.
   
   Eight test loops inside the reactor would have allowed Laboratory
   scientists to test the various fuel elements.  Construction delays
   and increasing project costs, however, soon caused the test loops
   to be eliminated from the design.  Then, in 1966, the AEC ordered
   the project stopped even though all construction on the reactor had
   been completed and its fuel elements had been manufactured and
   fully tested.  The light-water reactor industry had advanced so
   rapidly that the Oak Ridge gas-cooled reactor prototype had become
   obsolete before it had become operational.
   
   
                      MOLTEN SALT TECHNOLOGY
   
   Another innovative nuclear reactor design was developed at the
   Laboratory in 1956 when a team headed by Herbert MacPherson
   investigated the application of molten salt technology. The
   Laboratory's aircraft reactor experiments during the early 1950s
   used molten (fused) uranium fluorides (salts) as reactor fuel.
   Molten-salt fuel could function at high temperatures and low
   pressures in a liquid system that could be cleansed of fission
   products without stopping the reactor. Like other liquid nuclear
   fuels, however, molten salts were highly corrosive and posed
   significant materials challenges.
   
   To meet these challenges, MacPherson organized a group that studied
   molten materials in the test loops built for the aircraft reactor
   project and assigned to Alfred Perry the cost studies for various
   molten-salt reactors. Teams headed by Beecher Briggs, Paul Kasten,
   L. E. McNeese, and William Manly developed improved designs and
   focused on identifying corrosion-resistant materials for use in
   molten-salt reactors.
   
   When an AEC task force in 1959 identified molten salt as the most
   promising of the liquid-fuel reactor systems, the AEC approved
   construction of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. By 1960, the
   Laboratory was designing an experimental molten-salt reactor using
   graphite blocks as the moderator.  
   
   A uranium-bearing fuel of molten fluorides was pumped through the
   core and through a heat exchanger made of a nickel-molybdenum
   alloy, called Hastelloy N, developed earlier at the Laboratory for
   the aircraft reactor. Ed Bettis headed a design team that
   continually refined the reactor configuration. Warren Grimes
   provided chemical insights that determined many features of the
   system.
   
   Molten-salt reactor experiments continued at the Laboratory through
   the 1960s and into the early 1970s. In 1969, Keith Brown, David
   Crouse, Carlos Bamberger, and colleagues adapted molten-salt
   technology to the problem of breeding uranium-233 from thorium,
   which could be extracted from the virtually inexhaustible supply of
   granite rocks found throughout the earth's crust. When bombarded by
   neutrons in the molten-salt reactor, thorium was converted to
   fissionable uranium-233, another nuclear fuel.
   
   
                          PROJECT SHERWOOD
   
   Alvin Weinberg described the Laboratory's use of the uranium-233
   reactor fuel bred from neutron irradiation of thorium as "burning
   the rocks"; conversely, ea water, "burning the sea."  Thus, by the
   late 1950s Laboratory researchers were searching for an
   inexhaustible energy supply extracted either from the earth's crust
   or seas. Using elements found in abundance in granite or seawater
   would potentially provide limitless energy.om the earth's crust or
   seas. Using elements found in abundance in granite or seawater
   would potentially provide limitless energy.
   
   The Laboratory's fusion research efforts were no less Promethean
   than its fission research. Such research began in Oak Ridge in 1953
   as a small part of the AEC's classified Project Sherwood.  By the
   time of the second scientific olympics at Geneva in 1958, however,
   the Laboratory had become a world leader in fusion research.
   
   Hydrogen nuclei release enormous energy when they fuse together, as
   in the thermonuclear reaction associated with detonation of a
   hydrogen bomb. Fusion temperatures of the hydrogen isotopes
   deuterium and tritium are about one million degrees.
   
   Major research aimed at fusing these isotopes in a controlled
   thermonuclear reaction began in 1951, when Argentine President Juan
   Peron announced that scientists in his country had liberated energy
   through thermonuclear fusion without using uranium and under
   controlled conditions that could be replicated without causing a
   holocaust.
   
   Peron's claim proved false, but it stimulated a host of
   international fusion research initiatives, including the AEC's
   classified Project Sherwood. Legend has it that the name Sherwood
   came from the answer to the question, "Would you like to have
   cheap, nonpolluting, and everlasting energy?"  The answer was "Sure
   would." In reality, the name was derived from a complicated pun on
   the story of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, which involved robbing
   Hood Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to
   fund James Tuck's fusion research at Los Alamos.
   
   To achieve fusion, scientists sought to contain a cloud, or plasma,
   of hydrogen ions at high temperature in a magnetic field. Because
   the plasma cooled if it touched the sides of its container,
   electromagnetic forces (pushing from different directions) were
   necessary to hold the plasma in the center away from the
   container's sides. If the plasma were suspended in the same place
   long enough and at a high enough density and temperature,
   scientists believed a fusion reaction would begin and become
   self-sustaining.
   
