Lawrence Award for Gerard Ludtka

Gerard Ludtka, a metallurgist in ORNL's Metals and Ceramics Division, received the Department of Energy's E. O. Lawrence Memorial Award in 1995. He led a multidisciplinary team that developed a computer code for weapons components production that is now being adapted for use in the automobile and steel industries.

Ludtka was cited for "significant contributions to materials technology through the development and implementation of superplastic forming of uranium alloys and through development of a method to predict the effects of quenching on microstructure and residual stresses." Ludtka is one of seven winners of the E. O. Lawrence Award, given out to researchers whose work applies to the development, use, or control of nuclear energy. It is named after E. O. Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron.

While at the Y-12 Plant from 1982 to 1991, Ludtka developed a process that revolutionized the manufacture of hemispherical weapons components. He recognized that uranium alloys could be "superplastic" at high temperatures--that is, flat sheets of the materials could be shaped into half spheres and other geometric shapes for weapons components.

After characterizing the superplastic behavior of uranium alloys, Ludtka developed simple superplastic forming equipment that was scaled up for component production runs. The equipment fabricated the parts much closer to the desired final shapes, significantly reducing the amount of waste material and cost of manufacturing.

Ludtka also developed a computer simulation code to predict the effects of component shape and rapid cooling, or quenching, on the microstructure and internal stresses produced in heat-treated uranium weapons parts. The parts are heated and then rapidly cooled to room temperature with cold water or oil to strengthen them and to achieve the desired internal structure and other properties. But the cooling rate must be right for a given shape to make the desired product, or cracking will occur.

Ludtka's Quench Simulator code predicts the cooling rate that will produce a heat-treated component with the best possible features. Use of this code eliminates the need for trial-and-error experiments in part design, resulting in significant savings.

The Quench Simulator code is now being applied to nonmilitary tasks, such as helping the automobile and steel industries. Ludtka, now a staff researcher in the Materials Modeling Process Group of ORNL's Metals and Ceramics Division, is a principal investigator for a three-year, $20-million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) that is based on the success of the Quench Simulator code. CRADA participants include DOE and four of its national laboratories, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Torrington Bearing Company.

For the CRADA, Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories are producing customized software based on concepts used in the development of the Quench Simulator code. For the automobile industry, the software will be used to improve the efficiency of design of gears for transmission systems. When gears are heat-treated to increase their strength, their volume will increase, affecting gear tooth size and shape. The software will predict the starting geometry that will give the desired gear design and properties.

This CRADA is also developing software to predict the effects of trace impurities on the heat treatment of recycled steel. Recycled steel from old cars is used to make new cars. But the steel from car parts may have impurities such as copper from wire for electric circuits. The software will predict the quality of the recycled steel product based on its impurities and manufacturing cycle.

Quantitative Leap: Dedication of New Computer and User Center

The latest quantitative leap at ORNL provided a reason to jump for joy. A new parallel computer now being used at ORNL has over four times the peak computing power of its predecessor of the same type and, as of April 1995, was the world's fastest computer. This was one of two high-performance computing developments celebrated at the Laboratory on April 21.

The other was the opening of ORNL's new computer-based facility for users from industry. Joining in were distinguished guests representing Intel, the Department of Energy, other agencies of the federal government, the state of Tennessee, U.S. industry, ORNL, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems management, and users at ORNL's Center for Computational Sciences (CCS), one of two DOE High Performance Computing Research Centers.

The first development was the completion and installation of the Intel Paragon XP/S 150, which has 1024 MP-nodes (two computer processors and one processor for message passing per node), or a total of 3096 processors. This machine passed acceptance tests and was made available to CCS users January 20, 1995. It is the fourth in a series of massively parallel machines developed for ORNL by Intel. The other Intel Paragon machines are the XP/S 14 (96 MP-nodes), the XP/S 35(512 GP-nodes, each with one computer processor and one message-passing processor), and the XP/S 5 (66 GP-nodes). The processors working together on complex problems can do more than 150 billion calculations per second (150 gigaflops). The goal of future machines is one trillion calculations per second (one teraflop).

At the April 21 event, the Paragon XP/S 150 was dedicated at a ceremony at ORNL's Central Auditorium in which the speakers simultaneously flipped switches for the symbolic ribbon cutting. As a result, the lights on the face of the new Intel machine displayed the words ON TO TERAFLOPS (as shown to the audience on closed-circuit television).

In addition, the new DOE national user facility, the Computational Center for Industrial Innovation (CCII), was inaugurated with a ribbon cutting by a Remotec robot (seen at the auditorium by closed-circuit TV). The purpose of the center is to promote and encourage industrial participation in mutually beneficial, computationally intensive collaborative projects with ORNL scientists and engineers.

Participants at CCII include Reynolds Metals, Weyerhauser Technology Center, and the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Reynolds Metals is interested in demonstrating through computer simulations that structurally strong bridges could be designed using aluminum, which does not corrode, to replace steel bridges, which eventually are weakened by corrosion. Weyerhauser researchers are interested in optimizing the design and operation of recovery boilers used in kraft pulp mills. They anticipate that computer simulations of the fluid dynamics phenomena in these boilers will lead to increased co-generation of energy (currently 40% of the energy used by the paper industry comes from burning chemicals recovered in these boilers) and to reduced air pollution. DOT supports design of highly efficient cars made of lighter materials, but it wants to ensure that these cars are crashworthy. Car crash modeling can be done on a Cray supercomputer in 48 hours, but the Intel Paragon XP/S 150 at ORNL can perform a car crash simulation in 2 hours. So DOT has a car crash safety project at CCII.

The Intel machines are also being used to solve "grand challenge" problems in the areas of space exploration, fusion power, climate prediction, environmental remediation, materials science, human genome analysis, and high-energy physics.

At the ceremony, CCS Director Ken Kliewer acknowledged the contributions of the Department of Energy and ORNL Director Alvin Trivelpiece to the development of the center. He said that Trivelpiece's "recognition of the need for high-performance computing made possible the emergence of ORNL as one of the premiere computational centers in the world." Trivelpiece noted that DOE national laboratories are distinguished by their user facilities and that CCII, ORNL's newest user facility, will use "one of the latest state-of-the-art computers."

James Decker of DOE's Office of Energy Research noted that CCS and other centers have been established to improve the nation's competitiveness in world commerce. He challenged computer scientists and engineers to build machines capable of petaflops, or a quadrillion calculations per second. He then mentioned two trends: partnerships and strategic alliances are being formed for many megascience projects, and computational science is moving into business and industry.

Ed Masi, the Intel manager responsible for the Intel Paragon machines built for ORNL, said that building parallel computers is technically and financially difficult. He noted that the U.S. government has given considerable support in the past to the development of big computing machines, especially in 1983 with the inauguration of the National Science Foundation's four supercomputer centers and in 1989 with the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) initiative pushed by then Tennessee Senator Albert Gore and President Bush. "Big computing machines, like giant telescopes, are enormously important tools because they lead to new discoveries," Masi said. He challenged the government to continue support for the development of faster computing machines, and he challenged ORNL scientists "to make great use of this outstanding tool" and get results to justify continued government funding.

Malcolm Stocks, an Energy Systems corporate fellow and an ORNL materials scientist who uses the Intel Paragon, said it is being used to model transport of contaminants in groundwater and simulate properties of materials calculated from first principles. For example, a computer simulation of several hundred atoms of copper and nickel can improve understanding of magnetism in a copper-nickel alloy. Or simulation of several thousand atoms of carbon can aid understanding of the melting behavior of diamond--information nearly impossible to get experimentally. Stocks noted that understanding interactions among nuclei and electrons in materials took a leap forward in the 1980s with the introduction of vector computers and another leap in the 1990s with the introduction of parallel computers.

Thomas Zacharia, CCII director, said that the new user facility offers a classroom, computers, and visualization capabilities. He called CCII "a focal point for industrial interactions and partnerships in the critical area of high-performance computing." CCII was made possible by support from DOE's Office of Scientific Computing and Ron Hultgren, DOE site manager for ORNL. Hultgren said, "Let's officially open CCII and let the good times roll."

Gordon Fee, president of Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, called the construction, installation, and programming of the latest Intel supercomputer "a great accomplishment" for DOE and the country.

Other distinguished guests at the ceremony included Walter Ermler, David Nelson, and Ed Cumesty of DOE; Jose-Marie Griffiths of the University of Tennessee; Robert Sugar of the University of California, Santa Barbara; David Daugherty of the University of Vermont, who is a member of the CCS Advisory Committee; Faris Bandak of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and Peter Gorog of Weyerhauser.

Ron Tipton of Reynolds Metals Company is optimistic that CCII will help his company find ways to better use aluminum for building cars and bridges. "When you know where people are coming from and they know where you're coming from," he said, "you can get a lot done." It is hoped that CCS and CCII will smooth the way for a quantum leap in cooperation between industrial firms and national laboratories.

U.S. Proposes a Different Neutron Source for ORNL

For 20 years U.S. scientists have sought an advanced source of neutrons for research. Debate centered on whether to build a reactor or accelerator as the primary source. The most recent scientific consensus favored building a reactor first--the Advanced Neutron Source (ANS) (ANS) proposed for Oak Ridge--and a complementary accelerator source second.

However, because of the push to reduce the national deficit and because a reactor could cost three times as much as an accelerator, the Clinton administration in January 1995 canceled the $2.9 billion ANS, which had been in the president's budget as a construction item for the past two years. To replace the ANS, the Clinton administration proposed an accelerator option called a spallation neutron source and designated ORNL as the preferred site.

In an April 4, 1995, internal workshop at ORNL to discuss plans for designing a spallation neutron source, Bill Appleton, ORNL associate director for the ANS, said, "The design for the ANS was the best and most complete design of any recent Department of Energy project." He noted that the design, which was done under the leadership of the ANS Project Office in Oak Ridge, may still be useful in the future and that efforts will be made during closeout activities to properly preserve the ANS design for DOE.

The ANS, Appleton said, was canceled mainly because of its cost. A secondary reason was a political consideration related to the U.S. government's nonproliferation goal. Some people in the Clinton administration were concerned that, because the ANS was originally designed to use highly enriched uranium (although designs were in progress for making use of low-enriched uranium), the government would have a problem urging other nations to avoid using nuclear materials that could be made into weapons.

Because the Department of Energy had promised to provide new facilities to ORNL and other national laboratories under its facilities revitalization plan, Appleton said that DOE supports replacing the canceled ANS with a new spallation neutron source at ORNL. The pulsed spallation source would provide neutrons for neutron scattering research but, unlike the ANS, would not produce radioisotopes or steady-state beams for materials irradiation experiments. Neutrons from the spallation source would be used primarily to address questions in fundamental and condensed-matter physics, structural chemistry, materials science, and molecular biology.

Appleton said ORNL was also chosen for the spallation source to maximize use of the Laboratory's neutron source design expertise and to take advantage of its experience in operating particle accelerators and in conducting neutron scattering research. He noted that expertise in particle source design resides in ORNL's Fusion Energy, Metals and Ceramics, Engineering Technology, Solid State, and Research Reactors divisions and in the ANS Project Office.

"We are doing about $120 million worth of studies in neutron science," Appleton said. "We have a strong neutron science competency. We also have complementary neutron science facilities, such as the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), Radiochemical Engineering Development Center, the Oak Ridge Electron Linear Accelerator, and hot cells. Also, we have a strong materials science and engineering program. What is missing is experience in high-energy accelerator design."

Appleton said that ORNL will team with accelerator design experts from Europe and from U.S. national laboratories and universities to come up with the best accelerator design. The goal is a 5-megawatt (MW) source. However, because the best available technology will now permit the operation of only a 1- to 3-MW source, Appleton said the spallation source would be built in stages while new technology is developed to contain such a high-energy beam in the target area.

Another option, Appleton said, would be to upgrade ORNL's HFIR to make it more suitable as a neutron research facility. To become a complementary capability to a spallation source, the HFIR would receive modest upgrades, such as the addition of a cold neutron source in existing beam tubes, and it would continue to be used for isotope production and materials irradiation experiments. If for some reason the spallation source were not funded, he said, improvements could include a new reactor vessel and moderator, a high-flux cold source, increased power level (HFIR's power level is now 85 MW but will return to 100 MW; ANS would have been operated at 330 MW), and new neutron-scattering instruments. He noted that any options would have to be consistent with available funding.

"There are significant problems involved in the spallation source project," Appleton said. "We have to get it through Congress to maintain funding in the fiscal-year 1996 budget. The big problem is bringing the neutron science community together and getting a consensus on the best spallation source design, a steady-state neutron source such as an upgraded HFIR, and an affordable integrated facility.

"Argonne, Brookhaven, and Los Alamos national laboratories have already done designs for a complementary spallation source, so people there think their lab should be the site for the Spallation Neutron Source. But DOE supports building it at ORNL."

A spallation neutron source consists mainly of an ion source, a linear accelerator, a synchrotron or storage ring, a target area, and neutron beam lines. A continuous beam of negative ions of hydrogen is obtained from an ion source and accelerated by the linear accelerator. At the Los Alamos spallation source, the ion beam passes through the linear accelerator's radiofrequency quadrupole (RFQ), where it is bunched into pulses and accelerated by RF waves; then it is focused by quadrupole magnets into the storage ring. There the negative ions pass through a foil, which strips all electrons from the negative hydrogen ions, converting them into positive ions, or protons.

The pulsed proton beam is guided around the ring by a series of magnetic fields; when some fields are turned off, the beam is "dumped" out of the ring and directed to a target made of a heavy metal, such as lead, tantalum, tungsten, or uranium. As a result of the intense interaction between the high-energy protons and neutrons in the target, many neutrons are knocked out. As the neutrons spray out in different directions, they are slowed down as they pass through a moderator--liquid methane or deuterium, for example. Then they enter various beam lines for neutron scattering studies.

