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Highlights 2009


Twentieth Annual Steering Committee Meeting for the DOE-JAERI Collaboration on Fusion Reactor Materials

Recently a group of M&C Division notables, led by Director Everett Bloom, convened at the Italian Market and Grill to celebrate a remarkable event, the 20th Annual Steering Committee Meeting for the DOE-JAERI Collaboration on Fusion Reactor Materials. It is now some twenty years since scientists in the M&C Division and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) began working together on materials for fusion energy. There is some doubt on exactly when it all began, in spite of heroic memory recall efforts on the part of several M&C Division alumni who were on hand. This included the three generations of M&C program managers who have been responsible for the collaboration: Jim Scott, Everett Bloom, and Steve Zinkle.

The fulfillment of the goal of producing energy from nuclear fusion, the energy source of the stars, depends heavily on our ability to develop the wide range of materials that must operate satisfactorily in an environment of high energy neutrons. The damage caused by fusion neutrons produces changes in the physical and mechanical properties of all metallic alloys and ceramic materials. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms involved in these changes provides the basis for the development of new materials that will enable the international community to eventually build the first fusion power plants.

The groundwork for the collaboration between the U.S. and Japan to develop fusion energy was laid at meetings between President Carter and Prime Minister Fukuda in 1975. Cooperation began with work on experimental Tokamak fusion devices and expanded to encompass a broad range of fusion R&D activities, with materials work being added in the 1983-1984 timeframe. ORNL became the focus of this collaboration because of a unique combination of people, expertise, and facilities. The powerful resources of the Engineering Technology Division were combined with M&C and JAERI expertise to design and implement a long series of sophisticated irradiation experiments in the High Flux Isotope Reactor. M&C Division provided the facilities for carrying out mechanical and physical property measurements on irradiated materials and also for carrying out structural analyses down to the atomic scale which are essential to the development of structure-property relationships.


While the scientific successes and mutual benefits to both sides have sustained the momentum, the collaboration has also been successful in broadening the understanding between two different cultures and is a continuing source of many personal friendships. Each year sees new JAERI visitors who frequently bring their families, attending Oak Ridge schools and bringing their own unique talents and presence to our community. The current leader of the JAERI effort, Shiro Jitsukawa, was one of the first assignees to ORNL. He provided a historical perspective from the Japanese side following dinner, including remarks prepared by the first JAERI program manager Tatsuo Kondo.


Over such a time period a great many M&C Division staff have played their roles in this remarkable partnership including Jim Scott, Everett Bloom, Bill Wiffen, Arthur Rowcliffe, Steve Zinkle, Roger Stoller, Lance Snead, Phil Masiasz, Ron Klueh, Janet Robertson, Martin Grossbeck, Loy Gibson, Nobel Rouse, Ernie Ryan, Lloyd Turner, and Pat Bishop to name a few. Patient and enduring support on the administrative side of things has been provided by Judy McKinney, Gabrielle Burn, and Renetta Godfrey. The ETD effort was led by Ken Thoms, ably assisted by Dennis Heatherly, Bob Sitterson, Al Longest, Lou Qualls, Katey Lenox, and now Dave Felde (to name only a few).

When the current series of HFIR experiments ends in 2009, it is likely that there will be significant changes in the partnership as the international community gets on with the construction of the ITER, a machine which will produce fusion energy at the level of a small power plant. Materials R&D may shift gears to utilize a proposed high-power accelerator-based 14 MeV neutron source, also internationally built, which will for the first time provide a large experimental volume with a neutron environment nearly characteristic of a full-scale fusion power plant.