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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   By the 1970s, after 30 years of steady progress in nuclear reactor
   design and technology, growing public concern over problems with
   nuclear waste disposal, the environmental and health effects of
   radiation, and the possibility of accidents at nuclear power plants
   had undermined public confidence in both the AEC in particular and
   nuclear energy in general. These concerns, which shook the nuclear
   energy industry, led to dramatic changes in leadership within the
   From the early 1960s until the early 1970s, the AEC was led by
   Chairman Glenn Seaborg, a Nobel laureate chemist associated with
   the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago during World War II. The
   AEC was led subsequently by an economist and then a marine
   biologist, before being split into the Energy Research and
   Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory
   Commission (NRC) in 1974. In addition, the Joint Committee on
   Atomic Energy, which had directed AEC activities for decades,
   disbanded. This transition confirmed that the institutional
   framework, which had served nuclear power well in the years
   following World War II, would no longer be sufficient to meet the
   challenges of the future. 
   The Laboratory reacted to the dramatic transitions within the AEC
   with its own critical changes. Although not sundered like the AEC,
   it expanded its traditional focus on uranium fission to undertake
   broader missions that encompassed all forms of energy. At the same
   time, Laboratory leadership passed from the hands of a fission
   expert to a nuclear fuel reprocessing specialist and, finally, to
   an expert in fusion energy. 
   As more powerful research reactors and accelerators were added
   during the 1960s, the Laboratory became a premier international
   center for producing and separating transuranic elements.
   Researchers studied the structures and properties of transuranic
   elements and nuclei using accelerated particles that range in mass
   from protons to curium ions. In support of the AEC reactor program,
   the Laboratory pursued development of a molten salt reactor and
   also investigated liquid-metal and gas-cooled reactor technologies.
   By 1970, in response to the new political realities that the
   nuclear industry faced, the Laboratory also became a center for
   exploring the safety, environmental, and waste disposal challenges
   presented by nuclear energy.
   The Laboratory's advance into new research frontiers was both a
   response to necessity and a deliberate effort to assume new
   challenges. Budget shortfalls between 1969 and 1973 shelved plans
   for new reactors and reduced staff from nearly 5500 in 1968 to
   fewer than 3800 by 1973. Moreover, wartime veterans, now in their
   50s and 60s, began to retire as the Laboratory's 30th anniversary
   neared in 1973. The departure of Oak Ridge's Manhattan Project
   engineers and scientists left a void in the institutional culture
   that was progressively filled by a new generation who brought their
   own interests and experiences to the research agenda. Having come
   of age in the 1960s, this new generation carried somewhat different
   priorities and sensibilities to the workplace than had the original
   scientists, for whom World War II had served as the defining period
   in their careers.
   To meet these challenges, Laboratory management reorganized and
   launched a series of retraining programs designed to transcend the
   traditional uranium fission focus. These new efforts led to
   investigations into all forms of energy--a broadening of research
   that made the Laboratory more responsive to the political and
   social changes sweeping the nation.
   In the aftermath of Earth Day in April 1970 and passage of a series
   of environmental laws and regulations intended to bring
   environmental concerns to the forefront of the nation's policy
   agenda, the public clamored for more "socially relevant" science
   that would address everyday concerns. In 1973, as Americans lined
   up to purchase gasoline and turned down their thermostats because
   of shortages of imported oil, the desire for relevant science was
   never more urgent.
   Laboratory efforts to explore new, non-nuclear energy issues proved
   both timely and critical. Born at the dawn of the nuclear age and
   nurtured to maturity during nuclear power's great leap forward in
   the 1950s, the Laboratory was not about to abandon its ties to
   nuclear research. Nevertheless, as it experienced and then
   responded to the dramatic changes of the 1970s, it emerged from
   this tumultuous decade a multipurpose science research facility,
   ready to tackle the increasingly complex issues of energy and the
   Super-Duper Cooker
   The high-flux reactor designed under Eugene Wigner's supervision in
   1947 and built in Idaho provided the highest neutron flux then
   available. By the late 1950s, however, the Soviets had designed a
   reactor that surpassed it.
   "We do not believe the United States can long endure the situation
   of not having the very best irradiation facilities in the world at
   its disposal," commented Clark Center, Union Carbide chief at Oak
   Ridge. "Therefore, we would like to suggest that the Atomic Energy
   Commission undertake actively a design and development program
   aimed at the early construction of a very high-flux research
   reactor." Glenn Seaborg, an expert in transuranic chemistry,
   concurred with Center and urged the AEC to build a higher-flux
   With these statements of support echoing in Washington, ORNL
   embarked on the design of what Weinberg labeled a "super-duper
   cooker." Trapping a reactor neutron flux inside a cylinder encasing
   water-cooled targets, the proposed High Flux Isotope Reactor would
   make possible "purely scientific studies of the transuranic
   elements" and augment the "production of . . . radioisotopes."
   Weinberg also insisted that the reactor be built with beam ports to
   provide access for experiments.
   Charles Winters, Alfred Boch, Tom Cole, Richard Cheverton, and
   George Adamson led the design, engineering, and metallurgical teams
   for this 100-megawatt (MW) reactor, completed in 1965 as the
   centerpiece of the Laboratory's new transuranium facilities.
   Seaborg, having been appointed AEC chairman by President Kennedy,
   returned to the Laboratory in November 1966 for the dedication. He
   declared that the exotic experiments made possible by the new High
   Flux Isotope Reactor would "deepen our comprehension of nature by
   increasing our understanding of atomic and nuclear structure."
   Built in Melton Valley across a ridge from the main X-10 site in
   Bethel Valley, the High Flux Isotope Reactor irradiated targets to
   produce elements heavier than uranium at the upper and open end of
   the periodic table. At the heavily shielded Transuranium Processing
   Plant adjacent to the reactor, A.L. (Pete) Lotts of the Metals and
   Ceramics Division led the teams that fabricated targets. Placed in
   the high neutron flux of the reactor, atoms of the target materials
   absorbed several neutrons in succession, making their way up the
   periodic table as they increased in mass and charge. Then, under a
   program managed by William Burch, the irradiated targets were
   returned to the processing plant for chemical extraction of the
   heavy elements berkelium, californium, einsteinium, and fermium.
   The Laboratory distributed the heavy elements to scientists
   throughout the world and to its own scientists housed in the new
   Transuranium Research Laboratory. Previously available only in
   microscopic quantities, the milligrams of heavy elements produced
   at the High Flux Isotope Reactor proved valuable for research. 
   "Our main effort at ORNL," said Lewin Keller, head of transuranium
   research, "is directed toward ferreting out their nuclear and
   chemical properties in order to lay a base for a general
   understanding of the field."
   Of the transuranic elements, an isotope of element 98 garnered
   greatest attention. Named for the state where it was discovered,
   californium-252 fissions spontaneously and is an intense source of
   neutrons, able to penetrate thick containers and induce fission in
   uranium-235 and plutonium-239.  It could provide short-lived,
   on-site isotopes in hospitals for immediate use in patients.
   Cancerous tumors could be treated by implanting californium needles
   instead of the less effective radium needles used previously. Other
   transuranic elements afforded practical applications such as
   tracers for oil-well exploration and mineral prospecting. 
   Thanks to Weinberg's foresight in demanding beam ports, Wallace
   Koehler, Mike Wilkinson, Henri Levy, and their associates in the
   Solid State and Chemistry divisions could use the high-flux
   reactor's intense neutron beams for materials studies. Of
   particular significance were materials investigations that focused
   on the magnetic interactions of neutrons with materials, which
   helped to explain unusual magnetic properties of rare earth metals,
   alloys, and compounds. 
   The High Flux Isotope Reactor served science, industry, and
   medicine for more than a quarter century. Although shut down
   because of vessel embrittlement in November 1986 and subsequently
   restarted at 85% of its original power, by 1991 it had gone through
   300 fuel cycles that provided benefits ranging from advancing
   knowledge of materials to enhancing understanding of U.S. history.
   In 1991, neutron activation analysis of hair and nail samples from
   the grave of President Zachary Taylor indicated he had not been
   poisoned by arsenic while in office, as one historian suspected.
   Americans can rest assured knowing that President Taylor died of
   natural causes--thanks to the Laboratory's High Flux Isotope
   Reactor and to the analysis made there by Larry Robinson and Frank
   Dyer, both of the Analytical Chemistry Division. 
   The Last Reactors
   Between the 1940s and 1960s, new reactor construction was part of
   the Laboratory's ever-changing landscape. Those built in the 1960s,
   however, would mark the end of the Laboratory's "bricks and mortar"
   reactor era. No new reactors would be built during the 1970s and
   1980s, a remarkable dry spell given the rapidly changing nature of
   nuclear research.
   Before being forced to close its doors on new reactor construction,
   the Laboratory (in addition to its work on the High Flux Isotope
   Reactor) completed the Health Physics Research Reactor,
   experimented with a molten-salt reactor, and conducted research for
   AEC's liquid-metal fast breeder reactor and for high-temperature
   gas-cooled reactors that stirred the interest of the private
   sector. Next to the High Flux Isotope Reactor, the longest-lived
   Laboratory reactor built during this decade was the Health Physics
   Research Reactor.
   Known originally as the "fast burst reactor," the Health Physics
   Research Reactor was installed in the new Dosimetry Applications
   Research facility in 1962. John Auxier, later director of the
   Health Physics Division, managed the design and operation of this
   small, unmoderated, and unshielded reactor.