According to workshop speakers, one advantage of the spallation source over the ANS is that, because the beam is intermittent rather than steady, more accurate measurements can be taken between pulses when the source of background radiation is off. In addition, the pulsed beam can be used to measure scattered neutron energies by time-of-flight techniques. A third advantage is that measurements can be made without moving equipment, permitting the use of many time-of-flight neutron spectrometers around the target area. Additional physics experiments possible with a spallation source include studies of neutron oscillation and of particles such as muons and neutrinos.

The chief disadvantage of the spallation source, compared with the ANS, is that the pulsed source's repetition rate limits the possibilities for cold, or slow, neutrons. "By the time slow neutrons get through the system," ORNL physicist Herb Mook said, "the next pulse will be upon us." Cold neutrons are particularly useful for probing the structure of polymers in plastics and biological materials.

Designers of a spallation source must overcome at least two problems. One problem is the possibility of losing control of the beam, allowing it to irradiate and damage magnets and other accelerator parts. Second, proton beams can cause materials in the accelerator and target to become highly radioactive.

"We can shield high-energy accelerators to protect workers from activated parts," said ORNL physicist Tony Gabriel. "ORNL has developed shielding codes that have helped other accelerator facilities solve their shielding problems."

ORNL physicist John Whealton noted that the Laboratory's expertise in RF technology and computer analysis has been used to help Los Alamos solve two problems with the linear accelerator of its spallation source. RF technology and computer modeling will also be needed for the advanced spallation source planned for ORNL.

Whealton says the spallation source will present ORNL staff with research opportunities in such areas of development as RF technology, better negative ion sources, longer-lasting foils, and computer programs to enable designs to reduce beam halo (spreading of the beam, which can cause accelerator parts to become radioactive) and to sort out and make sense of the information in detectors.

Clearly, ORNL has its foot in the spallation source door. With the right resources, it should be able to go full speed ahead.

State of Laboratory Address by ORNL Director

The Advanced Neutron Source (ANS) research reactor proposed for ORNL was quashed because of its $2.9 billion cost, but a $1 billion accelerator for neutron scattering may be built here in its place. Some 200 scientists and engineers left the Laboratory last year under the Special Retirement Incentive Program, but ORNL now has more opportunities to hire younger researchers to energize its staff. A former ORNL researcher won the Nobel Prize, but ORNL's most famous Nobel Prize winner died.

This mixture of good and bad news marked the annual State of the Laboratory address that ORNL Director Alvin W. Trivelpiece presented on March 3, 1995, at the Laboratory. He noted that, although ORNL's future is uncertain, he believes ORNL will survive and continue as a world-class institution.

ORNL is the preferred site for DOE's proposed accelerator for neutron scattering research, Trivelpiece noted, because of the Laboratory staff's experience in particle accelerator operation and neutron scattering research. Because the ANS reactor will not be built, steps will be taken to extend the operational life of ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor for production of radioisotopes.

Trivelpiece said that 433 ORNL staff members took the special retirement in 1994 as part of ORNL's downsizing in response to a reduced budget. He called the loss of 200 researchers a major event. "The good news here is that it brings an opportunity to recruit young staff members," he said. "The bad news is that many of the people who left were the ones writing the proposals, maintaining contacts with program managers in Washington, and bringing in funding."

Because the new Congress is focusing on deficit reduction and middle-class tax cuts, the Department of Energy, to save itself from abolishment, pledged to cut $14.1 billion over five years. But because the fiscal 1996 budget is so far along, Trivelpiece said, the cuts may occur over only four years, forcing ORNL to tighten its fiscal belt even more. "The budgets we have to deal with," he added, "are the lowest science and technology budgets since 1975 in terms of gross domestic product."

A number of government councils and task forces--including the Galvin Task Force--will also influence ORNL's future, as will the recent change in congressional representatives. To face such an uncertain future, Trivelpiece recommended that the Laboratory sharpen its focus with R&D strategic planning, produce high-quality proposals, market its capabilities effectively in Washington, and ensure top-quality work.

He also urged that the Laboratory become more "user friendly" for the benefit of the 4400 guest researchers and 24,000 students who spend time at ORNL each year. He said that ORNL would continue to become better known to the community through another Community Day planned for the fall.

In 1994, he noted, former ORNL researcher Cliff Shull received a Nobel Prize for physics for his neutron scattering research, and ORNL geneticist Liane Russell won the Fermi Award for her biological research. Two ORNL innovations received R&D 100 Awards from R&D magazine, and ORNL researchers Doug Lowndes and Tuan Vo-Dinh were named Corporate Fellows by Lockheed Martin Energy Systems.

