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Communications and External Relations
ORNL isotope facility earns international quality registration
OAK RIDGE, Tenn.,
June 25, 1996
The Isotope Enrichment Facility (IEF) of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has earned an international quality registration from the International Organization for Standardization.
The registration, presented during a recent ceremony in Oak Ridge, is the first time this designation has been earned by a DOE facility. The ISO 9000 registration was presented after the organization, which has representation in more than 90 nations, determined the facility's quality system meets international standards.
The facility, which was constructed during the 1940s for the enrichment of uranium-235, is used, in part, for the enrichment of stable isotopes. It uses high-current mass spectrometers, known as calutrons, to conduct stable isotope separations. The calutron process provides modest quantities of isotopes at high enrichments.
ISO 9000 standards have become the governing documents throughout Europe for evaluating quality systems for companies within specific industries. Outside Europe, more companies are using the registration to confirm compliance with their own quality requirements. Many companies are asking their suppliers and vendors to have their facilities under the ISO 9000 registration. The ISO registration is believed to give the IEF a competitive advantage over the Russian facility, which is the IEF's only competition.
Joe Krejci of Underwriters Laboratories of Melville, N.Y., which provides independent, third-party registration assessments of quality systems in addition to their well-known evaluations of household and industrial products, Owen Lowe, program manager from DOE's Washington office, and local DOE staff were on hand to offer their congratulations to those who work in the facility.
Most medical radioisotopes are produced from enriched stable isotopes. Isotopes used in medical applications represent the largest volume of stable isotope commercial sales. Small quantities of a wide variety of enriched stable isotopes are used in a broad range of basic and applied research.
After being placed in standby for three years and supported by Trace Sciences International's need for the stable isotope thallium-203, the facility's calutrons were restarted in early 1995. Thallium-203 is used in medical applications to conduct heart scans. Since successfully restarting the calutrons amidst a Y-12 Plant standdown, the facility has been producing thallium-203 consistently in excess of its customers' 95 atom percent enrichment criteria. Darren Brown, president of Trace Sciences International, attended the presentation.
Other government agencies, including the Department of Defense and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are planning to incorporate aspects of ISO 9000 into the requirements they demand of their suppliers. Companies seeking to do business with governmental agencies recognize quality system registration as a competitive advantage and a good business practice.
ORNL, one of DOE's multiprogram national research and development facilities, is managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp.