Category Archives: Oak Ridge things

Good times

muddyboot1On Wednesday evening, East Tennessee Economic Council President Jim Campbell presented me with The Muddy Boot Award at a retirement reception hosted by the Oak Ridge Partnership. (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

My colleague and friend John Huotari of Oak Ridge Today wrote a nice piece capping the event.

Before they tore old K-25 down

27225999143_f853665d3d_kHere I am getting prepped with protective gear before going inside the K-25 plant, which was being readied for demolition. Before the May 1, 2004 tour, there was a bit of a confrontation. Not only were we not allowed to bring any electronics into the classified facility, but at the last minute a classification officer also wanted to review my handwritten notes following the tour. I refused and was ready to walk away. Ultimately, the contractor relented. But, to be honest, while wearing gear and breathing protection, it was kind of hard to take notes anyway. (Department of Energy photo/Lynn Freeny)

Reporters at work (1946)

84120Tim Gawne of Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been a wonderful help to me over the years, providing historical documents and photos and insights that helped tell the Oak Ridge story. In honor of my upcoming retirement at the end of the month, he dug into the lab’s archives once again and provided a couple of pics that show reporters at work in the early days. The one here shows journalists covering the first delivery of radioisotopes for research. The date was Aug. 2, 1946.

Saddleworn reporter heading out of Dodge

As I finished up a recent Chinese dinner of chicken with black bean sauce, I cracked open my fortune cookie and glanced at the message inside.

“All things have an end,” it said, fittingly enough as I get ready for retirement at the end of the month.munger1

For the past 35 years, maybe a little more, I’ve covered the Department of Energy and its Oak Ridge operations. It’s a news beat I created at the News Sentinel after serving as state editor and realizing the wealth of news potential at the government facilities.

It’s been a pleasantly bumpy ride these many years, with a lot of highlights and some unusual happenings. I’m kind of proud of some of the things accomplished. Continue reading

Protest on ORISE contract

oriseDepartment of Energy spokeswoman Claire Sinclair said the $1.4 billion contract to manage DOE’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education “is operating as intended with its new scope.” This is despite a protest that was filed by the losing bidder, the Desert Research Institute, with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

“The protest is under seal,” Sinclair said. “Nothing to add.” Continue reading

Ed Westcott exhibit opens Friday

girlscouts.jpgThis is one of Ed Westcott’s iconic Oak Ridge photos, and a favorite of mine. A Girl Scout troop walks past the Graphite Reactor on a June 9, 1951 field trip to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  It has an eerie feel to it, with the innocence of the Girl Scouts contrasting against the industrial, forboding backdrop of the Graphite Reactor in the early years at the Oak Ridge lab. Click on pic to enlarge. (DOE archives/Ed Westcott photo)

An exhibit featuring the photographs of Ed Westcott, the government’s Oak Ridge photographer for the World War II Manhattan Project and the years that followed, will open Friday at the UT Downtown Gallery, 106 S. Gay St., Knoxville.FullSizeRender

The exhibit includes more than 50 of Westcott’s photos that were previously shown in 2005, with additional works to be included in the 2016 exhibit — which will run through Aug. 6.

Westcott is scheduled to be at Friday’s opening, from 6:30 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. The reception begins at 5 p.m. Continue reading

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)

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