   Composed of a uranium-molybdenum alloy and placed in a cylinder 20
   centimeters (8 inches) high and 20 centimeters in diameter, its
   operation required insertion of a rod into the cylinder to release
   a neutron pulse used for health physics and biochemical research.
   In particular, the reactor, which remained operational until 1987,
   provided data that guided radiation-instrument development and
   dosage assessment. During the 1960s, for example, it helped
   scientists estimate the solar radiation doses to which Apollo
   astronauts would be subjected.
   By the mid-1960s, light-water reactors had become the option of
   choice for the commercial nuclear industry. As a result, the AEC
   suspended work on the Experimental Gas Cooled Reactor in 1966 in
   Oak Ridge. When Gulf General Atomic Corporation obtained orders for
   four high-temperature gas-cooled reactors in 1972, however, the AEC
   renewed its interest in this reactor technology and boosted
   Laboratory funds for additional research. The program, which has
   been managed successively by Robert Charpie, Herbert MacPherson,
   William Manly, Don Trauger, Paul Kasten, and Frank Homan, has
   focused most recently on passively safe modular designs.
   Laboratory research into the liquid-metal fast breeder reactor,
   which had been developed at Argonne National Laboratory, expanded
   during the late 1960s. William Harms coordinated the Laboratory
   breeder technology program. His staff simulated the fast breeder's
   fuel assemblies, using electric heaters, and tested reactor coolant
   flows and temperatures. A metallurgical team headed by Peter
   Patriarca evaluated the materials to be used in the fast breeder's
   heat exchangers and steam generator. Several Laboratory teams lent
   support to the effort. For example, William Greenstreet and
   associates devised a structural design assessment technology to
   ensure the operational integrity of fast breeder components.
   Work on the breeder accelerated in 1972, when the AEC made Oak
   Ridge the site of the AEC's demonstration Clinch River Breeder
   Reactor Project. Laboratory efforts continued until Congress
   canceled the project in the mid-1980s, following more than a decade
   of political controversy and debate fueled by concerns about
   plutonium weapons proliferation and the gradual realization that
   the United States would not need a breeder reactor for at least 20
   years because of the low cost and availability of uranium. 
   "Dark Horse" Breeder
   "A dark horse in the reactor sweepstakes." That's how Alvin
   Weinberg once described the Laboratory's Molten Salt Reactor
   Experiment to Glenn Seaborg. Weinberg explained that if Argonne's
   fast breeder encountered unexpected scientific difficulties, Oak
   Ridge's molten-salt thermal breeder could serve as a backup that
   would help keep the AEC's research efforts on track.
   Based on technology developed for the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion
   project, an experimental molten-salt reactor was designed and
   constructed in the same building that had housed the aircraft
   reactor. Its purpose was to demonstrate key elements needed for a
   civilian power reactor. Operation of the Molten Salt Reactor
   Experiment (MSRE) using uranium-235 fuel began in June 1965 under
   the supervision of Paul Haubenreich. Program directors Herbert
   MacPherson, Beecher Briggs, and Murray Rosenthal successively
   supervised efforts to develop a molten-salt breeder reactor. In an
   uninterrupted six-month run, the MSRE demonstrated the practicality
   of this exotic breeder concept. Fuel salt was processed at the
   reactor, and all the uranium-235 was removed. 
   When the fuel was changed to uranium-233 in October 1968, AEC
   Chairman Seaborg joined Raymond Stoughton, the Laboratory chemist
   who co-discovered uranium-233, to raise the reactor to full power.
   "From here," said Rosenthal, "we hope to go on to the construction
   of a breeder reactor experiment that we believe can be a stepping
   stone to an almost inexhaustible source of low-cost energy."
   Weinberg and the Laboratory's staff pressed the AEC for approval of
   a molten-salt breeder pilot plant. They hoped to set up the pilot
   plant in the same building that had housed the AEC's Experimental
   Gas Cooled Reactor until that project was suspended in 1966.
   Argonne's fast breeder had the momentum, however, and Congress
   proved unreceptive to Laboratory requests to fund large-scale
   development of a molten-salt breeder. Appealing personally to
   Seaborg, a chemist, Weinberg complained: "Our problem is not that
   our idea is a poor one--rather it is different from the main line,
   and has too chemical a flavor to be fully appreciated by
   Meanwhile, the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment operated successfully
   on uranium-233 fuel from October 1968 until December 1969, when the
   Laboratory exhausted project funds and placed the reactor on
   standby. The Laboratory continued molten-salt reactor development,
   as limited funding allowed, until January 1973, when the AEC
   Reactor Division abruptly ordered work to end within three weeks.
   In the wake of the energy crisis in late 1973, however, new funding
   for molten-salt reactor research was found and continued until
   1976. A unique Laboratory project, the molten-salt reactor, in
   Weinberg's opinion, was ORNL's greatest technical achievement. He
   maintained that the molten-salt reactor was safer than most other
   reactor types. As late as 1977, an electric utility executive
   advised President Carter of his company's interest in a commercial
   demonstration of the molten-salt breeder reactor. The government's
   preoccupation with the liquid-metal fast-breeder reactor, however,
   drove Oak Ridge's thermal breeder into obscurity. To Weinberg's
   chagrin, the "dark horse" reactor never emerged from the pack to
   lead the nuclear research effort.
   An evolution similar to the molten-salt breeder program marked the
   Laboratory's accelerator program of the 1960s. The Laboratory's
   advanced particle accelerators, an isochronous cyclotron and an
   electron linear accelerator, moved it to the fore-front of the
   nation's research efforts in accelerator physics. However,
   competition from other accelerator projects, as well as funding
   constraints, would stall the program in the early 1970s.
   The Oak Ridge Isochronous Cyclotron (ORIC) began operating in 1963,
   firing protons, alpha particles, and other light projectiles into
   various targets to produce heavy ions. Instead of the uniform
   magnetic fields used in the Laboratory's first cyclotrons, ORIC
   employed tailored sectors with a varying magnetic field. This
   design compensated for increases in the mass of ions as they
   accelerated, both focusing their paths and keeping them in
   resonance at high energies. In its day, ORIC's design was
   considered a major technological breakthrough.
   ORIC provided ion beams of nitrogen, oxygen, neon, and argon,
   making them available for research in physics and chemistry. Built
   on the east side of the X-10 site in Bethel Valley, the new
   cyclotron brought Robert Livingston's Electronuclear Division to
   the Laboratory from the Y-12 Plant. In 1972, the Electronuclear
   Division consolidated with the Physics Division under the direction
   first of Joseph Fowler and later of Paul Stelson and James Ball,
   all of whom reported to Alex Zucker, the associate director for
   physical sciences.
   A year after ORIC obtained its first heavy-ion beam, the Laboratory
   completed the Oak Ridge Electron Linear Accelerator (ORELA). Except
   for an office and laboratory building, this accelerator was
   underground, covered by 6 meters (20 feet) of earth shielding.
   Electron bursts traveled 23 meters (75 feet) along the accelerator
   tube to bombard a water-cooled tantalum target, producing more than
   10 times as many neutrons for short pulse operation than any other
   linear accelerator in the world. From the target room, the neutrons
   passed through 11 radial flight tubes to underground stations for
   A joint project of the Physics and Neutron Physics divisions, with
   Jack Harvey and Fred Maienschien as co-directors, ORELA's main
   purpose was to obtain fast-neutron cross sections for the
   fast-breeder reactor program-that is, to determine the probability
   that a given fuel, shielding, or structural material would absorb
   fast neutrons. It served this purpose admirably, and it still
   contributes a great deal to fundamental physical science. In 1990,
   for example, ORELA's intense neutron beams bombarded a lead-208
   target, allowing researchears to measure the size of the force
   holding together the three quarks composing a neutron. This
   research effort, led by Jack Harvey, Nat Hill, and researchers from
   the University of Vienna, advanced scientific understanding of the
   strong force that glues a neutron together.
   By the time ORIC and ORELA were fully operational in 1969, the
   Laboratory had planned to build another machine capable of
   accelerating heavy ions into an energy range where superheavy
   transuranic elements could be investigated. With the support of
   universities throughout the region, this accelerator began as a
   southern regional project. In fact, the Laboratory considered
   naming it CHEROKEE (after one of the Southeast's most noted Native
   American tribes), but top scientists could not find the words to
   form an appropriate acronym; so it was named APACHE, the
   Accelerator for Physics And Chemistry of Heavy Elements.
   Balking at its $25-million cost, President Richard Nixon's budget
   office rejected the Laboratory's regional APACHE concept in 1969.
   Discussing the administration's unfavorable decision at AEC
   headquarters, Alex Zucker learned the budget office and the AEC
   would consider only national, not regionally sponsored,
   accelerators. To secure approval for an advanced accelerator, it
   would be necessary for the Laboratory to explain the unmet
   challenges of heavy-ion research, show that it served "truly
   important national needs," and demonstrate that it would protect
   the United States from being surpassed in scientific research by
   other nations, particularly the Soviet Union.
   Asserting that the proposed accelerator would advance understanding
   of "the behavior of nuclei in close collision and the properties of
   highly excited, very heavy nuclear aggregates," Zucker recommended
   that the Laboratory recast its new accelerator project in broader
   terms, naming it the National Heavy Ion Laboratory. Accepting this
   counsel, Weinberg established a steering committee headed by Paul
   Stelson to reformulate the proposal. The committee's efforts were
   fostered by university physicists who saw value in having the
   accelerator located in Oak Ridge.
