Lab Lines

Diversity awards presented

ORNL's annual Workforce Diversity Award winners were named last month. The awards celebrate superlative efforts of the past year in encouraging and promoting a culturally diverse ORNL.

The award for outstanding operations division went to the Office of Radiation Protection and its director, Steve Sims, who was cited as a major contributor to performance-improvement initiatives.

The Environmental Sciences Division was named outstanding R&D division, partly for its sponsorship of the Foreign Language Academy.

Accolades for outstanding division director went to the Metals and Ceramics Division's Doug Craig. The M&C Division also is home to the outstanding WFD division representative for the year, Patricia Miller.

The Energy Division's Tykey Truett received the most outstanding sustained workforce diversity award. She is in her second year of chairing the ORNL Committee for Women.

A special-event award was presented to two divisions, Chemical Technology and Engineering, who sponsored the mentor-protégé agreement with Advanced Integrated Management Services.

Finally, Ray Johnson of the M&C Division received the special recognition award for his support for high-temperature materials research at North Carolina A&T State University.

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 members—Charlie Phillips, Marwan Bader and Susan Whitson—for 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.

Be cyber-safe and secure

Computer Network Security's Greg Hinkel outlines steps users can take to help protect our computer security.

  • Never, never ever share your password with anyone, even your mama.
  • Know your machine, and keep its security systems up to date.
  • Lock your keyboard with a password screen saver.
  • Set a boot-up password.
  • Delete old, unused login accounts.
  • Do regular backups. They can be used to track intruders or save you if your machine is compromised.
  • If you have them, pay attention to log-in messages.
  • If you use an Internet service provider to read your work e-mail from home, use an encrypted mail program.
  • Get help from Workstation Support (, 574-4000).
  • At ORNL, notify CNS ( or at Energy Systems, notify the Computing and Telecommunications Security Organization ( of unusual or unexplained computer activity.

Lab's ready when hackers come knocking

Computer 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."

Earth invaders don't have to be from Mars

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.

Exotic ornamentals can become scourges of native plants if they thrive in the wild.
Although some say that people pressures and pollution are the greatest threats to the Smokies, Simberloff argues that nonnative and introduced species have much more catastrophic potential. He listed European gypsy moths, Asian oak weevils, Japanese insects, butternut fungus, dogwood anthrac­nose, rainbow and European brook trout and wild pigs as forces that are devastating native park 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 climates—water 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.