   In its early years, Project Sherwood focused on three fusion
   devices. Princeton University had a stellarator, a hollow twisted
   doughnut-shaped metal container, with electric wires coiled around
   it to supply a magnetic field to confine the charged hydrogen ions.
   Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California had a "mirror" device
   with a magnetic field stronger at its ends than in the middle to
   reflect hydrogen ions back to the middle of the field. And James
   Tuck's "Perhapsatron" at Los Alamos sought to contain the hot
   plasma through a "magnetic pinch"--that is, magnetic forces were
   designed to hold, or pinch, the plasma toward the middle of the
   container.
   
   In Oak Ridge, the Laboratory focused not on a particular device but
   on two problems basic to fusion devices: how to inject particles
   into the devices and how to heat the plasma to temperatures high
   enough to ignite the reaction.
   
   With large surplus electromagnets on hand at the Y-12 Plant from
   the calutrons once used to separate uranium-235 from uranium-238,
   an ion source group in the Electronuclear Division, which included
   Ed Shipley, P. R. Bell, Al Simon, and John Luce, became responsible
   for fusion research. Their background in electromagnetic separation
   and high-current cyclotrons led them to studies of energetic ion
   injection to create a hot plasma. Theoretical work showed promise
   and, in 1957, the Laboratory formed a Thermonuclear Experimental
   Division with a staff of 70 people to pursue the fusion challenge.
   Personnel came from the Physics and Electronuclear divisions and
   from the discontinued aircraft reactor project.
   
   In 1957, published stories and unsubstantiated rumors hinted that
   British scientists might have achieved a successful fusion
   reaction. Although overstated, the stories and rumors nevertheless
   encouraged greater emphasis on fusion research by both the AEC and
   the Laboratory. Moving a particle accelerator into the Y-12 Plant
   to provide a beam of high-energy deuterium molecular ions, Luce,
   Shipley, and their associates built the Direct Current Experiment
   (DCX), a magnetic mirror fusion device. In August 1957, they
   "crossed the swords," injecting a deuterium molecular beam into a
   carbon arc that dissociated the beam into a visible ring of
   circulating deuterium ions (shaped like a bicycle tire). This
   advance transformed Project Sherwood from a remote, abstract theory
   to a real possibility.
   
   Planning for a second United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of
   Atomic Energy coincided with the Laboratory's advance in fusion
   research. AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss, determined that the United
   States should achieve a triumph equal to that of 1955 at the 1958
   scientific olympics, threw the AEC's full support behind fusion
   research. He hoped that American scientists could display an
   operating fusion energy device at the 1958 Geneva conference, just
   as they had displayed a successful nuclear reactor three years
   earlier.
   
   "I have received a letter from Chairman Strauss exhorting the
   Laboratory to do everything it possibly can to have
   incontrovertible proof of a thermonuclear plasma by the time of
   Geneva," Weinberg informed Laboratory staff. He went on to say:
         We are now engaged in this enterprise; we have mobilized
         people from every part of the Laboratory for this purpose and,
         with complete assurance of unlimited support from the
         Commission, we have put the work into the very highest gear.
         I can think of few things that would give any of us as much
         satisfaction as to have Oak Ridge the scene of the first
         successful demonstration of substantial amounts of controlled
         thermonuclear energy.
   
   
                        1958 GENEVA CONFERENCE
   
   By the time of the second United Nations Conference on Peaceful
   Uses of Atomic Energy in September 1958, intense media attention
   oergy in September 1958, intense media attention on the miracles of
   nuclear energy had jaded the public. Saturated for years with news
   about the potential miracles of nuclear energy, Americans turned
   their attention to other matters. Moreover, Soviet scientists, so
   prominent at the 1955 conference, were no longer subjects of great
   public curiosity., the second Geneva conference turned out to be
   less a media circus and more a conventional scientific conference.
   In 1958, only schemes and devices for achieving controlled
   thermonuclear reaction through fusion enjoyed the glamour linked to
   the first conference.
   
   The second conference, however, was the largest international
   scientific conference ever held. Exhibits filled a huge hall built
   on the grounds of the Palais des Nations. Sixty-one nations
   participated, and 21 exhibited fusion devices, fission reactors,
   atom smashers, or models of nuclear power plants.
   
   The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union declassified
   their fusion research at the time of the conference, and Chairman
   Lewis Strauss resigned from the AEC to lead the American delegation
   to Geneva. It took nearly 10 hours to view the United States
   exhibit alone. The most popular attractions were models of the
   Laboratory's DCX fusion machine.
   
