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Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s team that is charged with producing californium-252 helps deliver an isotope with a variety of uses, including starting up new and dormant nuclear reactors. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

East Tennessee occupies a special place in nuclear history. In 1943, the world’s first continuously operating reactor began operating on land that would become ORNL.

A selfie from the Curiosity rover as it explores the surface of Mars. Like many spacecraft, Curiosity uses a radioisotope power system to help fuel its mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Radioactive isotopes power some of NASA’s best-known spacecraft. But predicting how radiation emitted from these isotopes might affect nearby materials is tricky

Pu-238 pellet drawing

After its long journey to Mars beginning this summer, NASA’s Perseverance rover will be powered across the planet’s surface in part by plutonium produced at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Solid radium sulfate sits in the bottom of a flask during the recovery process. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have discovered a better way to separate actinium-227, a rare isotope essential for an FDA-approved cancer treatment.

ORNL alanine_graphic.jpg

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Jan. 31, 2019—A new electron microscopy technique that detects the subtle changes in the weight of proteins at the nanoscale—while keeping the sample intact—could open a new pathway for deeper, more comprehensive studies of the basic building blocks of life. 


Physicists turned to the “doubly magic” tin isotope Sn-132, colliding it with a target at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to assess its properties as it lost a neutron to become Sn-131.

Two neutron diffraction experiments (represented by pink and blue neutron beams) probed a salty solution to reveal its atomic structure. The only difference between the experiments was the identity of the oxygen isotope (O*) that labeled nitrate molecules

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutrons, isotopes and simulations to “see” the atomic structure of a saturated solution and found evidence supporting one of two competing hypotheses about how ions come

The electromagnetic isotope separator system operates by vaporizing an element such as ruthenium into the gas phase, converting the molecules into an ion beam, and then channeling the beam through magnets to separate out the different isotopes.

A tiny vial of gray powder produced at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the backbone of a new experiment to study the intense magnetic fields created in nuclear collisions.

Radiochemical technicians David Denton and Karen Murphy use hot cell manipulators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the production of actinium-227.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is now producing actinium-227 (Ac-227) to meet projected demand for a highly effective cancer drug through a 10-year contract between the U.S. DOE Isotope Program and Bayer.

From left, ORNL’s Rick Lowden, Chris Bryan and Jim Kiggans were troubled that target discs of a material needed to produce Mo-99 using an accelerator could deform after irradiation and get stuck in their holder.

“Made in the USA.” That can now be said of the radioactive isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), last made in the United States in the late 1980s. Its short-lived decay product, technetium-99m (Tc-99m), is the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. Tc-99m is best known ...