Category Archives: Odd stuff

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)

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)

Insider stories from ORNL’s unique test site

I got a lot of response from a recent piece on the Tower Shielding Reactor and the many projects carried out at the ridge-top test site in Oak Ridge.57711-001

Among those with stories to tell was J. Wayne Paul, a former field engineer who worked at Tower Shielding for much of his career. “I was intimately involved with most everything that occurred there for 34 years (1960-1994),” Paul said via email.

Paul worked with the operations staff, researchers and folks from outside agencies to assist in getting the necessary hardware to carry out the many — and varied — projects.

“Some of the unclassified projects consisted of constructing fallout shelters with varying concrete thickness exposed to the reactor at elevation, fabricating some huge sodium-filled tanks to simulate the coolant lines of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, and the construction of a separate reactor handling system and control area for the SNAP 10 studies to test the effectiveness of the ‘shadow shield’ for the space program reactor.” Continue reading

DOE’s secluded site has unusual history

IMG_5422The entrance to the Department of Energy’s Tower Shielding Reactor site off Highway 95 has lots of warning signs. (KNS photo/Frank Munger)

Atop Copper Ridge near the southwest border of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge reservation is a remote site that’s been used for a series of unusual — and sometimes secret — projects over the past 60 years.503971-001

Most recently, Oak Ridge National Laboratory used the ridge-top location for a project that’s associated with government efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials. However, the Department of Energy will not provide details because the “non-proliferation-related” research is classified.

DOE declined a request to visit the site, and the entrance gate off Highway 95 is locked and barricaded, with lots of signs warning would-be trespassers.

The site is best known for its 1950s role in a government program to develop nuclear-powered airplanes. Two-hundred-foot towers were constructed at the ridge-top facility, and a small nuclear reactor was hoisted high into the air to allow radiation measurements and to evaluate the effectiveness of cockpit shielding for the pilot and crew. (Archived photo, above right, shows the tower operation in 1960.) Continue reading

220 tons down . . . 110 to go

The second of three 110-ton condensers being transported from an old electrical switchyard at the East Tennessee Technology Park to a landfill on the Dept. of Energy’s reservation has arrived safely at its destination. Thee third one is supposed to be moved on Thursday — weather permitting. That’s according to info from DOE spokesman Ben Williams. Because of their size and weight, the shipments require a special trailer and escort on public roads.

Y-12 confiscates balloon that lands near plant

The main portal at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)Entrance to the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. (KNS file photo/Michael Patrick)

Security police at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant confiscated what was described as a “weather balloon” that reportedly landed Sunday afternoon on Pine Ridge near the national-security installation.

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the balloon was reportedly part of a “geospatial balloon challenge” that originated in Middle Tennessee. He said he did not have further details on the competition or why the balloon landed where it did — adjacent to the city of Oak Ridge’s water-treatment plant.

He said the balloon did not pose a security threat. Continue reading

Inside a B53 bomb — literally

667439loresDuring a Nov. 12 “special access” tour at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, which included a visit to Building 9731, the original pilot plant for the electromagnetic processes that separated the U-235 for the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima, there were a number of must-see moments. Among them was the outer casing of a dismantled B53 bomb, once the largest bomb in the U.S. nuclear arsenal (with a reported yield of 9 megatons). It was reportedly nicknamed “Big Dog” by the folks at the Pantex assembly/disassembly plant and has been described as being the size of a mini-van. Up close, it appeared to be a little smaller than a mini-van, but maybe that’s because it didn’t have any wheels. Tour participants weren’t allowed to bring cameras (or electronics of any kind), but Y-12 photographer Brett Pate seemed to be snapping away at a furious rate. As I was taking a closer look at the B53 shell on display in 9731, Pate captured my every move — including when I stuck my head inside the bomb casing (see below). No, nobody dared me to do it. I was just curious. (CNS photos/Brett Pate)



Clinton man faces multiple charges for Y-12 intrusion

1023_KCLO_Y12 (3)A 34-year-old Clinton man was arrested Thursday morning after he allegedly drove his car through the main security portal at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, crashed his vehicle, and fled into the woods.

Timothy D. Preston was charged with aggravated trespassing, trespassing by motor vehicle, felony vandalism and driving while license revoked (third offense), according to information released by the Oak Ridge Police Department.

The incident began shortly before 6 a.m., and Preston was taken into custody around 7:40 a.m.

Continue reading