On a sad note, Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner, a former ORNL research director, died at the age of 92. Trivelpiece said that as a memorial to the famed physicist he hoped to rename Central Auditorium after Wigner.

Trivelpiece's choice of research highlights for 1994 included the acquisition of the 1024-node Intel Paragon, which is one of the world's most powerful massively parallel supercomputers; the introduction of ORNL to the Internet and World Wide Web; ORNL work in collaboration with others to make cars and textile production more efficient; use of ORNL-developed nickel aluminides for longer-lasting furnace trays for making parts for the automobile industry; the acquisition of a recoil separator from England for use with the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility; and ORNL's entry into forensics research by analyzing the chemical composition of children's fingerprints, which vanish from surfaces more quickly than do adult fingerprints.

Trivelpiece said that the Laboratory is well positioned to support DOE's new mission of developing and deploying technologies and influencing social systems to ensure a sustainable future for the world. Such work could help sustain ORNL through an uncertain future.

Environmental Restoration Magmas Studied

What happens when molten volcanic rock cools in a lava lake or below the surface of the earth? How are large granite masses formed? Answers to these questions may be emerging from volcano-free Tennessee.

A soil-to-glass environmental restoration process used at ORNL can mimic some of the processes of magma formation and cooling. That's the conclusion of geoscientists from around the nation.

The process, in situ vitrification (ISV), is a patented technology developed for DOE by Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory. It uses electrodes to heat soil contaminated with radioactive elements to temperatures up to 1600°C (2900°F). Upon cooling, the molten soil transforms to a mixture of glass and crystals in the ground, trapping the radioactive material.

ISV has been tested with and without radioactive materials at ORNL. It will be used in September 1995 to produce 600 tons of glass at an ORNL waste pit. In this melt, 4 megawatts of electrical power will heat and melt the soil.

"ISV melts," says Mike Naney, a geochemist with ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division (ESD), "can provide artificial magmas in a controlled, monitored environment. The molten rock, crystals, and gases produced by the melting are formed at temperatures similar to those in crustal magma chambers that supply lava to volcanoes.

"But the ISV melts are not subjected to the explosively high pressures of volcanoes. By studying the cooling and crystallization in artificial magmas, we can learn more about what happens during the cooling of crustal magma chambers and lava lakes."

These magmatic processes include extraction of metals and their deposition as mineral ores, heating and circulation of water that can be tapped as geothermal energy, and venting of gases to the atmosphere that affect global climate.

The idea of using ISV technology to develop large-scale melts for scientific studies was spawned before ORNL's 1991 ISV test. In the fall of 1989 Rick Williams, of the University of Tennessee Geology Department, and Jon Nyquist of ESD were interested in using geophysical methods developed for near-surface environmental studies to obtain acoustic images of the artificial magma produced during an ISV test planned for 1991. They asked Gary Jacobs of ESD and Naney to join them to identify petrological and geochemical studies that might be complementary to the geophysical studies and then to write a proposal for funding.

"The proposal was successful," Naney says, "and we were able to take advantage of a unique opportunity to advance understanding of magmas and magmatic processes by `piggy-backing' interesting studies on the 1991 ISV test." The test of this technology for environmental remediation was sponsored by DOE's Office of Technology Development.

Using thermocouples, the ORNL scientists measured the temperature profile of the 1991 ISV magma. Temperatures ranged from 100deg.C several feet away from the melt to 1500deg.C in the molten soil. They observed vigorous bubbling and rapid convection of heat by circulation of heated liquid and gases at the melt surface. After the artificial magma cooled, they obtained samples by diamond core drilling the rocklike product. Then they analyzed the textures and chemistry of the minerals that formed during crystallization of the melt.

"Our studies of artificial magmas during and after cooling," Naney says, "help us understand how igneous rocks form during the cooling of pools of natural magma and lava lakes. The ORNL soils that we studied melt to form a basalt-like liquid, rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and silicon. As the molten basalt cools, minerals containing calcium, magnesium, and iron precipitate out, leaving a liquid rich in silicon. As the last remaining liquid cools, it solidifies into a mixture of glass and crystals having the composition of granite.

"Our observation of small amounts of granite filling spaces between the larger feldspar and pyroxene crystals that form the predominantly basalt-like rock provides information on granite formation in the crust of the earth," Naney says. "The same phenomenon in natural magmas would trap granite liquid between interlocking crystals of a basalt, preventing migration and coalescence of the granite liquid to form large masses."