   The Laboratory provided two full-scale working models of its DCX
   machine to display its operating principles. Through viewing
   windows, visitors could see the beam, and the ring of ions wound
   around it like a ball of yarn. Using a bit of showmanship, the
   Laboratory made the trapped ring visible by dusting it with
   tungsten particles from above.
   
   Soviet fusion specialists took intense interest in the DCX display
   because they were also pursuing a molecular-ion-injection approach
   to fusion. After the conference, other nations, drawing on the
   Laboratory's experience, built DCX-type machines, making them
   fundamental tools for plasma research.
   
   Optimism over the future success of fusion energy, however, soon
   faded. The supposed British achievement of fusion with a pinch-type
   device proved premature, and the ability of pinch machines to
   provide a stable plasma was questioned. Unstable plasma escaping
   the magnetic field also plagued the Princeton stellarator, and by
   the end of 1958, Laboratory scientists learned that their carbon
   arc lost trapped ions, forcing the DCX staff to study different
   types of arcs and to plan an improved device, called DCX-2.
   
   In 1959 Alvin Weinberg, a proponent of nuclear fission and thorium
   breeding reactors, compared Project Sherwood to "walking on planks
   over quicksand." Plasma physics was so novel then that solid spots
   remained unknown, nor was it fully apparent that any existed.
   "Working in this field requires a rugged constitution," Weinberg
   concluded, "but I'm told that those who can stand it find it
   stimulating."
   
   Eugene Wigner reported that Soviet scientists were more cooperative
   at the 1958 Geneva conference than they had been in 1955, perhaps
   because of the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite into
   orbit in 1957. Wigner found them open about their nuclear fission
   and fusion energy research but unwilling to share information about
   their space missions or their particle acceleration program. "Pure
   science in the Soviet Union still seems to be far from an open
   book," he observed.
   
   Early Soviet achievements in space exploration sent shock waves
   throughout American political and scientific circles. Following the
   Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik, international
   scientific competition shifted from fission and fusion energy
   research to the race for space. As international scientific
   interests shifted, so did the focus of the federal government from
   the AEC to the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration
   (NASA). Nuclear research remained an important aspect of America's
   scientific agenda, but it now had to share the policy spotlight
   with space issues. Geneva conferences on the atom were held
   occasionally after 1958, but none ever gripped the public
   imagination as had the first and second stellar events.
   
   
                           AFTER THE GOLD 
   
   Nuclear reactor development at the Laboratory reached a pinnacle in
   1956 and began a slow descent in 1957 with the cancellation of its
   aircraft reactor program and troubles with its second experimental
   homogeneous reactor. In 1956, when the Laboratory budget was $60
   million and its staff reached 4369, Weinberg boasted: "We are the
   largest nuclear energy laboratory in the United States, and we are
   among the half-dozen largest technical institutions in the world."
   
   With cancellation of the aircraft reactor in September 1957, the
   Laboratory budget was slashed 20% and its staffing cut to 3943. The
   1957 reduction would have been even steeper if the Laboratory had
   not absorbed some people into the molten-salt reactor, gas-cooled
   reactor, and Sherwood programs. Moreover, the Eisenhower
   administration froze the Laboratory's budget in 1957, forcing
   postponement of a major building expansion program that included an
   east wing of the general research building, an instruments
   building, and a metallurgy and ceramics building, which together
   would have added a half million square feet of work space. Weinberg
   called these actions "cataclysmic setbacks" that ranked with the
   loss of the Materials Testing Reactor in 1947.
   
   
                        HOMOGENEOUS REACTOR
   
   After successful operation of the first aqueous homogeneous reactor
   in 1954, the Laboratory proceeded with design of a larger
   homogeneous reactor on a pilot-plant scale. Whereas the first
   reactor had been a one-time experiment to prove yet unproven
   theoretical principles, the second reactor, sometimes identified as
   the Homogeneous Reactor Test, was designed to operate routinely for
   lengthy periods.
   
   The second homogeneous reactor was fueled by a uranyl sulfate
   solution containing 10 grams of enriched uranium per kilogram of
   heavy water, which circulated through its core at the rate of 400
   gallons (1450 liters) per minute. Its fuel loop included the
   central core, a pressurizer, separator, steam generator,
   circulating pump, and inter-connected piping. Its core vessel was
   approximately a meter in diameter and centered inside a 60-inch
   (152-centimeter) spherical pressure vessel made of stainless steel.
   A reflector blanket of heavy water filled the space between the two
   vessels.
   
   Perhaps the most exotic nuclear reactor ever built, it gave
   Laboratory staffers trouble from the start. During its shakedown
   run with pressurized water, chloride ions contaminated the
   leak-detector lines, forcing replacement of that system and
   delaying the power test six months. 
   
