Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Fred Strohl (strohlhf@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL celebrates 60th anniversary with activities for community, staff

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 3, 2003 — Oak Ridge National Laboratory will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a series of events and activities planned to help preserve the lab's history, thank the community and honor ORNL's past and present staff.

In February 1943, construction began at ORNL (called Clinton Laboratories until 1948), including what became the world's first continuously operated nuclear reactor. The Graphite Reactor began operation in November 1943 and demonstrated that a reactor could provide a sustained nuclear reaction and produce significant amounts of plutonium. Some 20 months later, plutonium produced in Hanford, Wash., was used in one of the atomic bombs that accelerated the end of World War II.

Since its early years, ORNL's mission has changed from weapons research to one that includes world-class research in energy, neutron science, biological systems, advanced materials, national security and high-performance computing.

ORNL Director Bill Madia said the laboratory's celebration was designed with three goals. "We are making sure future generations know about the tremendous contributions of those who worked here before us. We are thanking the community for their help and support over the years. And we are recognizing the wonderful staff, past and present, who have made ORNL a world leader in scientific research."

ORNL has organized several activities in early February to celebrate and preserve the laboratory's history, including a special ceremony Feb. 6 at the Graphite Reactor. Dozens of ORNL retirees, including some of the original staff from 1943, have been invited to hear presentations that will recount the research in the early years of the laboratory and life in the Secret City during the war years.

Speakers will include ORNL retiree John Gillette, "43 Club" member Bill Wilcox, Department of Energy Oak Ridge Operations Manager Gerald Boyd and Madia. Speakers and numerous ORNL staff will dress in 40's-period attire. Due to space limitations, the event is by invitation only.

As part of the celebration, ORNL has organized several initiatives to chronicle and preserve the laboratory's history. Approximately 25 ORNL retirees are being interviewed on camera to develop an oral history of the laboratory's first two decades. An ORNL history room has been established for the identification, preservation and display of artifacts related to the science and life of early ORNL staff. ORNL also has renovated and upgraded the exhibit wing of the Graphite Reactor to display both the history and future of the laboratory's scientific agenda.

ORNL has produced a special edition of the ORNL Review that describes scientific discoveries over the past six decades that have improved people's lives. Finally, the laboratory has printed a special edition of the ORNL Reporter, the laboratory's internal newsletter, to provide a glimpse into life and research of the early years.

In addition to preserving the laboratory's history, the celebration will include several activities designed to thank the community for support of ORNL over the last 60 years. Team UT-Battelle volunteers plan to paint the abandoned Bethel Valley Road guardhouse. When painted, the Manhattan Project-era facility will provide an improved first impression for Oak Ridge visitors.

On Feb. 4, a commemorative 60th anniversary stamp and postal cover will be unveiled at the American Museum of Science and History in Oak Ridge. Collectors may purchase the stamp at the museum. UT-Battelle also is supporting a lecture series sponsored by the Friends of ORNL that will include presentations related to the Manhattan Project. Michele Gerber will discuss the history of the Hanford Operations on March 25. Robert Norris is scheduled to speak about General Leslie Groves on May 8.

Several activities will recognize and thank past and present ORNL staff. Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman will deliver a lecture at the laboratory on February 7. Following his presentation, anniversary cake will be served to ORNL staff. The laboratory staff also will receive commemorative pins designed to recognize the anniversary. Other activities include a slide-show on Feb. 5 by Colleen Black, who will discuss 1940's life in Oak Ridge.

Madia said the anniversary will continue throughout 2003 with other events and projects that will celebrate both the past and future of ORNL.

ORNL is a multi-purpose facility managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.