What conclusions have the ORNL researchers made from their observations? Says Naney: "The existence of some large bodies of granite, of the size exposed at Stone Mountain, Georgia, or in Yosemite National Park, may require multiple cycles of melting and squeezing of solidified basalts. These processes extracted the small amounts of granite liquid required to form granite masses as large as hundreds of cubic kilometers."

This idea is not new to geologists. "But," Naney says, "the ORNL studies provide a large-scale example of the `fractionation' process that generates granite from a `parent' basalt magma."

The ORNL researchers noticed an interesting phenomenon 20 hours after the ISV power was shut off. "The cooling of the artificial magma halted for 24 hours," Naney says.

The high temperatures needed to generate and maintain the ISV molten rock are the result of adding heat energy through electric-resistance heating of the soil and resulting melt. After the electrical power is turned off, the magma begins to cool. Radiative, convective, and conductive processes all constantly remove heat, cooling the magma.

The observed halt in cooling, a thermal arrest, was produced by the generation of sufficient heat within the magma to counterbalance the three heat-removal processes. The source of this energy was heat liberated during growth of crystals in the magma. This is a well-known thermodynamic phenomenon--an exothermic phase change.

The same phenomenon benefits fruit growers when they mist citrus groves with water during cold weather. The water droplets are cooled by cold air and freeze to form ice crystals. In the process of freezing, the water crystallizes (a phase change), giving off heat to the surfaces of fruit and the surrounding air. For air temperatures near 0°C (32°F), this heat can be sufficient to prevent the temperature of fruit from falling below 0°C and destroying a crop.

"In the case of the ISV test," Naney says, "thermal arrests were anticipated, but the magnitude and duration of the effect was surprising. The temperature and duration of the thermal arrest provide information about crystallization processes within the melt that could not be directly observed."

Although basalt is a common rock at volcanoes in the Cascades in the western United States and in Hawaii, it is not present in East Tennessee. The common rocks at the ORNL site are limestone and shales. "But," Naney notes, "the chemical compositions of basalt and the combination of shale and limestone are similar, so ISV melts in Tennessee can provide useful information on volcanic processes."

Naney and Jacobs pursued the idea of using ISV melts as artificial magmas at a meeting of geologists in San Francisco and later in Boston. In the spring of 1994, he and Gary Jacobs organized a workshop on this subject in Oak Ridge. It was attended by 23 geoscientists from universities, research institutions, and national laboratories across the country.

"The participants concluded that ISV technology can produce large silicate melts whose makeup and properties provide unique analogs for natural magmas," Naney says. "They agreed that ISV melts are useful for testing theories that cannot be investigated through direct observation using bench-top experiments or uncontrolled studies of natural systems such as lava lakes."

As volumes of soil up to 300 cubic meters undergo melting, Naney says, a "magma chamber" is created. "Such a melt is large enough for field-scale geophysical instruments to be used but small enough to be controlled and monitored like a laboratory experiment," he says. "We can determine the chemical composition and physical properties of the materials before and after melting. In addition, we can follow the history of the melting and cooling by using sensors and taking samples of magma, gases, and particle emissions from the ISV melts."

The workshop and other ISV magma research were supported by the Geosciences Research Program of the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

Real Cost of Power from Coal Explored

What is the real cost of electricity? Is it simply the total cost reflected in our electricity bills? This issue is addressed in the recently published second and third of a series of eight reports on the external costs and benefits of electricity fuel cycles. The reports, which cover analytical methods and the coal fuel cycle, were written by ORNL and Resources for the Future (RFF) as part of a study sponsored by DOE.

According to the report on coal power, the real cost includes the social costs of all activities involved in the production of electricity--that is, of the fuel cycle. These social costs are the financial costs plus the external costs and benefits (externalities) of extracting fuel, processing it, transporting it, burning it to generate electricity, and disposing of wastes. These external costs include injuries, illnesses, and environmental damage.

Surprisingly, the report found that the external costs at one coal-fired power plant that was studied are much lower than expected--about 2 to 3% of the total cost of generating electric power from coal. Some external costs, however, cannot be reliably estimated (e.g., global warming) and are not included in this estimate.

ORNL prepared the report in collaboration with RFF and with DOE and the Commission of the European Communities (EC). In this project, methods were developed for analyzing the externalities of electricity production. ORNL and RFF are applying the methodology to estimate the social costs of coal, biomass, hydropower, oil, natural gas, and nuclear fuel cycles. EC is using the methodology to estimate the costs of photovoltaics, wind fuel cycles, and energy conservation options in addition to its studies of these other fuel cycles.