   In January 1958, the Laboratory brought this reactor to critical
   mass and operated it for many hours into February 1958, when it
   became apparent that its outside stainless steel tank was corroding
   too rapidly. In April the reactor reached its design power of 5 MW.
   Then, in September, a hole suddenly formed in the interior zircaloy
   tank. Viewing the hole through a jury-rigged periscope and mirrors,
   operators determined that it had been melted into the tank--that
   is, the uranium had settled out of the fuel solution and lodged on
   the tank's side.
   
   By the end of 1958, the AEC considered abandoning the Homogeneous
   Reactor Test, and Eugene Wigner came to the Laboratory to inspect
   it personally. "The trouble seems to be that the rich phase adsorbs
   to the walls and forms a solid layer there," Wigner reported to the
   AEC staff, relaying the findings of the Laboratory staff. He
   thought altering the flow of fluid through the core would provide
   the velocity needed to prevent the uranium from settling on the
   tank walls. "It is my opinion that abandoning the program would be
   a monumental mistake," he warned, pointing out that the reactor
   could convert thorium into uranium-233 to supplement a dwindling
   supply of uranium-235.
   
   The AEC allowed the Laboratory to alter the reactor flow and
   continue its testing in 1959. These activities were accomplished by
   interchanging the inlet and outlet to reverse the fluid flow
   through the reactor. Several lengthy test runs followed in 1959,
   and the reactor operated continuously for 105 days--at the time, a
   record for uninterrupted operation of reactors. The lengthy test
   run demonstrated the advantages of a homogeneous system in which
   new fuel could be added and fission products removed during reactor
   operation.
   
   Near the end of the year, a second hole burned in the core tank.
   Laboratory staff again patched the hole using some difficult remote
   repairs and started another test run. Because of these
   difficulties, Pennsylvania Power and Light Company and Westinghouse
   Corporation abandoned their proposal to build a homogeneous reactor
   as a central power station.
   
   During the shutdown and repairs, Congress viewed the aqueous
   homogeneous reactor troubles unfavorably, and in December 1960, the
   AEC directed the Laboratory to end testing and turn its attention
   to developing a molten-salt reactor and thorium breeder. The last
   aqueous homogeneous reactor test run continued until early 1961.
   For months, the reactor operated at full power until a plug
   installed earlier to patch one of the uranium holes disintegrated.
   Although the homogeneous reactor never found direct commercial
   applications, the Laboratory's efforts to test its long-term
   usefulness ultimately strengthened its capabilities for maintaining
   and repairing highly radioactive systems.
   
   
                         MATERIAL CHALLENGES
   
   The rapid pace of reactor development at the Laboratory prompted
   research in detecting flaws in reactor materials that could be
   signs of impending failure.  In short, Laboratory staff
   investigated not only how reactors would run, but whether materials
   in reactor components could withstand the stresses of radiation
   over the long term.
   
   In 1955, for example, R.B. Oliver was given responsibility for
   developing and applying new techniques to detect welding flaws. 
   Nuclear reactors, on a commercial scale, would contain miles and
   miles of piping and machinery seamed together by an endless series
   of welds, which would prove critical to a reactor's operation and
   safety.  Moreover, the materials used for the pumps, piping, and
   containment of a nuclear reactor all would be subject to long-term,
   sometimes intense, radiation.
   
   "Material" concerns had been a major focus of the nuclear airplane
   program and it remained a key research initiative throughout the
   Laboratory's reactor development era between the 1950s and 1970s. 
   In fact, by developing and demonstrating non-obstrusive techniques
   to test the integrity of materials (for example, ultrasonic waves
   and penetrating-radiation), the Laboratory became a world leader in
   "nondestructive" materials testing.  Robert McClung headed this
   Laboratory program from the 1960s to the 1980s.
   
   Health physicists continued to seek a better understanding of how
   radiation from reactors and other sources interacts with solids and
   liquids. In the early 1950s ORNL scientists measured energy losses
   of swift electrons after penetrating thin metal foils. Rufus
   Ritchie launched the quantitative understanding of electron energy
   losses in irradiated solids and liquids by discovering the surface
   plasmon, a motion of electrons in matter. In this motion, electrons
   move collectively in response to the electric field of a
   penetrating charged particle. This surface motion remains a major
   topic of research because it helps explain surface phenomena.  Only
   now are the potential applications of this knowledge being realized
   in computing, communications, laser technology, environmental
   monitoring, and medical diagnosis and treatment.
   
   
                       ECOLOGICAL CHALLENGES
   
   Even as the Laboratory moved forward with its nuclear energy
   program, unmet challenges relating to nuclear fission and the
   Laboratory's missions arose--most notably, the threat of
   radioactive fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs and
   the need to deal more effectively with radioactive wastes called
   for research by the Laboratory's scientists. The need to broaden
   the Laboratory's base and avoid competition with private industry
   also challenged its management.
   
