Monthly Archives: April 2016

What the heck is this?

6987753957_0af586a70a_kThe information attached to this photograph says it’s a recreation dancing class at Cedar Hill School in Oak Ridge. But it looks to me like a strange kind of sorority ritual, gymnasium hide-and-seek or something like that. Maybe readers can better inform me. Anyway, the photo was taken on Aug. 5, 1948.  Double-click on pic to enlarge. (Department of Energy archives/ Lillian Stokes photo)

The word on U-233 at Oak Ridge

The old stockpile of uranium-233 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been an ongoing concern for years, with twists and turns in the planning process and always questions about the ultimate cost of the project. How many hundreds of millions of dollars is it going to take to get these fissionable and highly radioactive materials disposed of safely?3019

The Department of Energy, after protracted negotiations with the state of Nevada, is apparently proceeding with direct disposal of some of the U-233/U-235 stuff — characterized by its former life as “CEUSP” or Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project — at the Nevada National Security Site. But there hasn’t been much said about those shipments from Oak Ridge to the Nevada desert, apparently because of security concerns regarding the cross-country transportation of sensitive materials. It’s not clear how much progress has been made in completing the CEUSP work.

There are, of course, other U-233 materials in storage at ORNL’s Building 3019 that have to be dealt with, and DOE has said it plans to downblend those materials with depleted uranium, apparently to eliminate the weapons-making potential, and dispose of them as low-level radioactive waste. Continue reading

Alexander, ORNL and heavy water

alexandersummitAn amendment to the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for FY 2017 was filed earlier this week by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that would prevent the government from using taxpayer money to purchase additional quantities of heavy water from Iran. The amendment has not been adopted at this point, but the discussions about the Obama administration’s dealings with Iran may stall the progress of the appropriations bill. However, it will not, according to multiple accounts, have an impact on the deal that was signed last week for the purchase of 32 tons of heavy water, which will be stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Part of that acquired inventory will be used to enhance neutron production at the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, and the rest will reportedly be sold to qualified buyers for use in research and industrial applications.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee is a primary architect of the 2017 energy and water bill. Continue reading

10th anniversary of beam on target at SNS


Key members of the Spallation Neutron Source team were all smiles as monitors showed the first signs of neutron production on April 28, 2006. From left to right,  John Haines, then-SNS Director Thom Mason, Erik Iverson, Tony Gabriel, Les Price, David Freeman and Ian Anderson. (ORNL photo)

Thursday was the 10th anniversary of the startup of the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

At about 1:30 p.m. on April 28, 2006, a powerful proton beam struck the liquid mercury target for the first time, ejecting trillions of neutrons. Continue reading

Travis Howerton’s new role

howertonTravis Howerton’s young career has been filled with accomplishments in a variety of roles, federal and contractor, and he’s got a new job with Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants.

Howerton is a Bechtel affiliate with CNS, and his title is senior director for enterprise strategy. He said he will be leading the Business System Modernization Project to consolidate the ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems at the two sites and to merge business processes. Continue reading

ORNL’s supercomputing center fends off about a million attacks a day

bigbang2You may remember a 2011 episode of the CBS sitcom “Big Bang Theory” where theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper hacks into a Cray supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for — of all reasons — help in figuring out a card trick. Well that didn’t really happen, of course, but the Oak Ridge lab really does get a lot of attacks on its stable of supercomputers — including Titan, a Cray XK7 system that currently rules the roost of science machines.

According to Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, the number of attacks is about a million a day. Continue reading

Amendment would prohibit future purchases of heavy water from Iran

cottonU.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., earlier this week filed an amendment to the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that would prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to purchase additional quantities of heavy water from Iran. It would not affect last week’s deal in which the Obama administration purchased 32 tons of heavy water from Iran.

Here’s a Tuesday statement from Cotton: Continue reading

ORNL’s Fernandez-Baca honored

Jaime Fernandez-Baca, a research group leader in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Quantum Condensed Matter Division, has been named a fellow of the Neutron Scattering Society of America.fern-baca200

The society recognized Fernandez-Baca for:

“Important contributions to the study of spin dynamics in magnetic systems notably including amorphous magnets and colossal magnetoresistance materials, for outstanding service to the neutron scattering community in the United States, and for leadership in promoting and supporting excellence in neutron scattering research.” Continue reading

Computer tour at ORNL

Buddy Bland, project director Summit Supercomputer Wednesday, April 20, 2016.  (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, explains some of the preparations and upgrades for installation of a new supercomputer (an IBM machine called Summit) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That’s me in the center and ORNL media relations director Morgan McCorkle on the right. (KNS photo/Michael Patrick)

Who’ll buy heavy water?

ornlsign1Oak Ridge National Laboratory manages the Department of Energy’s Isotope Business Office and, as such, will be storing and selling some of the 32 tons of heavy water acquired in a deal with Iran.

Once it arrives and goes up for sale, who’ll be approved for purchases of the material, which has multiple uses (including development of parts for nuclear weapons and certain kinds of reactors that produce plutonium)? Continue reading

SNS outage in 2017 will be extra long

In order to introduce heavy water into the target cooling system, workers at the Spallation Neutron Source will load the cooling loops next year during the planned replacement of the “inner reflector plug.” That’s a big job, especially because the plug is in an extremely radioactive area near the mercury target, and so the work will have to done remotely.snsnight-thumb-400x272-19021.jpg

This will be the first time that the plug has been replaced since SNS began operations in 2006. In the future, it’ll probably be replaced about every five years, according to Kevin Jones, the SNS operations manager.

Because of the difficulty of the endeavor, Oak Ridge National Laboratory workers are already practicing the removal of the hot plug and installing a new one, Jones said.

The new inner reflector plug is scheduled to arrive in September or October. The SNS typically has two big maintenance outage, one around Christmas and the other in the summer. Continue reading