DOE's and EC's interest in this study stems from their desire to assess the full costs of alternative energy technologies. "Total energy cycle assessments" are needed to guide research and development and facilitate deployment of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies in the marketplace. Their interest also stems from the fact that the impact of energy production on the global environment is considered an important issue for years to come.

The methodological foundation for the study was developed largely by Robin Cantor, formerly of ORNL and now at the National Science Foundation, and Alan Krupnick, an RFF researcher who was with the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Russell Lee, a geographer with ORNL's Energy Division, took over the Laboratory part of the study when Cantor left in 1991. In 1995, Lee was honored for the report on coal fuel cycles by the Association of American Geographers.

The full social cost of producing electricity, Lee says, includes two components. The first component is the price reflected in electric bills; it covers labor, capital, fuel, insurance, regulatory compliance, and taxes. The second component covers costs to people other than producers and consumers. For example, sulfur and nitrogen oxides emitted from coal plant stacks may cause lung disease, reduce fish populations, and damage crops in some regions.

"From mining to transportation to generation and transmission of electricity, the coal fuel cycle imposes burdens on the environment that can harm ecosystems and human health," Lee says. "Individuals place some value on preserving ecosystems, good health, and materials and are, therefore, implicitly willing to pay to avoid damage to them. These values are reflected in the full social cost, or externalities, of providing electric power from coal."

Lee noted that the coal fuel cycle also has some benefits that must be accounted for in estimating the full social cost. An example is fertilization of soil in some areas by deposits of sulfur and nitrogen.

The methodology developed at ORNL and RFF includes the "damage function approach," which is considered by most researchers the preferred method for estimating most coal fuel cycle externalities. Lee says that the work also resulted in several new analytical methods.

"We developed new models for estimating concentrations of ground-level ozone from coal plants at various locations and of sulfur and nitrogen oxides, lead, and particulates at distances from coal plants that are not treated by other models," Lee says. "In addition, we developed new methods to estimate nonenvironmental impacts such as damages to roads by coal trucks and reduction in unemployment because of power plant construction and operation."

In the study, a coal power plant in the southeastern United States and one in the Southwest were examined. The researchers looked at specific impacts of various stages of the coal fuel cycle.

"Mining coal can lead to injuries and deaths from accidents and to lung disease from emissions of radon and coal dust," Lee says. "Transporting coal can lead to injuries and deaths from rail and truck accidents.

"Generating electricity by burning coal results in the emission of gases and heavy metals that have environmental impacts. The most notable are carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming; nitrogen oxides, which contribute to ground-level ozone; and sulfur oxides, which form acid rain. These pollutants can cause harm to crops, forests, fish, wildlife, materials, and human health."

Lee said the study made several conclusions after evaluating the two reference sites. Some findings showed that costs are generally site specific--for example, health effects of airborne pollutants emitted from the coal plant in the Southeast are 100 times greater than those associated with the plant in the Southwest.

"We estimate that the externalities are considerably less than some people expected," Lee says. "For the power plant in the Southeast, the externalities amount to little more than 1 mill, or 0.1 cent, per kilowatt-hour, which is only about 2 to 3% of the total cost of generating electric power using coal."

However, Lee notes, damage from potential global warming is not part of the estimate. "It could be 1 cent, or more, per kilowatt-hour," he says.

"One problem is that ecological damages are difficult to estimate and are not all included in the 1-mill estimate. Also, if a coal power plant is located in a more populated area, then damages might be several times greater."

"We found that precise social costs are difficult to estimate," Lee concludes, "because of differences from site to site and because of uncertainties in estimating ecological impacts, including global warming effects."

DOE's Inventions Programs Saves Energy and Money--ORNL

The news media claim that some government programs "rip off" American taxpayers. However, an ORNL report shows that taxpayers clearly benefit from a government program called the Energy-Related Inventions Program (ERIP).

This federal government program for stimulating energy-related inventions has generated commercial products that are saving Americans energy and money, creating jobs, boosting tax revenues, and slowing global warming. That's the conclusion of a recently published report prepared by Marilyn Brown, C. Robert Wilson, Charlotte A. Franchuk, Stephen M. Cohn, and Donald W. Jones, all with ORNL's Energy Division.

The report, Economic, Energy, and Environmental Impacts of DOE's Energy-Related Inventions Program, examines the results of ERIP, which has been jointly operated since 1974 by DOE and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This program solicits and selects invention ideas, and from 1975 through 1992, it provided $41 million in grants to inventors to develop the most promising concepts.

"The value of sales of ERIP inventions is 19 times the value of ERIP grants awarded and 7 times the appropriations for the program," Brown says. "In 1992, the last year covered by our evaluation, ERIP technologies launched new businesses, created more than 650 full-time jobs, and provided the U.S. Treasury with $2.7 million in individual income taxes.