   Until 1963, fission and fusion bomb tests were conducted in the
   atmosphere, causing much public concern about radioactive fallout.
   A principal concern during the early 1950s was the fallout of
   strontium-90, a calcium-mimicking, bone-seeking fission product
   that fell from windblown clouds to the soil below, where it could
   be taken up by grass and eaten by cows to wind up in milk consumed
   by humans.
   
   To study this and other issues of radiation ecology, the
   Laboratory, responding to the recommendation of Edward Struxness,
   hired Orlando Park, an ecologist from Northwestern University, as
   a consultant in 1953. The Laboratory subsequently asked Park's
   student, Stanley Auerbach, to join its Health Physics Division.
   Both Park and Auerbach were expert investigators of the effects of
   radioactivity on ecological systems, particularly how radioactive
   nuclides migrate from water and soil to plants, animals, and
   humans. A major issue in the early 1950s was how quickly
   strontium-90 in the soil was taken up by plants. In fact, this and
   other questions about radioactive fallout became issues in the 1956
   presidential election. During the same year, the Laboratory
   expanded its scientific studies of radioactive fallout into a
   Radiation Ecology Section in the Health Physics Division, and
   Auerbach was named section leader.
   
   Auerbach and his colleagues found a ready field laboratory for
   their work in the bed of White Oak Lake, a drained reservoir where
   the Laboratory once had flushed low-level wastes. Examining the
   native plants and even planting corn in the radioactive lake bed,
   the ecologists studied the manner in which vegetation absorbed
   radionuclides from the environment. Investigations of insects,
   fish, mammals, and other creatures followed, enabling Laboratory
   ecologists to establish international reputations in aquatic and
   terrestrial radioecology.
   
   Taking advantage of the Laboratory's isotopes, the ecologists used
   radioactive tracers to follow the movements of animals, the route
   of chemicals through the food chain, and the rates of
   decom-position in forest detritus. Sponsoring national symposia on
   ecosystems and related subjects, their work added much to the study
   of radioecology, an emerging scientific field that counts Auerbach
   and his colleagues among its founders. When atmospheric bomb
   testing ended in 1963 and interest in fallout waned, the ecologists
   refocused their studies, forming the nucleus of the Ecological
   Sciences Division, established at the Laboratory in 1970 and later
   renamed the Environmental Sciences Division.
   
   During World War II, the Laboratory stored its radioactive wastes
   in underground tanks for later recovery of the uranium and released
   its low-level wastes untreated into White Oak Lake. To reduce the
   level of radioactivity entering White Oak Creek and eventually the
   Clinch River, the Laboratory built a waste treatment plant during
   the 1950s to remove strontium and other fission products from its
   drainage. Uranium and other materials were recovered from
   underground tanks, and the remaining wastes were pumped into
   disposal pits.
   
   In 1953, the Laboratory initiated a multipronged remediation
   program designed to address its higher-level waste disposal
   problems. The Chemical Technology Division devised a pot
   calcination strategy that heated high-level liquid wastes in steel
   pots, converting the wastes into ceramic material for easier
   handling and storage. The Health Physics Division, under the
   direction of Edward Struxness and Wallace de Laguna, explored the
   hydrofracture disposal method used by the petroleum industry. The
   strategy consisted of drilling deep wells, applying pressure to
   fracture the rock substrata, and pumping cement grout mixed with
   radioactive wastes down the wells into the rock cracks, where the
   mixture spread out and hardened. Struxness and Frank Parker of the
   Health Physics Division initiated studies of waste disposal in salt
   mines, which were believed to be isolated from water. In 1959 the
   Laboratory tested this method by storing electrically heated,
   nonradioactive wastes in a Kansas salt mine. Under pressure from
   the state of Kansas, the AEC asked the Laboratory to stop the
   Kansas studies after wells were found near the salt mines. This and
   other methods that seemed promising during the 1950s presented
   difficulties, and none permanently resolved the disposal
   challenges.
   
   As the Laboratory's operating nuclear reactors increased in number
   and its fuel processing program burgeoned, the safety of equipment
   and the health of its personnel became a growing concern. Such
   concerns came to the forefront after a serious nuclear mishap in
   England during the late 1950s.
   
   At Windscale, England, a British graphite-moderated reactor caught
   fire in 1957 when its operators attempted to anneal it to release
   the energy stored in the graphite as a result of the "Wigner
   disease." (Annealing is a process of heating and slow cooling to
   increase a material's toughness and reduce its brittleness.) 
   Herbert MacPherson and a Laboratory team visited Windscale to
   review the accident and consider its implications for operation of
   the Laboratory's Graphite Reactor. MacPherson reported that the
   Laboratory's reactor operated at lower power and higher temperature
   than the Windscale reactor and that a similar accident could not
   occur in Oak Ridge. In the early 1960s, the Graphite Reactor was
   annealed three times without difficulties by reversing and reducing
   its air flow and slowly raising power.
   