   Led by physicists Joseph Hamilton of Vanderbilt University and
   William Bugg of the University of Tennessee, a consortium formed in
   1968 to unite physicists from 18 universities interested in
   heavy-ion research at ORIC and the Laboratory's proposed national
   accelerator. Working with Robert Livingston and Zucker, the
   consortium obtained combined funding from their universities, state
   government, and the AEC to finance construction of an addition to
   the ORIC building. The addition housed the University Isotope
   Separator of Oak Ridge (UNISOR) that interfaced with beam lines
   from ORIC. 
   Only the Soviet Union had another on-line separator connected to a
   heavy-ion accelerator. Equally important, this effort represented
   the first combined funding project for nuclear research hardware in
   the United States. When the separator facility was completed in
   1972, UNISOR's consortium scientists initiated research into new
   radioisotopes for medical and industrial applications and
   heavy-nuclei generation in the stars.
   UNISOR and ORIC's ongoing research and widespread academic
   participation gave the Laboratory proof that its proposed National
   Heavy Ion Laboratory would serve national needs. Budgetary
   constraints, however, delayed approval of this new facility until
   1974. Named the Holifield Heavy Ion Research Facility after
   Congressman Chet Holifield, chairman of the Joint Committee on
   Atomic Energy for many years, this project, under the direction of
   Jim Ball, became operational in 1980. The new 25-million-volt
   tandem accelerator, with its tower dominating the landscape, served
   as the centerpiece of the Laboratory user facilities during the
   1980s, attracting scientists from all over the world.
   Gold-Plated Fusion
   Although the Laboratory's proposals for a molten-salt breeder and
   APACHE accelerator hit fiscal walls in 1969, its fusion energy
   research continued to receive funding under the stimulus of
   international competition. In 1969, the AEC authorized the
   Laboratory to construct a gold-plated fusion machine called ORMAK.
   After a wildly optimistic, but essentially unsuccessful, entry into
   fusion energy research in the 1950s, the world's scientists
   recognized that better understanding of hydrogen plasma behavior
   was necessary before any real progress could be made. As a result,
   fusion scientists settled into the computer trenches during the
   1960s hoping to improve the theoretical underpinnings of fusion
   energy. When it came to fusion, scientists faced a fundamental
   shortcoming: although confident of their theoretical calculations,
   they were unsure of how to make it work in practical terms. 
   At the Laboratory, attention focused on the electric-field
   microinstabilities found within the plasma of fusion devices.
   Empirical experiments continued both with a second Direct Current
   Experiment and a steady-state fusion device conceived by Raymond
   Dandl and given the odd name ELMO Bumpy Torus. ELMO's electron
   cyclotron heating set a record for steady, stable hot-electron
   Optimism about fusion resurfaced in 1968, when Soviet scientist
   L.A. Artsimovich of Moscow's Kurchatov Institute announced his
   doughnut-shaped tokamak had confined a hot plasma. When Artsimovich
   visited the United States in 1969, Herman Postma, Laboratory chief
   of fusion research, dispatched a Laboratory team to discuss
   tokamaks with him.
   Enthusiastic about what they heard, Postma's team proposed to the
   AEC construction of a tokamak at the Laboratory. They received
   quick approval, together with a mandate to have it operational by
   1971. While the Oak Ridge tokamak, called ORMAK, brought the
   Laboratory back into a race with the Soviets, Artsimovich and other
   Soviets, in the unique cooperative spirit that characterized fusion
   research even during the Cold War, provided helpful information for
   ORMAK's design.
   Sometimes working three shifts daily, the Laboratory's
   thermonuclear staff, with assistance from skilled craftsmen at the
   Y-12 Plant, rushed ORMAK's construction. The plasma was created
   inside a doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber (torus) of aluminum with a
   gold-plated liner. Coils of electrical conductors cooled by liquid
   nitrogen provided the magnetic field. Michael Roberts, ORMAK's
   project leader, described the assembly of this complicated machine
   as an unusual exercise like "putting an orange inside an orange
   inside an orange, all from the outside."
   In the summer of 1971, ORMAK generated its first plasma and
   experiments began, with encouraging results achieved by 1973.
   Herman Postma worried, however, whether the high-speed neutrons
   generated in the plasma would destroy the fusion reactors.
   Materials had to be found to make fusion reactor walls that would
   withstand the particle damage and stresses before the ORMAK or
   other fusion devices could generate even a glimmer of interest
   among commercial power producers.
   More optimistic, Weinberg noted that the ORMAK design permitted
   installation of a larger vacuum chamber ring (torus) that would
   become ORMAK II. "With great good luck," he forecast, "ORMAK II
   might tell us that it would be a good gamble to go to a big ORMAK
   III, which might be the fusion equivalent of the 1942 experiment at
   Stagg Field in Chicago." Elusive plasma slipped from ORMAK's golden
   grip, however, and neither ORMAK nor subsequent fusion machines has
   yet achieved a self-sustaining fusion reaction.
   Nuclear Energy and the Environment
   While basic science and experimental reactor as within the
   Laboratory, political, legal, and popular protests far from the Oak
   Ridge Reservation contributed mightily toward reorienting its
   missions after 1969. Although dozens of reactors for commercial
   power production were then in the planning and construction phases,
   the nuclear industry remained troubled by three concerns: reactor
   safety, power-plant environmental impacts, and safe disposal of
   radioactive wastes. These concerns also challenged the Laboratoy.
   After 13 years of study, the Laboratory proposed entpombing
   high-level radioactive wastes in deep salt mines near Lyons,
   Kansas. In 1970, the AEC provided $25 million to proceed with the
   salt mine repository.
   Noting that the wastes would be hazardous for thousands of years,
   Weinberg warned, "We must be as certain as one can possibly be of
   anything that the waste, once sequestered by the salt, can under no
   conceivable circumstances come in contact with the biosphere."
   Laboratory scientists concluded that the salt mines, located in a
   geologically stable region, would not be affected by earthquakes,
   migrating groundwater, or continental ice sheets that might
   reappear during the wastes' long-lived radioactivity.
   People living near Lyons supported the Laboratory's salt vault
   plan, but environmental activists and Kansas state officials
   opposed use of the salt mines on several grounds. Their concerns
   extended beyond questions of technical capability to deep-seated
   worries about sound and effective administration over the long
   haul. Activists claimed that underground disposal for millennia
   would require creation of a secular "priesthood" charged with
   warning people never to drill or disturb the burial grounds. "It is
   our belief that disposal in salt is essentially foolproof," replied
   Weinberg, although conceding that a "kind of minimal priesthood
   will be necessary."
   During intense design studies in 1971, the Laboratory and its
   consultants found that the many well holes already drilled into the
   Lyons salt formation in some circumstances might allow groundwater
   to enter the salt mines, thus raising technical questions about the
   site's long-term suitability. The salt mine disposal plan also
   became a heated political issue in Kansas. In 1972, the AEC
   authorized the Kansas geological commission to search for
   alternative salt mines in Kansas and directed the Laboratory to
   study salt formations in other states. For the moment, the AEC
   announced, radioactive wastes would be solidified and stored in
   aboveground concrete vaults at the site of their origin. That
   moment has turned into decades, as scientific and political debates
   concerning radioactive waste disposal issues continue to this day.
   They are not likely to be resolved soon.
   In the 1970s, the public became concerned about the health effects
   of exposure to wastes at the other end of the nuclear fuel
   cycle--the uranium mine. In 1973 ORNL health physicists Fred
   Haywood, George Kerr, Phil Perdue, and Bill Fox traveled to Grand
   Junction, Colorado, to determine the radiation hazards in buildings
   constructed with or on materials containing uranium mine tailings,
   which are a source of cancer-causing radon daughter products. In
   the 1980s, a new office called ORNL West was established in Grand
   Junction.  Managed by Craig Little, this office worked with the
   Instrumentation and Controls Division to develop a field survey
   technique using triangulated ultrasound signals and a computer for
   mapping concentrations of radioactivity to determine where
   remediation is needed or if it has been effective.
   Because of the Laboratory's research on the health effects of
   radiation from nuclear energy, including cancer, ORNL played a role
   in President Nixon's "war on cancer."  With additional support,
   researchers in the Laboratory's Biology Division focused on
   radiation and chemicals and later viruses and genes, including
   genes that promote tumors and those that suppress them. Consumer
   advocates who worried about the safety of hot dogs were especially
   interested in the findings of ORNL's Willie Lijinsky, who
   demonstrated that the nitrites widely used as food preservatives
   react with amines in food and drugs to form cancer-causing
   nitrosamines during digestion in the stomach. 
   Laboratory researchers were well positioned to attack the cancer
   problem because they had long sought to understand how organisms
   prevent or recover from the damaging effects of radiation and how
   to stimulate these self-protective mechanisms. They had discovered
   that cells can repair radiation-induced damage after radiation
   exposure ceases and that deficiencies in cellular repair mechanisms
   can predispose the organism to cancer. 
