Treasures from the Archives

Taken from ORNL, “The News” Apr-Jun 1958


                    Pearl S. Buck, internationally famous author, of nearly 50 books, the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature and also win the Pulitzer Prize for her most popular novel, “The Good Earth” visited ORNL in April. The purpose of her visit was to write a story on the early days of the Manhattan Project.  She became interested in the subject after reading Professor Arthur Compton's book, “Atomic Quest”.   Dr. Compton, was director of the United States' Plutonium Research Project and chairman of the advisory committee for the Manhattan Project.  Since many ORNL scientists were at one time associated with Dr. Compton on the Plutonium Project, Mrs. Buck wished to retrace Dr. Compton's activities in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project period.  Her visitation included some explanations of the Bulk Shielding Facility reactor controls, fuel loading process of the Graphite Reactor and the packaging and shipping process of radioisotopes.


                    The Homogeneous Reactor Experiment No. 2, went critical in December 1957, has now operated at its full design power of 5,000 kilowatts of heat power.  The reactor represents one of the most advanced and difficult experiments in the world's nuclear power effort.  This high power operation was smooth and was marked by a total absence of radioactivity in the steam generated by the reactor.


                    ORNL'S new Research Reactor (0RR) reached its design power level of 20,000  kilowatts of heat.  Of the many uses of the ORR were neutron scattering research, investigations of the behavior of metals and ceramics under radiation, and the testing of materials for reactor fuel elements and for fusion devices.  This reactor had the highest power level of the six reactors currently in operation at the laboratory.  The reactor also emits a “blue glow” light, known as Cerenkov radiation, through the large aluminum tank in which the core is housed.  It later will become a major world supplier of radioisotopes.


                    ORNL Electronuclear Research Division sponsored a conference that announced the discovery of the heaviest element on record, nobelium 102, named after Alfred Nobel.  Since only tiny amounts have ever been produced, it is used exclusively in research.  One unique isotope is nobelium  254 that has a half-life of only three seconds, produced by bombarding curium 246 with carbon 12.