   Although ORNL had experienced no reactor accidents, in 1959 it
   encountered three threatening situations involving radioactive
   materials. First, fission products accidentally entered the liquid
   waste disposal system from the THOREX pilot plant, and they were
   trapped in a settling basin. Second, ruthenium oxide trapped on the
   brick smokestack's rusty ductwork shook loose during maintenance at
   the pilot plant, forcing installation of more filters and scrubbers
   in the stack. And, third, a chemical explosion in the THOREX pilot
   plant during decontamination released about six-tenths of a gram of
   plutonium from a hot cell, spreading it onto a street and into the
   Graphite Reactor building next to the plant.
   
   Largely by chance no personnel suffered overexposure from these
   accidents, and the Laboratory immediately stopped its radiochemical
   operations for safety review. Improved containment measures
   followed, and Frank Bruce took charge of the Laboratory's radiation
   safety and control office to implement stricter safety precautions.
   P. R. Bell and Casimir Borkowski also devised ingenious compact
   radiation monitors, including the "pocket screamer," which was worn
   in the pocket and chirped and flashed at a speed proportional to
   gamma dosage rate. These devices were supplied as needed to
   Laboratory personnel who worked with reactors and hot cells.
   
   In addition to these challenges, the Laboratory found it
   increasingly difficult to keep background radiation at acceptable
   levels because the amount of radioactivity handled by the
   Laboratory increased during the 1950s, while government regulators
   steadily reduced the permissible levels to which workers could be
   exposed. Karl Morgan and other Laboratory health physicists
   maintained that the maximum permissible levels should be so low
   that hazards resulting from radiation were no greater than other
   occupational hazards. Laboratory biologists, however, had obtained
   differing results in studies of the effects of background
   radiation.  Arthur Upton, for example, found that mice subjected to
   chronic low-level radiation seemed to have an improved survival
   rate from infections or other biological crises.
   
   In 1955 ORNL's Health Physics Division became involved in helping
   to determine the health effects of various levels and types of
   radiation from the atomic bomb. With researchers from Los Alamos
   Scientific Laboratory, ORNL health physicists conducted the first
   major field experiment to measure levels of neutron and gamma
   radiation at various distances from the hypocenter of bomb blasts
   at the Nevada Test Site. 
   
   In 1956 health physicists Sam Hurst and Rufus Ritchie made the
   first of a series of Laboratory visits to Japan to correlate the
   Laboratory's information from the Nevada tests with data developed
   by Japan's Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.  Laboratory researchers
   evaluated the shielding capabilities of Japanese houses and other
   structures and recommended a dosimetry program to determine whether
   the survivors were properly shielded from radioactive materials in
   the environment.
   
   
                       COMPETITIVE CHALLENGES
   
   The Laboratory faced not only international competition during the
   late 1950s but also increasing competition at home from private
   nuclear companies. By 1959, the rapidly growing nuclear industry
   questioned the role of national laboratories, urging that some of
   their work be contracted to private industry or even that the
   laboratories be closed. Partly as a result of these pressures, the
   AEC circumscribed Laboratory programs in the late 1950s. For
   example, the AEC canceled the power reactor fuel reprocessing
   facility that the Chemical Technology Division hoped to build in
   Oak Ridge. In 1959, the Laboratory also recognized that it could
   soon lose its homogeneous and gas-cooled reactor programs. 
   
   In response to the expected decline in its nuclear reactor and
   chemical reprocessing programs, the Laboratory conducted an
   advanced technologies seminar in 1959 to identify possible missions
   beyond nuclear energy. The seminar recommended additional study of
   nationally valuable research programs that had not been
   commercially exploited. Desalination of sea water, meterology,
   oceanography, space technology, chemical contamination, and
   large-scale biology were mentioned as potential broad avenues of
   inquiry.
   
   Although convinced that federal investment in national laboratories
   was too great to permit their abandonment, Weinberg recognized that
   a realignment of their missions was in order. Asked to forecast the
   role of science and national laboratories during the 1960s,
   Weinberg expressed his hope that they "will be able to move more
   strongly toward those issues, primarily in the biological sciences,
   which bear directly upon the welfare of mankind."
   
   The Olympics of antiquity had begun as a single event: a long
   distance race between the best runners of competing Greek
   city-states. The modern Olympics, particularly in the post-World
   War II era, have been transformed into a sports carnival where
   athletes display their diverse skills as runners, swimmers,
   equestrians, weight lifters, skeet shooters, and volleyball and
   basketball players.
   