   Public and legal concerns about the environmental effects of
   nuclear power brought the Laboratory's studies of terrestrial and
   aquatic habitats to the forefront of its research agenda during the
   early 1970s. Using the "systems ecology" paradigm pioneered by
   Jerry Olson, Laboratory ecologists investigated radionuclide
   transport through the environment. Olson examined the migration of
   cesium-137 through forest ecosystems by inoculating tulip poplar
   trees behind the Health Physics Research Reactor with cesium-137,
   thereby establishing the first such experimental research center
   for forest ecosystem studies.
   In 1968, the National Science Foundation placed Stan Auerbach in
   charge of a deciduous forest biome program in which the Laboratory
   contracted with universities for studies of photosynthesis,
   transpiration, soil decomposition, and nutrient cycling in forest
   systems in the eastern United States. That same year, David Reichle
   led a Laboratory forest research team that initiated large-scale
   forest ecosystem research. This work was a forerunner of subsequent
   Laboratory programs that investigated acidic deposition, biomass
   energy production, and global climatic change.
   Environmental studies at the Laboratory received an unexpected
   boost in 1971 when a federal court, in a decision on a planned
   nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, ordered major revisions
   of AEC environmental impact statements as an essential part of
   reactor licensing procedures. Required to complete 92 environmental
   impact statements by 1972, the AEC asked for help from its Battelle
   Northwest, Argonne, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. Giving
   this effort the highest priority, Weinberg declared, "Nuclear
   energy, in fact any energy, in the United States simply must come
   to some terms with the environment."
   The Laboratory's skeleton staff for environmental impact
   statements, headed by Edward Struxness and Thomas Row, expanded in
   1972 to include about 75 scientists and technicians. Staff working
   on these reports formed the nucleus of the Energy Division,
   established in 1974 under Samuel Beall's leadership.
   The Calvert Cliffs decision required the AEC to consider the
   effects of nuclear plant discharges of heated water on the aquatic
   environment.  Chuck Coutant led a Laboratory team assigned the task
   of developing federal water temperature criteria to protect aquatic
   life. For these and related studies, the Laboratory initiated
   construction of an Aquatic Ecology Laboratory, completed in 1973.
   Only the Pacific Northwest Laboratory had a similar laboratory. Its
   initial equipment consisted of 20 water tanks, each containing
   various fish species, and a computer-controlled heated-water system
   to supply water of proper temperature to the tanks; outside were
   six ponds for breeding fish and conducting field experiments. Early
   experiments at the aquatics laboratory investigated the survival
   rate of fish and fish eggs at elevated temperatures.
   To determine the water temperature preferences of fish in streams,
   Coutant and Jim Rochelle of the Instrumentation and Controls
   Division developed a temperature-sensitive ultrasonic fish tag. The
   "electronic thermometer," which can be surgically implanted into a
   fish, transmits temperature information as high-pitched sound waves
   of varying frequencies to a hydrophone in a boat or on shore. It
   has been used by private utilities and government agencies for fish
   An indirect result of the aquatic studies came during licensing
   hearings for Consolidated Edison's Indian Point-2 nuclear plant on
   the Hudson River, just north of New York City. Because the
   Environmental Sciences Division (following recommendations by
   environmental groups) identified Indian Point as a spawning ground
   for striped bass, the impact statement for Indian Point-2 called
   for closed-cycle cooling towers to protect aquatic life from the
   adverse effects of thermal degradation. Thus, cooling towers, which
   now serve as the towering symbol of nuclear power plants, were
   built at Indian Point.
   The legal battle that led to the Indian Point decision took 10
   years to complete. During this litigation, Laboratory staff
   provided technical information to all participants--environmental
   groups, utility company officials, the Environmental Protection
   Agency, and other state and federal agencies.
   The high cost of environmental mitigation, reflected both in
   lengthy courtroom dramas and construction of elaborate cooling
   systems, concerned many nuclear power advocates. They were troubled
   as well by stringent reactor safety standards that the Laboratory
   staff proposed in 1970.  Under the direction of Meyer Bender of
   General Engineering Division, the Laboratory had recommended nearly
   100 interim safety standards. Many of these standards were based on
   investigations by the Heavy Section Steel Technology Program
   conducted in the Reactor and Metals and Ceramics divisions.  Other
   standards relating to reactor controls were developed by the
   Instrumentation and Controls Division.
   William Unger and his associates, for example, designed and tested
   shipping containers for radioactive materials to determine the
   design that could best withstand collisions during transport.
   Richard Lyon and Graydon Whitman assessed the ability of reactors
   to withstand earthquakes, joining with soil engineers who simulated
   mini-earthquakes by detonating dynamite near the abandoned
   Experimental Gas Cooled Reactor. George Parker's team studied
   fission product releases from molten fuels, and Philip
   Rittenhouse's team investigated the failure of engineered
   safeguards, particularly the effects of interruptions in water flow
   to reactors.
   Emergency Core Cooling Hearings
   "We find ourselves increasingly at those critical intersections of
   technology and society which underlie some of our country's primary
   social concerns," Weinberg declared in 1972. He also noted that
   Laboratory veterans longed for the days when "what we did at ORNL
   was separate plutonium, measure cross sections, and develop
   instruments for detecting radiation." Those days were part of the
   Laboratory's history and were overshadowed in the heated climate of
   political discourse and public opinion that emerged during the
   Emergency Core Cooling Systems (ECCS) hearings in 1972.
   The AEC Hearings on Acceptance Criteria for Emergency Core Cooling
   Systems for Light-Water-Cooled Nuclear Power Reactors, or the ECCS
   hearings for short, proved a critical event, one that forced the
   Laboratory to face the harsh realities of the new nuclear era of
   controversy, conflict, and compromise. 
   In 1971, President Nixon appointed James Schlesinger, an economist
   from his budget office, to succeed Glenn Seaborg as AEC chairman.
   Schlesinger aimed to convert the AEC from an agency that
   unabashedly promoted nuclear power to one that served as an
   unbiased "referee." When protest greeted the AEC's interim criteria
   for emergency core-cooling systems, he convened a quasi-legal
   hearing for comments from reactor manufacturers, electric utility
   officials, nuclear scientists, environmentalists, and the public.
   The hearing began in Bethesda, Maryland, in January 1972 and would
   continue the entire year.
   To present their views, environmental groups hired attorneys and
   scientific consultants, who joined attorneys for reactor
   manufacturers, utilities, and the government to pack the ECCS
   hearings. Witnesses were subjected to dramatic
   cross-examinations--a new experience for most scientists, who were
   accustomed to establishing scientific truth through publications
   subject to sedate peer review, not through raucous adversarial
   legal proceedings.
   For reactors with less than 400 MW of capacity, containment vessels
   can confine radioactive fuel melting even in the event of a serious
   accident, rendering impossible what is popularly known as the China
   Syndrome. For reactors with more than 400 MW of capacity,
   containment vessels are important, but no longer sufficient. An
   elaborate cooling system must also be built to ensure safety.
   Weinberg thought it unfortunate that some AEC staff members had not
   been impressed by the seriousness of this requirement until forced
   to confront it by antinuclear activists.
   Now that the AEC and nuclear industry had been called into account
   on this issue, Weinberg urged Laboratory staff to offer their
   expertise fully and without reservation, regardless of whether they
   agreed with the existing criteria. Schlesinger agreed. Weinberg
   complained, however, that his staff should have been involved as
   fully in preparing the criteria as they would be in testifying at
   the hearings.
   Among Laboratory staff participating in these lengthy, sometimes
   contentious, sometimes tedious hearings were William Cottrell,
   Philip Rittenhouse, David Hobson, and George Lawson.  They and
   other witnesses were grilled by attorneys for days. More than
   20,000 pages of testimony were taken from scientists and engineers,
   who often expressed sharp dissent on technical matters concerning
   the adequacy of the safety program. Laboratory experts generally
   considered that existing criteria for reactor safety were based on
   inadequate research. 
   As a result of these showdown hearings, in 1973 the AEC tightened
   its reactor safety requirements to reduce the chances that reactor
   cores would overheat as a result of a loss of emergency cooling
   water. This measure, however, failed to placate critics who
   preferred a moratorium on nuclear reactor construction.
   The Laboratory's emphasis on reactor safety and environmental
   protection made it and Director Weinberg unpopular among some
   nuclear power advocates and members of the AEC staff--a strange
   turn of events for Laboratory scientists who had devoted their
   careers to inventing and advancing practical applications of
   nuclear energy. Opponents of nuclear power, on the other hand,
   enjoyed quoting Weinberg's chilling declaration:
         Nuclear people have made a Faustian contract with society; we
         offer an almost unique possibility for a technologically
         abundant world for the oncoming billions, through our
         miraculous, inexhaustible energy source; but this energy
         source at the same time is tainted with potential side effects
         that, if uncontrolled, could spell disaster.
   Although other events and considerations also played a part, the
   ECCS hearings of 1972 no doubt influenced major management shifts
   in 1973 at the Laboratory and AEC. More fundamentally, they
   influenced the federal government's subsequent decision to dissolve
   the AEC and to place its regulatory responsibilities and research-
   and development-related activities into two separate entities.
   These changes would mark the most profound transition in energy
   research and development since 1946.
   Energy Transition
   Another crisis--not in public confidence but in energy
   supplies--threatened the nation during the early 1970s. To meet
   this challenge, Weinberg sought to reorient and broaden the
   Laboratory's mission. He was encouraged both by the National
   Science Foundation (NSF) and the AEC, which in 1971 received
   congressional approval to investigate energy sources other than
   nuclear fission. At AEC headquarters, James Bresee, who had headed
   the Laboratory's civil defense studies, became head of a general
   energy department, which managed funding for Oak Ridge's innovative
   energy studies.
   When Congress authorized the AEC in 1971 to investigate all energy
   sources, Weinberg appointed Sheldon Datz and Mike Wilkinson as
   heads of a committee to review opportunities for non-nuclear energy
   research. In addition, he made Robert Livingston the head of an
   energy council assigned the task of considering new Laboratory
   At the AEC, James Bresee reviewed Laboratory proposals for broad
   energy research. Among these were studies of improved turbine
   efficiency, alternative heat disposal methods at power plants, coal
   gasification, high-temperature batteries, and synthetic fuels made
   from coal and shale to supplement petroleum and natural gas.
   As these innovative energy studies began, Weinberg also moved the
   Laboratory into broader environmental programs. He brought David
   Rose from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the
   Laboratory to manage multidisciplinary research on broad societal
   problems.  The study teams for these innovative research efforts,
   which Rose hoped would tackle national issues, included such "young
   turks" as Herman Postma, Bill Fulkerson, and Jack Gibbons.
   James Liverman and Pete Craven drew up a proposal to the National
   Science Foundation to fund environmental studies at the Laboratory.
   With support from Congressman Joe Evins, Weinberg and Rose took
   this proposal to the NSF and received funding from the NSF Research
   Applied to National Needs (RANN) program for a 1970 summer study.
   Using regional modeling, social indicators, and system analysis,
   Rose and his team examined national environmental challenges, such
   as renewable energy resources.
   This first attempt at the Laboratory to look at national problems
   holistically evolved during late 1970 into the NSF Environmental
   Program managed by Jack Gibbons. Out of this program a few years
   later came the Laboratory's Conservation and Renewable Energy
   program, which by 1993 had become the Laboratory's largest energy
   When the NSF first announced its RANN program, Weinberg advised NSF
   director William McElroy that the Laboratory had "rather
   miraculously" identified many national needs for research that it
   could conduct. A poll of Laboratory staff produced 150 new energy
   and environmental research proposals, a few of which were approved
   by the NSF.
   Noting that many environmental problems arose as a result of
   increasing energy use, Roger Carlsmith, Eric Hirst, and their
   associates initiated studies that examined ways to reduce energy
   demand by promoting energy conservation. In 1970, they emphasized
   the importance of better home insulation in substantially cutting
   energy use for home heating. Moreover, they concluded that
   increasing the efficiency of transportation and home appliances
   could significantly lower levels of energy consumption. For design
   of more efficient central power stations, the Laboratory
   investigated improved turbine cycles, cryogenic power transmission
   lines, and "power parks" to cluster power stations outside of urban
   Interest in solar energy flared in 1971, when solar energy advocate
   Aden Meinel visited the Laboratory and proposed using solar energy
   to heat liquid sodium and molten salts for large-scale generation
   of electricity. Murray Rosenthal, who managed the Laboratory's
   Molten Salt Reactor Program, led a group that assessed the
   economics of using energy from the sun to produce electricity.
   Although the group concluded that solar power generation would cost
   more than nuclear or fossil fuel power, Rosenthal recommended
   additional studies because solar energy could ultimately prove
   economically attractive if two possible scenarios became a reality:
   "One is that environmental concerns or other factors could increase
   coal and nuclear energy costs more than we can foresee; the other
   is that the collection and conversion of solar energy could become
   much less costly than we assume."
   With NSF backing, the Laboratory examined solar energy as a
   potential long-term backup for other energy sources. In addition,
   David Novelli and Kurt Kraus studied the use of solar heat to
   enhance biological production of hydrogen and methane fuels as
   petroleum substitutes. The Laboratory's knowledge of surface
   physics and semiconductors eventually led to investigations of ways
   to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic cells by Richard Wood and
   associates in the Solid State Division as part of the Laboratory's
   modest solar program.
   Management Transition
   The Laboratory's 1971 venture into non-nuclear energy research did
   little to ease its fiscal woes. Successive annual budget reductions
   in its nuclear energy programs forced corresponding reductions in
   staff and continuous efforts to lower overhead. As one cost-cutting
   measure, the Laboratory closed its food service canteens scattered
   about the complex for employee convenience and replaced them with
   vending machines. 
   Typical of his management style, Weinberg appointed long-range
   planners to identify supplemental Laboratory missions. Commenting
   that he felt at times "like a man with a canoe paddle trying to
   change the course of an ocean liner," David Rose, the Laboratory's
   first long-range planner, returned to MIT. Robert Livingston
   succeeded Rose as head of the program planning and analysis group,
   which included Calvin Burwell and Frank Plasil. Squarely facing the
   transition in Laboratory missions, this group proposed a staff
   education program to retrain fission specialists in broader energy
   and environmental issues.
   Musing on this proposal, Weinberg recognized the dilemma of having
   experts trained in one field while funding opportunities were
   becoming more prevalent in other fields. He noted that a similar
   redirection had marked the experience of Manhattan Project
   personnel during and after World War II. Wigner, a chemical
   engineer, switched to nuclear physics. Cosmic-ray specialist Ernest
   Wollan became a health physicist and neutron diffraction expert,
   and biochemist Kurt Kraus became highly skilled in plutonium
   chemistry. Weinberg himself had started his career as a
   biophysicist, only to become a reactor physicist.
   "Enrico Fermi once told me that he made a practice throughout his
   scientific career of changing fields every five years," Weinberg
   recalled. He added that, although "there are few Fermis, I think we
   all easily recognize that the spirit of his advice can well be
   In an effort to enhance internal viability and flexibility, in 1972
   the Laboratory initiated a school of environmental effects aimed at
   producing physical scientists conversant with biology and ecology.
   This effort stalled, however, because most members of the school
   were laid off during the massive reduction in force of 1973. Taking
   cues from his own observations about the Laboratory's future,
   Weinberg, after a quarter century of service at Oak Ridge, also
   embarked on a new career.
   The long-time Laboratory director joined Herbert MacPherson and
   William Baker, president of Bell Laboratories, to form a "think
   tank" dedicated to coherent long-range energy planning. With
   support from the AEC and John Sawhill of the Federal Energy Office,
   they created the Institute for Energy Analysis in late 1973. Oak
   Ridge Associated Universities served as the institute's contract
   operator. It opened in January 1974 with Herbert MacPherson as
   director because Weinberg had been called to Washington to lend his
   expertise to resolving the national energy crisis.
   Throughout 1973, Floyd Culler served as acting director of the
   Laboratory. Described as a "muddy boots type," Culler had received
   acclaim at the fourth Geneva conference on atomic energy in 1971
   for objecting to plans by other nations to store liquid nuclear
   wastes in tanks. He contended that bequeathing radioactive wastes
   to future generations without providing a permanent, safe disposal
   system posed serious political and moral questions.
   Culler's year as Laboratory director resembled a roller coaster
   ride, which he later described as a "year of many transitions." In
   January 1973, Milton Shaw, chief of AEC reactor development
   programs, mandated a quick end to the Laboratory's molten-salt
   reactor studies because he was deeply committed to development of
   the liquid-metal breeder reactor. This decision precipitated what
   Culler described as the "largest and most painful reduction of
   employment level at the Laboratory in its history." It also
   undermined the morale of the nearly 3800 personnel who remained.
   In March 1973, President Nixon appointed Dixy Lee Ray, a marine
   biologist, as AEC chairman to replace James Schlesinger, who became
   Secretary of Defense. Ray has been credited with saving the
   Laboratory from those in the AEC and Congress who were bent on
   destroying it. 
   The highlight of Culler's year was the Laboratory's participation
   in the national energy strategy. When the president asked Ray to
   review energy research and recommend an integrated national policy,
   she called on the national laboratories to assist in undertaking
   these urgent studies. Murray Rosenthal, who was acting as Culler's
   deputy director, Jere Nichols, and others spent most of the summer
   in Washington, providing background information for Ray's report. 
   Titled The Nation's Energy Future, it advocated energy conservation
   to reduce demand as well as research into new technologies and
   strategies to increase supplies. The report's ultimate goal was to
   make the nation energy independent by eliminating its need for
   imported oil by 1980.
   The turnaround for Laboratory programs came on the heels of the
   Israeli-Arab "Yom Kippur War" in the Middle East and the related
   Arab oil embargo imposed on the United States in October 1973. As
   disgruntled Americans lined up at filling stations to purchase
   gasoline, Nixon established the Federal Energy Office. With William
   Simon as director and John Sawhill as deputy director, the office
   was responsible for allocating scarce oil and gas supplies during
   the emergency and for planning long-range solutions to the nation's
   energy problems.
   At Sawhill's request, Weinberg went to the White House to head the
   Office of Energy Research and Development. Because Nixon did not
   appoint a presidential science advisor as had Presidents
   Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, Weinberg became science's
   presence in the White House during the late Nixon and early Ford
   Floyd Culler noted that the oil embargo and energy crisis made the
   Laboratory "whole again" by the end of 1973. Reacting to this
   crisis, Congress pumped new funding into energy research and even
   approved a modest resumption of molten-salt breeder studies at the
   Laboratory. "Throughout ORNL's evolution, its central theme has
   continued to be the development of safe, clean, abundant economic
   energy systems," Culler said at the end of the year. "The
   Laboratory is now in a uniquely strong position to undertake a
   multimodal attack on the nation's energy problems."
