Originally appeared in October 18, 2002 Knoxville News-Sentinel
Frank Munger
URL: http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/ornl/article/0,1406,KNS_4257_1484547,00.html

ORNL through the decades

A look at key developments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from the 1940s to 2000.


In 1942, Oak Ridge was selected as the site for the World War II Manhattan Project.

1942 - Oak Ridge selected as site for World War II Manhattan Project.

1943 - Graphite Reactor and other pilot operations built in eight months at a cost of $12 million

1945 - First neutron-scattering studies at a nuclear reactor by Ernie Wollan and Cliff Shull, who won a Nobel Prize almost 50 years later for the pioneering work.

1946 - ORNL makes first radioisotope shipment (carbon-14) to a cancer hospital in St. Louis.
* Pressurized water reactor conceived and later applied to submarines.

1947 - Biologists begin using mice to study genetic effects of radiation.

1948 - Union Carbide becomes the government's contractor in Oak Ridge.

1949 - Lab scientists begin work on the PUREX process, which later became the worldwide method of recovering uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuels.


In 1959, Sen. John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, visit laboratory.

1950 - Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology (ORSORT) established, and two new test reactors begin operation.

1952 - Based on studies of irradiated mouse embryos, Oak Ridge scientists recommend against pelvic X-rays of childbearing women during periods when pregnancy is possible.

1953 - Engineers design transportable reactor for the Army to use in remote sites such as Antarctica and the Panama Canal Zone.
* ORACLE, world's most powerful computer, starts up.

1955 - Alvin Weinberg named laboratory director, a position he would hold for 18 years.

1957 - ORNL launches first fusion experiment.

1958 - Oak Ridge Research Reactor starts up, expanding the laboratory's nuclear research base.

1959 - Sen. John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, visit laboratory.


In 1966 , the Graphite Reactor was named a National Historic Landmark.

1960 - Scientists develop personal radiation monitors, including the "pocket screamer" that chirps and flashes when gamma radiation levels go too high.

1961 - Work begins on radioisotope heat sources to power satellites in space.

1962 - Lab becomes a center for civil defense research to help protect U.S. population in the event of a nuclear war.

1964 - Concept of nuclear desalination is featured at UN conference.

1965 - High Flux Isotope Reactor and Molten Salt Reactor begin operations.
* Researchers begin effort to measure genetic effects of pesticides, tobacco and other chemicals.

1966 - Graphite Reactor, the world's first continuously operated nuclear reactor, named a National Historic Landmark.

1968 - UT-ORNL Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences founded.

1969 - Engineers design moon scoop for Apollo 11.


In 1978, President Jimmy Carter visits ORNL.

1970 - Researchers test a new doughnut-shaped fusion machine, the ORMAK. It was used to evaluate concepts for fusion reactors.

1971 - ORNL helps prepare early environmental impact statements for nuclear power plants, gathering data on the impacts on fish of heated cooling water from these facilities.

1972 - The first successful freezing and thawing of mouse embryos.
* Hijackers threaten to crash airplane into High Flux Isotope Reactor.

1973 - Lab scientists study moon rocks.

1974 - Herman Postma becomes laboratory director, a position he would hold for 14 hears.

1975 - Because of disruptions in the supply of Mideastern oil to the U.S., the government orders research on producing liquid and gaseous fuels from coal.

1978 - President Jimmy Carter visit ORNL.

1979 - Using neutral-beam injections, Oak Ridge engineers achieve record temperature for fusion plasma.
* Researchers help determine cause of the accident at Three Mile Island nuclear plant and assess core damage.


In 1982, Union Carbide announces plans to leave Oak Ridge after more than 30 years as government's chief contractor. In 1983, Martin Marietta succeeds Union Carbide as laboratory manager.

1980 - The Holifield Heavy Ion Research Facility begins operation on nuclear physics studies.

1981 - Researchers develop whisker-toughened ceramics that resist fractures.

1982 - Union Carbide announces plans to leave Oak Ridge after more than 30 years as government's chief contractor.

1983 - Martin Marietta succeeds Union Carbide as laboratory manager, defeating Westinghouse and Rockwell International in the contract competition.

1984 - Lab researcher Eli Greenbaum conducts experiments that use photosynthesis to produce energy from spinach.

1985 - ORNL researchers develop gelcasting, and advanced process for forming ceramic material into complex shapes -- such as automotive turbines, accelerator magnets, and artificial bone.

1986 - Workers complete construction of the High Temperature Materials Laboratory.

1987 - High Temperature Materials Laboratory opens.
* Human genome studies begin.

1988 - The Advanced Toroidal Facility begins operation, enabling researchers to learn more about the physics of fusion energy.

1989 - Al Trivelpiece becomes laboratory director.


In 1999, Vice President Al Gore announces plans for the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source project.

1990 - Lab provides computer data-assembly programs to organize U.S. transportation needs for the Gulf War.

1991 - ORNL uses neutron activation analysis on President Zachary Taylor's hair and nails to help disprove a theory that he died of arsenic poisoning.

1992 - Researchers identify and clone the mouse "agouti" gene, which is associated with coat color, obesity, diabetes and skin cancer in mice.
* Center for Computational Sciences created.
* President Bush visits laboratory.

1993 - Nuclear medicine researchers develop the rhenium-188 generator, which provides hospitals with a ready source of isotopes to treat bone pain in cancer patients.

1994 - Researchers develop "lab on a chip" that's used to help diagnose diseases and provide quick and cheap method for DNA sequencing.

1995 - Researchers develop the rolling-assisted biaxial textured substrates technique for fabricating nickel-based, high-temperature superconducting wire.

1996 - Project shows a more efficient refrigerator-freezer can cut energy use in half.

1997 - Nuclear astrophysics studies begin at redesigned and newly named Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility.

1999 - Groundbreaking for the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source.
* The University of Tennessee joins with Battelle to win contract competition to manage ORNL.

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Mirrored with permission.

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