   In the same way, the scientific olympics in which the Laboratory
   competed began as a contest comparing the scientific prowess of the
   Soviet Union and the United States. The Laboratory, as one of
   America's primary institutions for scientific research, had a
   simple goal: display the nation's scientific talent and
   accomplishments in the most dramatic way possible.
   
   As the 1950s unfolded, however, the contest became more diverse and
   complicated. Space issues eclipsed the importance of nuclear
   research as the most important symbol of a nation's scientific
   capabilities; other goals began to compete for the Laboratory's
   resources and energies; and the initial successes of fission and
   fusion research proved difficult to replicate. In short, like
   Olympic runners who followed in the path of their earliest
   brethren, Laboratory scientists by the end of the 1950s found they
   would have to share the arena with other figures and other events.
   As the Laboratory entered the 1960s, its work would be less
   dramatic but no less important, and its focus more diverse but no
   less compelling. 
   
   
   
                               SIDEBARS
   
   
   VIPS AT THE ORR
   
   In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Oak Ridge Research Reactor
   (ORR) attracted a host of famous people, including a queen, two
   kings, and three future U.S. presidents--Gerald Ford, Lyndon
   Johnson, and John F. Kennedy.
   
   Senator Kennedy's visit to Oak Ridge on February 24, 1959, was
   described in great detail by The Oak Ridger, but no details were
   included on his visit to the ORR. From the available photos and
   newspaper stories, we know that he visited the reactor in the
   afternoon with his wife Jacqueline, Tennessee Senator Albert Gore
   Sr., and ORNL Director Alvin Weinberg. 
   
   Weinberg says the following about Kennedy's visit: "John Swartout,
   the deputy director of ORNL, and I accompanied our visitors. Since
   I was director, I chose to accompany Jackie. John was left to show
   Jack and Senator Gore around."
   
   Before visiting ORNL, Senator Kennedy had told 300 people at the
   Oak Terrace Restaurant in Grove Center that he was planning to run
   for president in 1960. He expressed support for peaceful uses of
   atomic energy and praised Senator Gore for being a leading exponent
   in the Senate for this cause. 
   
   Kennedy, who was described as "youthful and personable" by The Oak
   Ridger, said in his talk, "Here in Oak Ridge this nation has
   demonstrated the vast power which results from the combination of
   many talents and resources--abundant power, scientific personnel,
   industrial capabilities, fuel supplies, and zealous government
   administration."
   
   Senator Lyndon Johnson visited the ORR in 1958, and U.S.
   Representative Gerald Ford toured it in 1965. Vice President Hubert
   Humphrey was a guest at the ORR on February 4, 1965, and Senator
   John Pastore visited the reactor in January 1963.
   
   At the Oak Ridge Research Reactor, Weinberg hosted several members
   of royalty. King Leopold, former ruler of Belgium, visited the ORR
   in September 1957, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand came in
   1960. 
   
   Queen Frederika of Greece toured the reactor on November 7, 1958,
   prompting a flurry of photographs. She was the first queen ever to
   visit ORNL. The ORNL News reported that the queen "revealed a keen
   sense of knowledge of the nuclear energy field in her conversations
   with ORNL scientists."
   
   The March 30, 1959, visit of King Hussein of Jordan, only 23 years
   old at the time, prompted an article in The ORNL News detailing the
   young monarch's life story to date.
   
   Other distinguished visitors to the ORR included Sardor Mohammed
   Davd, prime minister of Afghanistan (June 28, 1958); Sir Ahmadu
   Bello, premier of Northern Nigeria (1960); and Ambassador Indira
   Nehru of India (October 26, 1963), who later became the country's
   prime minister. The heads of a Soviet Union laboratory and the
   Soviet Academy of Science were guests at the ORR in 1959, and Nobel
   Laureate Glenn Seaborg visited the reactor in 1963. 
   
   Why was the Oak Ridge Research Reactor such an attraction for
   royalty and famous politicians? At the time, according to Weinberg,
   research reactors were a novelty, and peaceful uses of nuclear
   energy were considered an unquestionable boon to humankind. The ORR
   was especially appealing because it was the most powerful research
   reactor in the world and because the beautiful blue glow from
   Cerenkov radiation that suffused its core was unlike anything the
   visitors had ever seen. For all these reasons, the ORR was a
   standard stop on all VIP tours of the Laboratory.
   
   
   1955 GENEVA CONFERENCE
   
   As a result of President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program,
   the United Nations in August 1955 conducted the first International
   Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva,
   Switzerland. 
   
   For display at this conference, the Laboratory designed and built
   a small nuclear reactor in just three months and transported it by
   air to Geneva. Called Project Aquarium because it was a "swimming
   pool" type reactor, it served as a prototype for research reactors
   overseas that could be fueled with the low-enrichment fissionable
   material contributed by the United States to the international
   stockpile. 
   