   In December 1973, President Nixon proposed a reorganization of the
   federal energy agencies. As part of this effort, he divided the AEC
   into two new agencies. AEC responsibilities for energy research and
   development went to the Energy Research and Development
   Administration, while AEC regulatory responsibilities were assumed
   by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
   With this new administrative structure in place, Eugene Wigner
   recommended a Laboratory reorganization paralleling the division of
   the AEC. He urged that Weinberg be returned to the Laboratory to
   manage its energy research and development programs and that Culler
   be assigned responsibility for the Laboratory's safety and
   environmental programs. "Alvin and Floyd Culler have collaborated
   for several years," Wigner asserted. "They understand, like, and
   respect each other." As a result, he said, "conflicts are most
   unlikely to arise."
   Wigner's recommendation was not accepted. Weinberg served the White
   House until formation of the Energy Research and Development
   Administration in late 1974 and then became director of the
   Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge. Culler stayed at the
   Laboratory as deputy director under Herman Postma until 1977, when
   he became president of the Electric Power Research Institute.
   Life at the Laboratory may have become more tumultuous during the
   1970s, but changes in the Laboratory's workplace were no more--or
   less--than a reflection of dramatic changes in American society.
   Isolated in the serene hills of East Tennessee, the Laboratory
   could not avoid being caught in the vortex of a changed energy
   world. Its future would depend on how well it could respond to the
   new world "energy" order that suddenly emerged in the aftermath of
   the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the ensuing energy crisis.
   EARTH DAY 1970
   This has been the year of the environment," Laboratory Director
   Alvin M. Weinberg said in his 1969 State of the Laboratory address.
   "On every hand we are being told the fruits of technology are
   endangering our living space...The ecologists have displaced the
   physicists as high priests in this new era of environmental
   Weinberg, in his usual fashion, not only captured a new national
   trend but also pinpointed a new target for public concern and
   research. Public interest in the environment manifested itself
   dramatically in 1970, culminating in Earth Day on April 22. 
   Laboratory researchers participated in Earth Day's national and
   local celebrations. On the national scene, three staff members
   delivered speeches at various universities. Stanley Auerbach,
   director of the Ecological Sciences Division, gave a talk at the
   University of Illinois; Dan Nelson, assistant director of the same
   division, spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and
   David Reichle, Laboratory ecologist and member of the Oak Ridge
   Regional Planning Commission, made a presentation at the University
   of Tennessee in Knoxville. 
   At the Earth Day Fair at Oak Ridge High School, the Laboratory's
   Ecological Sciences Division set up an exhibit describing its
   ecological research. Examples were the effect of fertilizer on the
   Walker Branch Watershed, retention of radioactive fallout by
   agricultural crops, the study of bedded geologic deposits as
   disposal sites for radioactive wastes, and Laboratory management of
   the Eastern Deciduous Forest Biome Research Program for the
   International Biological Program. On hand to explain the exhibit to
   the 500 people who attended the fair were John Gilbert, L. C.
   Landry, Ronald Rahn, and Robin Wallace. 
   ORNL researchers contributed to Earth Day observances in Oak Ridge
   in other ways. Gilbert's article on Oak Ridge's environmental
   problems was published on the front page of The Oak Ridger. He
   noted that the city had problems with water, air, and visual
   pollution; litter; and pesticides, including mercury compounds and
   mercury-coated seeds.
   Two Laboratory staff members participated in a panel discussion
   held at Oak Ridge High School on "Appalachian Coal and Nuclear
   Energy--Their Effects on Our Environment and Their Future Use."
   Bill Russell, the noted geneticist and a founder of Tennessee
   Citizens for Wilderness Planning, spoke of the harmful
   environmental impacts of increasing energy production.
   James Liverman, ORNL's associate director for Biomedical and
   Environmental Sciences, summed up Oak Ridge's observance of Earth
   Day by saying, "Ultimately, improving the quality of life will
   depend on you and me in our daily lives, on our making a commitment
   to the environment."
   Little things mean a lot, but in nuclear physics, big things are
   needed to discover them and find out what they mean.  At the
   Laboratory, the chief goal of nuclear physics research has been to
   determine the structure of the nucleus of the atom and to
   understand the course of reactions between nuclei.  Detailed
   information on the properties of tiny atomic nuclei can be obtained
   only by the use of huge accelerators.  A beam of particles from an
   accelerator is propelled against a target; the effect of the
   bombardment on the projectile beam and the resulting emission of
   particles from the collision shed light on the structure and
   behavior of the target nuclei and on the reaction mechanisms.
   Early nuclear physics research at the Laboratory made use of
   reactors.  Later, the original Physics Division relied on a series
   of electrostatic, or Van de Graaff accelerators and the Oak Ridge
   Electron Linear Accelerator (which was operated by the Neutron
   Physics Division mainly to determine the neutron-absorbing
   abilities of nuclei of candidate breeder-reactor shielding
   materials).  The Electronuclear Division depended on an
   increasingly sophisticated series of cyclotrons, which accelerated
   charged particles in circular orbits.
   In the late 1940s a landmark experiment by Arthur Snell and Frances
   Pleasanton provided the first accurate measurement of the lifetime
   of the neutron.  They also measured the gravitational force on the
   Using newly built cyclotrons in the 1950s, laboratory physicists
   studied the reactions between heavy projectile ions and target
   nuclei that collided at high energies.  Alex Zucker and Harry
   Reynolds pioneered in research on heavy-ion reactions using the
   63-inch cyclotron, which produced the world's first multicharged
   heavy-ion beams.
   At the Van de Graaff Laboratory, Paul Stelson and Francis McGowan
   carefully measured the Coulomb excitation-the energized state in a
   nucleus resulting from its interaction with the projectile
   particle's electric field-in a wide range of nuclei.  This seminal
   work showed clearly that the classical interpretation of low-energy
   nuclear collisions was inadequate, setting the stage for the
   development of a quantum-mechanical model.
   Using 22-MeV protons from the 86-inch cyclotron to generate
   particles of higher energies, Bernard Cohen and his associates
   showed that transfer reactions (in which a nucleon-neutron or
   proton-is transferred from the target to the projectile nucleus) at
   these energies did not result as expected from the decay of a
   compound nucleus formed during the collision between the incident
   and target nuclei.  Instead, the transfer resulted from a direct
   nuclear reaction in which the projectile particle passing through
   the target nucleus interacts with only part of the nucleus.  This
   "direct" process also was not well described in terms of a
   classical model.
   Work by Cohen also resulted in the discovery of a new low-lying
   collective mode in nuclei.  This collective mode is a low-energy
   state of the nucleus that causes it to vibrate as a single system,
   just as the tone from a ringing bell results from the vibration of
   the entire bell structure.  Originally dubbed "anomalous inelastic
   scattering," these low-energy states appeared even stronger than
   the well-known low-lying "quadrupole vibrational states" in which
   the vibrating nuclei alternate between shapes resembling an egg and
   the earth.  These newly discovered states proved to arise from
   "nuclear octupole vibration" in which the vibrating nuclei are
   alternately spherical and pear-shaped.  This observation helped
   affirm the picture that the nucleus, as a system, could support
   many modes of collective resonant behavior.
   In the early 1950s, the shell model was developed to explain many
   features of nuclei.  In this model the nucleons are considered to
   occupy shells and subshells (like electrons in the atom) and act
   independently according to a preassigned set of shell energy
   levels.  A model to explain direct nuclear reactions was also
   formulated.  Neither of these models could be fully used until the
   advent of large, fast digital computers a decade later.  The
   Laboratory was a pioneer in developing mathematical methods and
   using computing facilities to refine these models to interpret
   experimental measurements at ORNL and elsewhere.
   In the 1960s ORNL theorists led by Ray Satchler pioneered the
   application of the distorted-wave Born approximation with which he
   and Bob Bassel and Dick Drisko made great advances in understanding
   nuclear reactions.  They developed methods for extracting
   quantitative information from single-nucleon transfer reactions and
   inelastic scattering-scattering resulting from a collision in which
   the total kinetic energy of the colliding particles is not the same
   after the collision as before it.  Results of their work include
   two computer codes to extract information from nuclear reactions in
   experiments-SALLY and JULIE.  The latter became the world standard
   for extraction of nuclear structure data from direct nuclear
   At the same time, Francis Perey and Brian Buck developed a computer
   program that was applied extensively to the understanding of
   neutron-scattering measurements.  Perey developed the global
   optical model search code GENOA, which became the standard for use
   in calculations of the distorted-wave Born approximation, which was
   set down by Satchler (who is also known for his widely used college
   textbook on angular momentum).  A long series of detailed
   measurements of scattering and transfer reactions done at the
   EN-tandem accelerator by Perey, Kirk Dickens, and Bob Silva served
   as critical benchmarks in the early development of these computer
   programs, validating their usefulness to a worldwide community.
   In the late 1960s the interpretation of the shell model's low-lying
   nuclear levels (low-energy shells) was given a big boost with the
   development of the Oak Ridge-Rochester Multi-Shell Program. 
   Completed under the direction of Edith Halbert, this was the most
   sophisticated program of its type for years and was used
   extensively for computing detailed nuclear properties and for
   understanding the general applicability of the nuclear shell model.
