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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

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.

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. 

Nuclear—Deep space travel

By automating the production of neptunium oxide-aluminum pellets, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have eliminated a key bottleneck when producing plutonium-238 used by NASA to fuel deep space exploration.


Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory performed a corrosion test in a neutron radiation field to support the continued development of molten salt reactors.

ORNL is again hosting a workshop focused on the next generation of molten salt reactors.

Experts focused on the future of nuclear technology will gather at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the fourth annual Molten Salt Reactor Workshop on October 3–4.

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.

Kevin Robb, a staff scientist at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is taking what he learned from developing the Liquid Salt Test Loop—a key tool in deploying molten salt technology applications

Thanks in large part to developing and operating a facility for testing molten salt reactor (MSR) technologies, nuclear experts at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are now tackling the next generation of another type of clean energy—concentrating ...