   In Geneva, President Eisenhower took personal interest in the
   reactor, received a full briefing, and pressed the control button
   that activated it. Afterward, the Laboratory staff designated him
   an "honorary reactor operator." 
   
   More than 62,000 people, including kings, queens, presidents, and
   other dignitaries, queued up to see the reactor's blue glow during
   the two-week-long conference. It became the most popular exhibit at
   the conference. Enrico Fermi's wife subsequently labeled it the
   world's "most beautiful little reactor." 
   
   
   CROSSING THE SWORDS
   
   The first step in understanding the details of chemical processes
   was taken at the Laboratory in 1954 when Sheldon Datz and Ellison
   Taylor invented a technique for studying chemical reactions by
   crossing a beam of one kind of molecule with that of another.
   Before Datz and Taylor's pioneering work, scientists had to be
   content with examining molecules before or after their reactions,
   not during the transitional phase.
   
   Understanding the dynamics of elementary physical and chemical
   processes at the molecular level requires fundamental
   investigations of the movement of molecules and the results of
   their encounters--in brief, what happens during a chemical
   reaction. The reactions occur so incredibly fast, however, that
   observing and understanding a reaction's transition phase seemed
   impossible before Datz and Taylor invented their technique.
   
   Datz and Taylor believed that much could be learned about chemical
   reactions if two reactants could be brought together as crossed
   beams, creating a shower of new molecules. Because each new
   molecule would result from a single collision, this process avoided
   the complications of accounting for chain reactions and collisions
   with container walls common to simpler experiments.
   
   In 1954, they "crossed the swords" of two accelerated, collimated
   (focused) beams, one composed of potassium atoms and the other of
   hydrogen bromide molecules. They found that they could measure the
   products' angular distribution. As a result, they could draw
   conclusions about the relative effectiveness of the various
   orientations of the colliding reactants.
   
   Datz and Taylor's crossed-beam scattering technique energized the
   science of chemical dynamics when their results were published in
   1955. The technique was recognized by the 1986 Nobel Prize in
   chemistry, which went to three men who refined the Oak Ridge
   technique. Applying infrared-emission spectroscopy, laser probes,
   and other modern tools to the crossed-beam scattering technique,
   modern scientists have begun to understand the dynamic interchange
   of atoms during chemical reactions. 
   
   
   ELLISON TAYLOR: PLAYER-COACH OF CHEMISTRY
   
   Just as player-coaches are rare in sports, so are laboratory
   division directors who continue their scientific research. Ellison
   H. Taylor, director of ORNL's Chemistry Division for 20 years,
   found time to pursue his own research interests during his
   directorship. Fortunately, he was division director from 1954 to
   1974 when the demands of the federal bureaucracy were not as great
   on managers as they are today. 
   
   Taylor joined the Chemistry Division in the fall of 1945, after
   conducting research on gaseous diffusion for uranium isotope
   separation for the Manhattan Project at Columbia University. He
   served in interim positions as acting director of the Chemistry
   Division and associate director of the Laboratory. When he took
   over the position of Chemistry Division director, he succeeded his
   friend and associate Samuel C. Lind, who had served as acting
   director. 
   
   Besides molding the physical science programs of the Chemistry
   Division, Taylor participated in them. He had a general interest in
   the chemical applications of molecular beams and began to
   investigate and refine various approaches. In 1951 he began
   collaborating with new staff scientist Sheldon Datz, who brought a
   familiarity with beam techniques from Columbia University. This
   collaboration grew into a major research activity. In 1955 their
   landmark publication on crossing molecular beams introduced a
   powerful new method of studying reaction mechanisms.
   
   Taylor collaborated with Ralph Livingston and Henry Zeldes in the
   first unambiguous identification by electron-spin resonance
   spectroscopy of a radiation-produced free radical, the hydrogen
   atom, in certain frozen acids. Working with J. A. Wethington,
   Taylor was the first to successfully study the effect of ionizing
   radiation on solid catalysts, stimulating a new area of research. 
   
   In the late 1960s, a flurry of scientific activity suggested the
   existence of a new form of water, called polywater or anomalous
   water. Taylor was intrigued by these reports and carried out his
   own investigations in the 1970s. The original reports of anomalous
   water were discredited in the literature, and Taylor terminated his
   studies with a paper arguing against polywater's existence.
   
   Taylor and W. C. Waggener studied a novel approach to measurement
   of the adsorptive forces of gases on solids and published a report
   on the subject. His research activities continued until his
   retirement from the Laboratory in 1978, and subsequently he became
   a consultant to the Chemistry Division. His long-term service as a
   player-coach--dedicated to both the management and practice of
   research--makes Ellison Taylor the most influential figure in the
   division's history.
   
   
   
   (keywords: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, history)
   
   
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   Date Posted:  2/22/94  (ktb)