June 2000


Lab, TVA unite for “green” power
Two of the region’s heavy hitters have pledged to work together to promote sustainable energy technologies. ORNL and the Tennessee Valley Authority signed two memoranda of understanding on May 17 to collaborate on “green” power.

In the first agreement, DOE will commit to purchase green power for ORNL, making the Lab TVA’s first industrial participant in its Green Power Switch program. The program offers power produced using sunlight, wind and landfill gas as renewable energy sources.

The second agreement is between ORNL and TVA’s Public Power Institute to enter into mutually beneficial collaborations in the field of energy production and use. The agreement enables ORNL and the Public Power Institute to develop, demonstrate and deploy technologies for efficient and environmentally beneficial renewable energy production and use.

“This is a great example of using leading-edge technologies from ORNL that can improve our environment for our children’s future,” said Bill Madia, ORNL director. Also on hand were Dan Reicher, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Kate Jackson, TVA executive vice president of River System Operation and Environment.

Threatened swans find a home
“Beaky” is a swan, one of the brood from last year, who somehow got his bill damaged in his early days at the Swan Pond. Missing the upper half meant the hapless bird had to be fed a special mush. Adding to his misery, the other swans tended to pick on him.

Larry Smarsh, who works in the Plant and Equipment Division, agreed to take Beaky to his place near Lancing. Larry reports that Beaky, special diet and all, is doing just fine at his new place.

A goose family, except the black ones are ducks.
Smarsh also took home two other cygnets, the remains of this year’s brood that was decimated by some sort of predator or predators. The Lab’s volunteer swankeepers have a gallery of suspects ranging from turtles to muskrats to the latest—a family of foxes that was spotted slinking around the area.

Having an area that’s so rich in wildlife is a double-edged sword: The critters tend to eat each other. The foxes, or whatever the predators are, are also keeping the duck and goose population in check.

At the Smarsh’s, the cygnets were reported doing well. Beaky was even protective of them.

ORNL’s feathered friends frequently amaze and amuse. When it was reported—rumored, really—that steps may be taken to discourage barn swallows from nesting in the “canyon” between buildings 4500-North and South, ORNL Today readers sprang to their defense, citing the aerial show they put on and the bugs they eat. On the other hand, most also said they wouldn’t mind seeing the birds’ leavings cleaned up from time to time.

Finally, observers noted that two birds of a different feather were following a mama goose around the grounds. They are ducks whose eggs were deposited in, then ejected from, the swans’ nests. So the keepers put them in a nearby goose’s nest. It worked for the duckies, apparently.

20 years later, still learning
It’s been 20 years since Mount St. Helens blew its stack, sending ash down upon much of the Northwest and providing scientists with a once-in-a-lifetime chance at post-cataclysmic field research. Among those who studied the devastation was Virginia Dale, then a Seattle resident. The Environmental Sciences Division researcher has studied plant regrowth in the debris avalanche area ever since.

Virginia attended a conference, sponsored by Washington State University, Vancouver, in conjunction with the Mount St. Helens Monument, marking the anniversary.

Virginia told Newsday that, of 286 plant species present before the eruption, 156 had re-established themselves on the debris avalanche by 1994. Areas that were strewn with huge, dead trees are now green again with head-high saplings.

She and other researchers remarked on how rapidly many species reestablished themselves after such seemingly utter destruction, and the lessons it offered about other kinds of disturbances.

“The real value of all these studies is what we can learn about management for other human-created systems,” Virginia told The New York Times. “We have strip mines and roadsides and all kinds of devastation created by human activities.”

OR contractors set up Los Alamos fund
Three Oak Ridge contractors recently contributed $22,500 each to the Claxton Optimist Club for a new playground. Posing with a big check before a flock of kids at the Claxton Community Center are, from left, Bechtel Jacobs' Jim Thiesing, Optimists Club President Carl Scarbrough, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems President Bob Van Hook and UT-Battelle President and ORNL Director Bill Madia.
Last month’s catastrophic forest fire in Los Alamos, N.M., hit the fellow national laboratory community hard, destroying more than 200 homes. The Oak Ridge community has come together to help out.

UT-Battelle is participating with Bechtel Jacobs Company and Lockheed Martin Energy Systems in an account to which interested employees may contribute funds to help Los Alamos residents who have lost homes or other property in the Cerro Grande fire. UT-Battelle is contributing $5,000 to the fund.

Employees who would like to help victims of the fire can make their checks payable to “Los Alamos Disaster Relief Fund” (specify “Account #47922” on the memo portion of the check) and send them to the Y-12 Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 2512, Oak Ridge, TN, 37831-2512. Checks or cash contributions may also be taken to the Y-12 Credit Union offices at 501 Lafayette Drive. Employees who have Y-12 Credit Union accounts may request an electronic funds transfer.

Reported by Bill Cabage