Skip to main content

ORNL Image

Travel eastbound on Interstate 40 in Tennessee and you can glimpse a reminder of a project that, while it literally never got off the ground, had monumental influence on the direction of R&D at ORNL.

The two towers of the Tower Shielding Facility, briefly visible from the interstate, were bui...

ORNL Image

The Cold War was fought on many fronts.

The United States and Soviet Union avoided direct military conflict, as that would include the very real risk of nuclear war. Instead, the two sides competed in less catastrophic realms.

In an environment that saw the development of the hydrogen bomb, th...

ORNL Image

It’s hard to overstate all that ORNL owes to Alvin Weinberg, its longest-serving director.

Weinberg took over the lab’s Physics Division in 1947 at a moment of great uncertainty. The Atomic Energy Commission was consolidating reactor research at Chicago’s Argonne National Laboratory, threatening ...

ORNL Image

At the end of World War II, most people who knew anything about generating nuclear power were located at Manhattan Project sites like Oak Ridge.

That’s where a young naval officer named Hyman Rickover found himself attending nuclear engineering classes with a handful of other students at the newl...

ORNL Image

Ernest O. Wollan came to Oak Ridge from the University of Chicago as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, but he had other ideas on what he could do with the world’s first operating nuclear reactor.

“I would like to attempt to measure the diffraction of neutrons by single crystals,” he wrote...

ORNL Image

People were aware of ionizing radiation’s potential dangers well before World War II and the Manhattan Project. The death of radiation pioneer Marie Curie had been linked to radiation exposure, as had the diseases and deaths of workers who painted watch faces with radium paint.

Dose limits had, t...

ORNL Image

Two events in 1938 proved critically important to the course of World War II. In the first, German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission. In the second, Italian physicist Enrico Fermi and his Jewish wife, Laura, left their home to avoid Italy’s new Racial Laws.

The co...