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Fuel pellets sometimes degrade to a sandlike consistency and can disperse into the reactor core if a rod’s cladding bursts. ORNL researchers are studying how often this happens and what impact it has, in order to let reactors operate as long as possible without increasing risk.

A developing method to gauge the occurrence of a nuclear reactor anomaly has the potential to save millions of dollars.

Yanwen Zhang

In the search to create materials that can withstand extreme radiation, Yanwen Zhang, a researcher at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says that materials scientists must think outside the box.

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.

Nuclear – Finally, a benchmark

In the 1960s, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's four-year Molten Salt Reactor Experiment tested the viability of liquid fuel reactors for commercial power generation. Results from that historic experiment recently became the basis for the first-ever molten salt reactor benchmark.

Kat Royston

As a teenager, Kat Royston had a lot of questions. Then an advanced-placement class in physics convinced her all the answers were out there.

Nuclear — Seeing inside particles

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers working on neutron imaging capabilities for nuclear materials have developed a process for seeing the inside of uranium particles – without cutting them open.

Argon pellet injection text

As scientists study approaches to best sustain a fusion reactor, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory investigated injecting shattered argon pellets into a super-hot plasma, when needed, to protect the reactor’s interior wall from high-energy runaway electrons.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed an experiment for testing potential materials for use in interplanetary travel. The experiment exposes prototype materials to temperatures over 2,400 degrees Celsius with only 300 watts of input electrical power. Credit: Carlos Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

If humankind reaches Mars this century, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-developed experiment testing advanced materials for spacecraft may play a key role. 

Jason Nattress, an Alvin M. Weinberg Fellow, is developing new nuclear material inspection and identification techniques to improve scanning times for ocean-going cargo containers.

Jason Nattress, an Alvin M. Weinberg Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found his calling on a nuclear submarine.

Tyler Gerczak, a materials scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is focused on post-irradiation examination and separate effects testing of current fuels for light water reactors and advanced fuel types that could be used in future nuclear systems. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Ask Tyler Gerczak to find a negative in working at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and his only complaint is the summer weather. It is not as forgiving as the summers in Pulaski, Wisconsin, his hometown.