"The commercial success of three ERIP projects has saved more than half a billion dollars in energy expenditures over the past decade," Brown says. "In addition, the energy savings cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one million metric tons of carbon." Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, which may have undesirable environmental effects.

The three highly successful ERIP projects were (1) replacement rings for steam turbines, which prevent the gradual loss in efficiency that characterizes conventional packing rings; (2) an ignition control system for automotive internal combustion engines; and (3) a high-efficiency gas-fired water heater for industrial applications.

ERIP has brought prosperity to some inventors. "By the end of 1992," says Brown, "at least 129 of the 625 inventions recommended by DOE for support had entered the market, generating total cumulative sales of $763 million. In 1992, ERIP inventors earned an estimated $1 million in royalties. Over the lifetime of the program, royalties have totaled $18.6 million."

The authors obtained the report's information by designing and distributing a 16-page questionnaire to the 557 inventors who had been recommended for program participation by NIST prior to October 1991. (It was judged that more recent participants would not have had enough time to complete their projects and develop a successful new product.) They measured an invention's progress primarily in terms of market entry, level of sales, and length of time in the market.

50-Year-Old Calutrons Resume Isotope Production

After being idle for three years, 8 of ORNL's 36 calutrons were restarted by DOE on January 3, 1995, beginning the year that marks the 50th anniversary of stable isotope production in Oak Ridge. The reason for the restart: DOE changed its policy, recognizing that some customers that have been buying low-priced stable isotopes from Russia require a more stable supplier.

On December 22, 1994, Trace Sciences International of Ontario, Canada, signed a three-year contract with DOE to buy stable isotopes in large quantities at a volume discount. These stable, or nonradioactive, isotopes will be distributed to 14 countries for medical, industrial, research, and agricultural uses. In the United States alone, radioisotopes, some of which are produced from stable isotopes, are used for medical diagnosis or treatment of 30,000 to 40,000 patients a day.

ORNL's calutrons at the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant are high-current mass spectrometers that use magnetic fields to separate isotopes by charge and mass. Some 1152 calutrons were used during World War II to produce fissionable uranium-235 for the atomic bomb.

In the current facility (Building 9204-3) of ORNL's Isotope Enrichment Program, a track of 36 calutrons began separating uranium-235 from other uranium isotopes on December 13, 1944; another track of 36 calutrons started uranium separations on January 30, 1945. Production of stable isotopes commenced November 11, 1945, with the separation of copper-63 from copper-65 in the Building 9731 pilot plant at the Y-12 Plant.

In the fall of 1959, ORNL took over operation of the calutrons in Building 9204-3 for its stable isotope production program. Over the years it has operated 30 calutrons for 4 million hours, producing a total of 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of material enriched in 232 different stable isotopes.

The eight restarted calutrons are now used to produce material enriched in thallium-203 for Trace Sciences International. This feed material goes to the isotope supplier, which uses proton beams in cyclotrons to convert thallium-203 to thallium-201, a radioisotope. Thallium-201 is used worldwide to diagnose heart disease.

ORNL had been producing thallium-203 until 1991 when its customers turned to Russia because it was selling the isotope for 10 to 20% less. So the calutons were shut down. However, during the shutdown, the program began selling its reserve supply of strontium-88 to Amersham International, a pharmaceutical company in England that produces strontium-89 chloride for relieving cancer-induced bone pain.

The calutron is based on an invention by E. O. Lawrence and associates at Berkeley, California. In early 1942, this group converted a 37-inch cycloton to a production mass spectrometer and showed that electromagnetic separation of uranium-235 is possible.

The ORNL calutrons are the only source of stable isotopes in the United States. The only other operating calutrons in the world are in China and Russia.

Calutrons were built and operated in Iraq in support of Saddam Hussein's fledgling nuclear weapons program. In 1986, Iraqis operated their first experimental electromagnetic separator at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center near Baghdad; in 1987, they operated two experimental separators there. Iraq planned to deploy 70 calutrons at one site and 20 at another. In 1990, eight separators were installed and operated at Tarmiya; they were shut down for modifications in 1991. Iraq's separator facilities were destroyed by February 1991 air attacks during the Persian Gulf War.

ORNL's stable isotope production program has a staff of 45 persons, including 25 technical employees ranging from chemists and physicists to electrical and chemical engineers. Says Joe Tracy, manager of ORNL's Isotope Enrichment Program, "Producing isotopes is a beneficial peaceful use of wartime technology. And it is popular with the U.S. government because it brings in revenue."

Where to?

[ Next article | Search | Mail | Contents | Review Home Page | ORNL Home Page ]