Got perchlorates? Get ORNL
Several years ago ORNL embarked on a program to clean a potentially hazardous substance from laboratory ventilation hoods. The stuff, perchlorate salt, accumulates in hoods from heated perchloric acid. It is highly combustible and can even explode. From 1993 to 1996, some 40 hood systems were decontaminated by Office of Safety and Health Protection, Plant and Equipment Division, Health Physics and analytical lab workers.
More recently, workers encountered the crystalline glaze in a hood system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Apparently word had gotten around about ORNL's success with the stuff, because they called Tennessee. LLNL officials recently expressed their gratitude to three OSHP staff membersCharlie Phillips, Marwan Bader and Susan Whitsonfor their help in planning and carrying out a project to remove perchlorates from the problem hood.
With the trio's help, LLNL workers removed more than five pounds of perchloric salt from that one hood system. In a letter of appreciation, an LLNL manager wrote, "Without the help of (the ORNL) team, we would not have been as prepared or aware or have learned as much in so short a period of time."
In fact, Phillips and Bader are American Chemical Society experts on perchlorate removal, have published one article in a safety journal and have another in editorial review. "It's challenging, high-risk work, but we know how to work safely," Phillips says.
ORNL's perchlorate methods also have been tried at Y-12, ETTP, the DOE labs at Los Alamos, Brookhaven and Rocky Flats and West Valley Nuclear Facility in New York. The technology has been transferred to more than 500 private businesses.
You know who to call.
Lab's ready when hackers come knockingComputer hackers are out there, and they are trying to get in. The counterhackers in the Computing, Information and Networking Division have played cat-and-mouse with them several times so far this year.
"They seem to be kids trying to have a good time," Greg Hinkel, of CIND's Computer and Network Security (CNS), says. "Usually when they get in somewhere, they set or change the password to something clever and immediately go to their chat group and tell everyone."
But sometimes they cause mischief. One hacker recently invaded a computer, realized he or she had been detected and deleted all of the real owner's files before skedaddling. Once inside, hackers can do a lot of damage.
To thwart intruders, CNS monitors network traffic with something similar to caller ID, looking for suspicious activity. They have other techniques, although Hinkel doesn't want to give away their detective secrets, for obvious reasons.
He says that throughout industry most computer security vulnerabilities arise from inside the system, from disgruntled employees or careless users. Although insider attacks haven't been a problem at ORNL, plain carelessness can be, leading to an "outsider" becoming an "insider."
Can it happen here? "You bet," Hinkel says. "It has."
ORNL's several Earth Day activities included a talk, sponsored by the Environmental Sciences Division, by Daniel Simberloff, the University of Tennessee's Nancy Gore Hunger Chair of Excellence in Environmental Studies. Because Simberloff's teaching position is near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he can pursue one of his chief interests: threats to native species posed by introduced, "nonindigenous" species.
It doesn't take much. Forty years ago a boy visiting Hawaii casually picked up a few giant African snails and carried them back home to Miami. Eradicating them literally required hand-picking them from a several-square-mile area.
Most of the similar disasters Simberloff related haven't been taken care of so successfully. The Smokies' ongoing pig problems, for instance, stem from a hunting lodge's imported stock that got loose. Waterways in Louisiana are being choked by a common aquatic ornamental that thrives in warm climateswater hyacinth.
Simberloff proposed ways to stop or slow future biological invasions: establish a comprehensive database, early warning system, rapid response team and risk assessment panels to prevent an invasion of an unwanted species. He also recommends educating the public on the risks and costs of bringing home exotic species.
There's a lot to learn. "You can buy three plant species at local home stores that should be excluded in the United States," Simberloff says.