   Also in the late 1960s at ORNL, measurements of the
   neutron-absorption crosssection in the energy region from 5,000 to
   200,000 electron volts for nuclei from fluorine (mass 19) to
   uranium (mass 238) were made.  These measurements by Jack Gibbons,
   Dick Macklin, and their colleagues proved useful not only to
   nuclear theorists and nuclear engineers but also to astrophysicists
   seeking to understand the process of nucleosynthesis in stars,
   which builds heavy elements from light ones and governs the
   relative amounts of elements in the universe.
   By the early 1970s, the Laboratory nuclear physicists had available
   to them the higher-energy ions produced by the Oak Ridge
   Isochronous Cyclotron (ORIC) accelerator.  One of the most
   fundamental discoveries to emerge from this program was the work of
   Fred Bertrand, Monte Lewis, and their collaborators, who made the
   first observation of the nuclear giant quadrupole resonances-types
   of a giant resonance in which an appreciable fraction of the
   nucleons move together in a collective mode when selectively
   excited by the appropriate nuclear reactions.  This work opened up
   the new field of using charged particles and heavy ions to excite
   the multipole resonant modes of the nucleus, making it deform as it
   alternately expends and compresses in different directions.
   As heavy ions became available from the ORIC, transfermium elements
   could be produced using its beams on transuranium targets prepared
   at the High Flux Isotope Reactor.  Particularly notable was a
   series of complex experiments by Curt Bemis, Pete Dittner, Dick
   Hahn, and Bob Silva using coincident alpha and X-ray detection to
   provide the first unequivocal identification of elements 102, 103,
   104 and 105.
   The history of major contributions by ORNL researchers to the field
   of nuclear physics has been marked by the development of
   sophisticated instruments and by the use of large-scale computers
   and the development of long, complex computer codes to interpret
   and analyze experimental phenomena.  This tradition of using big
   things to better understand little things continues to this day.
   In the spring of 1964, three years after a pond was created near
   the Engineering Physics and Mathematics Division buildings,
   physicist Frances (Tony) Pleasonton of the Physics Division
   organized a campaign to buy a pair of mute swans for the pond. She
   was assured that the Laboratory would take care of the swans if her
   fund-raising effort proved successful. Within two weeks, 200 people
   contributed an average of 65 cents each to buy and ship the swans
   from Holland to Oak Ridge.
   The idea for the names of the swans came from the engineer who drew
   up plans for the pond's island. When asked why he was designing an
   island, he would answer, "Why not? Tony says the swans will need
   it." The same response was also a frequent reaction to Pleasonton's
   requests for donations.
   As a result, when the swans finally arrived, they were named "Y"
   and "Not." They became permanently identified with Pleasonton, the
   "Swan Lady." In fact, some people thought Y and Not were named
   after her (Tony spelled backward). 
   The swans' first winter at Oak Ridge was cold. A groundsperson,
   called in for special duty on a Saturday, unsuccessfully tried to
   pick up the swans as the temperature sank below zero. The swans
   survived, however, and even walked happily on the ice.
   Pleasonton was pleased by the number of young swans (cygnets)
   produced at the pond. "We have been extremely fortunate to have had
   cygnets," Pleasonton wrote in 1976, "since it is claimed that mute
   swans seldom breed successfully in captivity."
   By 1976, Y and Not were almost 13 years old and had bred for at
   least nine years, producing 18 to 20 cygnets. Because it was
   thought that the pond could support only two adult swans, some
   cygnets were given to the Knoxville Zoo, the Fermi National
   Accelerator Laboratory, and the Huntsville Garden Club. Proceeds
   from the sale were deposited in a credit union savings account for
   "Laboratory swans." 
   "Altogether, this venture has turned out to be a most successful
   and satisfying example of good employee-management relations and
   cooperation," Pleasonton wrote.
   Retiring at the end of 1976, Pleasonton announced that Vivian
   Jacobs of the Information Division would be the new "mentor of
   swans." "Before I could say anything," Jacobs once wrote, "Tony
   noted that she had already cleared this transfer of responsibility
   with Herman Postma, then Laboratory director. . .I was committed to
   being the new mentor of the swans, which quickly changed to several
   other titles. I called myself Swan Mama, and I was once referred to
   on an index card as SOB, which I assumed meant Supervisor of
   In 1980, a month after being treated for a deep gash on his left
   side, Not came out of the pond on his own, a rarity for him, and
   died while being transported to the UT Veterinary Hospital. The
   autopsy, corroborated by the Centers for Disease Control and by the
   National Fish and Wildlife Health Laboratory, indicated that he
   died from a rare amoebic disease caused by a parasite that attacked
   the cells of the brain. A veterinarian said the death was not
   preventable, but suggested stocking the pond with mallards, which
   feed on the snails that are the intermediate host for this
   parasite. So mallards joined the swans in the pond.
   Three months after Not died, Y became tangled in the nylon line
   leading to a turtle trap on Swan Lake. She was removed from the
   water and taken to UT, where nothing terribly wrong was found other
   than a few scrapes and bruises. Unfortunately, the inhalation of
   water, the trauma, and perhaps the loss of Not were too much for
   her, and Y died the next day.
   In 1990, the remaining swans hatched by Y and Not were 10 years
   old. Each spring, they would build nests and lay eggs that didn't
   hatch. Today, only three white mute swans remain. Nevertheless, the
   Swan Pond, its white mutes, and their more than 50 cygnets have
   become symbolic of Oak Ridge's tranquility and the natural beauty
   that surrounds the Laboratory.
   Nuclear criticality safety--ensuring the safe storage, handling,
   and transportation of fissionable materials--is one of several
   areas of science and technology upon which ORNL has had a major
   international impact. 
   In any activity involving sizeable quantities of fissionable
   materials, a nuclear criticality safety program must seek to
   prevent an unintentional, uncontrolled fission chain reaction that
   results from an excess of fissionable materials (e.g., uranium-235
   and plutonium-239) in close proximity during processing, storage,
   or transport. The aim is to protect against the consequences of an
   inadvertent nuclear chain reaction. The need for industrial
   controls at sites where fissionable materials were prepared,
   produced, or processed was recognized in the earliest days of the
   nuclear program. Early sites needing these controls included the
   K-25 and Y-12 plants and the facilities at Hanford and Los Alamos. 
   The K-25 gaseous diffusion plant was the focus for the earliest
   criticality studies. In the mid-1940s, Edward Teller and his
   colleagues reviewed the plans for this plant for potential unsafe
   accumulations. In late 1945, Art Snell of the Laboratory
   investigated the safety of "product drums" for transferring uranium
   hexafluoride enriched in low amounts of uranium-235. It was
   determined that criticality might be achieved in a drum if the
   enrichment were greater than 10%.
   In the late 1940s, experimental results were obtained at Oak Ridge
   and later at Los Alamos, Hanford, and Rocky Flats to guide safe use
   of fissionable materials in storage and transport, chemical
   processes being designed and operated, and metallurgical operations
   including machining and disposal of scrap. Of even greater
   importance has been the experimental data used as benchmark
   information to verify and validate calculation methods that are
   only now reaching maturity. 
   In 1949 the demand for this information by the rapidly growing
   nuclear community resulted in expansion of the Critical Experiments
   Laboratory. The team that operated this Y-12 Plant facility was
   transferred into the ORNL organization because its chief mission
   was to guide new reactor designs using data from critical
   experiments. However, it had an opportunity to assess the effects
   of a criticality safety accident in its own backyard.
   In June 1958 the first critical accumulation of a fissionable
   material in an industrial process occurred within the Y-12 Plant.
   The cause was a leaky valve that allowed a solution containing
   uranium-235 to flow into a large vessel, resulting in exposure of
   eight men to radiation. A study at ORNL's Critical Experiments
   Laboratory of the energy released by the chain reaction confirmed
   early medical observations that the exposures were not as severe as
   first feared. Prompt evacuation by the personnel from the area
   where the reaction persisted minimized their exposures. None
   suffered any ill effects.
   In 1950 Dixon Callihan and Sidney Visner established the ORNL
   Criticality Review Committee to review and approve Laboratory
   operations that involve potentially critical quantities of
   fissionable materials. The committee was headed by Joe Thomas
   The Laboratory supported the effort to develop national standards 
   within the nuclear community through the American Nuclear Society
   program. A committee, first chaired by Callihan in the early 1960s
   and subsequently by Jack McLendon and Thomas, produced the first
   nuclear standard that gave quantitative guidance in 1964. It is one
   of a family of more than 20 national standards on criticality
   safety prepared by this international group still administered out
   of ORNL.
   For more than 20 years, staff members at ORNL have been developing
   criticality safety software.  The most internationally recognized
   software of this type is KENO, which was developed by Elliott
   Whitesides and Nancy Landers. The results of ORNL's critical
   experiments provided the benchmark data against which the results
   of the computer code calculations could be checked. 
   John Mihalczo recently has developed a technique for determining
   the margin by which a quantity of fissionable material is
   subcritical.  DOE's Nuclear Criticality Technology and Safety
   Project, which has been managed at ORNL, created an "apprentice
   program" to train future experts in criticality safety.
   A reactor pressure vessel in a nuclear power plant springs a leak.
   Water used to cool the nuclear fuel escapes. The fuel overheats,
   causing localized melting of the thick vessel wall and a discharge
   of radioactivity into the containment building. 
   Although such a scenario has never occurred in the United States,
   preventing it has been a prime concern of the Laboratory's Heavy
   Section Steel Technology (HSST) Program for 25 years.
   The HSST program was established in response to a November 1965
   letter by William Manly of the Advisory Committee on Reactor
   Safeguards to the Atomic Energy Commission, which recommended a
   more sophisticated approach to evaluation of the structural
   soundness of pressure vessels. In March 1967 the HSST program,
   sponsored by the AEC's Division of Reactor Development and
   Technology, came into being under Laboratory management. Its first
   director was F. J. Witt; successors have been Grady Whitman, Claud
   Pugh, Bill Corwin, and Bill Pennell. Today the HSST program, which
   continues as a major effort in the Engineering Technology and
   Metals and Ceramics divisions, is sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear
   Regulatory Commission (NRC).
   Using large-scale testing procedures, the HSST program demonstrated
   that the thick steel walls of new reactor pressure vessels possess
   enough ductility--the ability to accommodate stresses caused by
   pressurization, heating, and cooling--to prevent vessel failure. In
   the late 1960s, the program also initiated a fracture toughness
   data base for reactor vessel materials. This information, detailing
   the ability of materials to resist cracking, is essential to all
   fracture-margin assessments for reactor pressure vessels.
   During manufacture of steel plates for vessel walls, flaws may
   develop and spread into cracks as the walls become brittle.
   "Thermal shock" may occur when the heated walls of a vessel are
   suddenly subjected to cold water as a result of loss of pressure
   and the operation of safety injection systems to cool the nuclear
   fuel. In the late 1970s, ORNL researchers led by Dick Cheverton
   discovered that thermal shock, combined with repressurization
   (during emergency cooling, for example), could drive a crack
   through the vessel wall under postulated conditions. 
   More recently, Laboratory researchers have turned their attention
   to the problem of vessel aging. Over many years, as the vessel
   interior is bombarded by neutrons from nuclear reactions in the
   fuel, the walls tend to lose their ductility. Such
   radiation-induced embrittlement can occur in older
   pressurized-water reactors and, to a lesser extent, in
   boiling-water plants.
   For older nuclear power plants, radiation-induced embrittlement is
   an issue that must be addressed if plant operating licenses are to
   be renewed. The HSST program provides the NRC with guidance on this
   issue by estimating the probability that a reactor vessel will fail
   over a specific operating time. The embrittlement rate in each
   reactor vessel is monitored, and operating limits are imposed by
   NRC regulations and regulatory guides that the Laboratory has
   helped to establish.
   Today, the HSST program continues to investigate the properties of
   materials for pressure vessels to develop and evaluate ways to
   predict fracture, fatigue, and creep. It also conducts vessel and
   material tests to assess the validity of the predictions, which
   help to set and update national codes, standards, and regulations.
   HSST researchers intend to carry on the tradition of the past 25
   years by providing the NRC with information that will help the
   agency respond to the new challenges of reactor safety.
   Throughout 1972, the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS) hearings
   on the safety of light-water nuclear reactors attracted the media's
   attention and raised concerns among personnel in the nuclear energy
   establishment, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Many
   questioned the adequacy of interim safety standards for nuclear
   reactors that the AEC issued in 1971, and the chairman of the AEC
   in 1972 convened quasi-legal hearings on those standards at
   Bethesda, Maryland. The hearings pitted the nuclear power industry
   against the opponents of nuclear power and seriously divided
   researchers at the AEC and its laboratories. Placed on the witness
   stand during heated adversarial legal proceedings, some scientists
   expressed confidence in the interim safety standards, and others
   did not.
   In a letter to Hans Bethe, Nobel laureate professor at Cornell
   University, and former director of Los Alamos Scientific
   Laboratory's Theoretical Division, ORNL Director Alvin Weinberg
   pointed out that emergency cooling systems provided a final defense
   against melting of fuel in the case of a loss-of-coolant accident
   in the largest light-water nuclear reactors. "And it makes me all
   the more unhappy," Weinberg concluded, "that certain quarters in
   the AEC have refused to take it seriously until forced by
   intervenors who are often intent on destroying nuclear energy!"
   Weinberg and the Laboratory staff sometimes found themselves at
   odds with the members of the AEC staff during the trying ECCS
   hearings of 1972. When the Laboratory safety specialists expressed
   serious reservations about the degree of emergency core cooling
   safety, they soon heard their reservations quoted by the
   opposition, declaring, "Nobody will call these scientists loony;
   they are ranking members of the atomic energy establishment, whose
   words we have been taught to accept without question."
   When the hearings concluded, the AEC issued revised nuclear safety
   standards that its opponents decribed as a "continuation of the AEC
   coverup of critical safety problems." The hearings contributed in
   no small way to the political decision of 1973 to form from the AEC
   a new agency for research and development and the Nuclear
   Regulatory Commission for safety review functions. The hearings
   contributed to major mission and management changes at the
   Laboratory as well.
   In his State of the Laboratory address for 1971, Director Alvin
   Weinberg suggested that "the most important event of the year in
   nuclear energy was legal, not scientific or technical."
   Weinberg was referring to a July 1971 decision by the U.S. Court of
   Appeals for the District of Columbia requiring the Atomic Energy
   Commission (AEC) to fully examine the environmental impacts of
   nuclear power plants. The judge invoked the National Environmental
   Policy Act as the basis for his decision.
   Weinberg summarized the intent of the decision, which would have
   far-reaching implications for the Laboratory.
   The Commission is now required to examine thermal as well as
   radiological effects of reactors; it must consider alternatives to
   the use of nuclear power plants; it must evaluate all of these
   things independently and not depend on local regulations and
   standards; and it must summarize its findings in a cost-benefit
   analysis that weighs such imponderable costs as the destruction of
   a stand of timber against the economic benefit of lower-cost
   energy. What makes the whole matter so critical is that such
   environmental impact statements have now become so essential a part
   of the reactor licensing procedure. There is at stake about 100
   million kilowatts of nuclear electricity, almost 25 percent of the
   total U.S. central station load.
   Weinberg reported that the AEC sought help from three of its
   laboratories--Battelle Northwest, Argonne, and Oak Ridge. "The
   job," he said, "is formidable: 91 environmental impact statements
   to be completed by July of 1972 or as quickly thereafter as
   possible. Of these, the Laboratory already is working with the AEC
   Washington staff on 13, with another dozen or so expected. This
   task has been given the highest priority in the Commission and, in
   consequence, at the Laboratory."    
   A full-time team of 75 people led by Ed Struxness was assembled
   from 14 Laboratory divisions. Tom Row was selected as the deputy
   leader.  Bill Fulkerson took over leadership of this effort in
   1974.  The team was helped by many part-time reviewers and
   consultants from almost every part of the Laboratory. Altogether
   about 130 members of the scientific staff and 50 support personnel
   were involved in preparation of environmental impact statements in
   the early 1970s.
   The impact statements, predicted Weinberg, "undoubtedly will create
   demands for more knowledge in several areas besides
   ecology--cooling tower technology, micrometeorology, possibly
   regional modeling, and the like. I would venture to suggest,
   therefore, that what may seem at the moment to be an awkward
   diversion from our main interests will, in fact, create new and
   more valid interests for many of the divisions at ORNL."    
   Weinberg's prediction proved correct. The Laboratory became a
   national leader in environmental impact assessments. Since the late
   1970s, the Laboratory has examined socioeconomic as well as
   environmental impacts of nuclear power plants (fission and magnetic
   fusion) and of non-nuclear energy projects such as geothermal,
   solar, fossil, synthetic-fuel, biomass conversion, and hydropower
   projects. Other assessment projects included disposal of chemical
   weapons at U.S. Army sites, disposal of low-level radioactive
   waste, renewal of nuclear power plant licenses, remediation of
   contaminated sites, Air Force low-level flying operations, and
   research activities in the pristine environment of Antarctica.
   Today, as many as 100 persons at the Laboratory work on
   environmental impact statements and assessments, including risk
   assessments. For more than 20 years, the Laboratory has been a
   leader not only in developing energy technologies but also in
   assessing their benefits and risks to society.
   Acting Laboratory Director Floyd Culler came to Oak Ridge in 1943
   from Johns Hopkins University. He worked at the Y-12 Plant during
   the war and joined the Laboratory in 1947 as design engineer for
   nuclear-fuel recycling plants. Rising through the ranks, he became
   section chief and later director of the Chemical Technology
   Culler managed the Laboratory's development of solvent extraction
   and other processes for recovery of uranium, plutonium, and fission
   products from spent nuclear fuels. His team established
   nuclear-fuel reprocessing techniques used worldwide.
   Culler served as the Laboratory's assistant and later associate
   director for nuclear technology in 1964 and as its deputy director
   from 1970 to 1977. When Alvin Weinberg retired in 1972, Culler was
   appointed acting Laboratory director. In 1977, he moved to
   California to become president of the prestigious Electric Power
   Research Institute.
   Often described as a "muddy boots type," Culler enjoyed working
   directly with craftsmen and with the people of Oak Ridge.
   Active in the community, he chaired the Oak Ridge Regional Planning
   Commission, which was responsible for the alphabetical naming of
   the city's streets and helped govern the community before it was
   (keywords: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, history)
   Please send us your comments.
   Date Posted:  2/22/94  (ktb)