Atomic basketball (1947)

26307398691_5e515acf6b_kBasketball was big in Oak Ridge during the 1940s. In fact, my mother, who worked for the Parks and Recreation Department during the World War II Manhattan Project, said she first saw my father at a basketball game in Oak Ridge. “He had nice legs,” she said. In this Dec. 28, 1947 photograph, the Oak Ridge Elks Club is playing a team from Maryville. (Department of Energy archives/Ed Westcott photo)

Dangling warhead part

Working with nuclear weapons is a very precise business, but there are times when things don’t go exactly as planned.beta2e2

That seemed to be the case in an incident at the Beta-2E assembly/disassembly center at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant that was included in an April 15 report by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

According to that report, workers encountered a situation where an overhead crane “continued to lower a component after the worker operating the crane had released the ‘down’ pushbutton.” Continue reading

Alexander responds to ITER report

alexandersummitU.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, in a statement released by his office Thursday, responded to the Department of Energy’s report that recommends continued U.S. participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Alexander and Sen. Dianne Feinstein reportedly met with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations.

While he didn’t declare absolute opposition to ITER, Alexander noted there are other big science projects — including a second Target Station at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory — that should be given priority over ITER. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which Alexander authored, contains no money for U.S. involvement in ITER for FY 2017. There is still a chance that money for ITER could be included during Senate and House conference on the energy and water appropriations.

Here’s the Alexander statement: Continue reading

EnergySolutions decision may derail Secret City rail trips

railIt looks like the Secret City Excursion Train, an Oak Ridge tourist attraction, may be derailed.

The owner of the rail line — Utah-based EnergySolutions — said Thursday it will no longer allow passenger traffic because of liability concerns. The change is effective May 31.

For the past seven years, EnergySolutions has allowed the Southern Appalachian Railroad Museum, a nonprofit entity that sponsors the Secret City Excursions, to use the Heritage Railroad short line at no cost. Continue reading

Moniz recommends U.S. stick with ITER

iterusEnergy Secretary Ernest Moniz today released an assessment report of the U.S. participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, and he recommends that the U.S. continue its role in the project has struggled with schedules and costs. Moniz cited recent improvements on several fronts at the project, which is under construction at Cadarache, France, but also acknowledged the ongoing issues that must be addressed and reevaluated a couple of years down the road.

The U.S. involvement in ITER is based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Continue reading

State posts fish advisory on Bear Creek

Decades after discharges from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant polluted local waterways, the state has decided to post a do-not-eat-the-fish advisory on Bear Creek because of increasing public access to a lower stretch of the creek.

“Eating fish with elevated levels of mercury and PCBs is a risk Tennesseans can avoid,” Tisha Calabrese-Benton of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a statement released by the state agency. Continue reading

Amy Rothrock, FOIA officer at DOE, retires

Amy RothrockAmy L. Rothrock, the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act officer with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office, has retired after more than 20 years at the DOE field office.

Rothrock, a native of Seattle, Wash., began her career at DOE’s Oak Ridge office in 1994, overseeing the response to 800 to 1,500 FOIA requests annually. Before joining the DOE field office, she worked at DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information as a management analyst.

In a statement, DOE Chief Counsel Don Thress said, “The consummate professional, Amy approached challenges inventively. Amy’s innovation enhanced the speed and substance of DOE’s responses to FOIA and Privacy Act requests.  Her influence was felt not only locally, but also nationally as she and her staff’s efforts encompassed requests made at numerous other DOE sites nationwide.” Continue reading

End of June

I just wanted to get a brief note out earlier about my plans. I wanted to announce before somebody beat me to it. You know how journalists hate to get scooped.

Carbon fiber happenings at ORNL

carbonfiberOak Ridge National Laboratory announced recently that it had signed an “exclusive licensing agreement” with RMX Technologies of Knoxville. The agreement covers a new technology that reduces the time and energy needed in production of carbon fiber — a lightweight material with bundles of promising applications, especially in motor vehicles.

“Lowering the cost and expanding the use of strong, lightweight carbon fiber will improve the energy efficiency of products including cars, trucks, and aircraft without sacrificing safety,” the lab said in the announcement. Continue reading

ORNL to open office in Chattanooga

2015-P03210 mason casual-001Oak Ridge National Laboratory made it official today, with ORNL Director Thom Mason’s announcing that the lab would open an office in Chattanooga at the EPB headquarters.

In a release, Mason said, “This is the best way for us to build on existing ORNL collaborations in Chattanooga and to identify new opportunities. The work involving EPB (Electric Power Board of Chattanooga), the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory illustrates the power of regional cooperation. We want to accelerate opportunities in developing clean energy technology, manufacturing and computing.” Continue reading

K-27 demolition moves ahead furiously; preparations underway for other Cold War facilities

Poplar Creek MapAerial view with some of the Poplar Creek Facilities in the foreground. Below is recent photo of K-27 demolition. (DOE/Lynn Freeny)

The post-Cold War cleanup is proceeding at a furious pace at an Oak Ridge site once home to the nation’s largest uranium-enrichment complex.26504269220_6547c787a4_k

With K-27, the last of five gaseous diffusion plants, coming down quicker than expected and likely to be demolished before the year-end target date, the U.S. Department of Energy has started making preparations to tear down a bunch of other old buildings that once supported the nuclear program.

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, DOE’s cleanup manager, has taken advantage of favorable weather conditions to accelerate the demolition of K-27, which ceased operations in 1964. The four-story, 383,000-square foot building is highly contaminated and equally deteriorated. Continue reading