Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy

By Stephen E. Atkins | Go to book overview

O

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was founded in 1943 as site for a nuclear reactor, chemical separation facilities, and a scientific laboratory for atomic research. It was located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and a number of plants were built for the separation of U-235 from U-238 for the Manhattan Project. The site was selected by General Leslie Groves for various reasons including electrical power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), abundant water supply from the Clinch Rivers, sparse population, mild climate, and good transportation potential. Knoxville was 18 miles away to the east and Clinton 8 miles to the north. The government through the Army Corps of Engineers acquired 59,000 acres in early 1942 for future development. In February 1943 construction began on a graphite reactor with the code name X-10. It was a pilot plant for the plutonium facility to be built at Hanford, Washington, and with a workforce of 1,513, it cost $12 million to build. X-10 was also called the Clinton Laboratories. By early 1945, 326.4 grams of plutonium had been separated in the X-10 complex. The large gaseous diffusion plant, K-25, which was built at a cost of $500 million and employed 12,000 workers, was located on the western edge of the reservation. Its job was to begin the slow process of separation of U-235 from U-238, and the first batch was ready on January 20, 1945. It had thousands of diffusion tanks and needed twice as much space as the other plants. Another plant, Y-12, built at a cost of $427 million, used the electromagnetic method to process uranium. Construction of this plant started on February 18, 1943. It was located on the reservation's northern edge near the workers' settlement at Oak Ridge. This process had 22,000 employees working on it. Eventually the Y-12 complex had 268 permanent buildings to handle the calutrons and their support functions. Teething

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Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • A 1
  • B 40
  • C 69
  • D 107
  • E 114
  • F 124
  • G 143
  • H 155
  • I 169
  • J 183
  • K 193
  • L 201
  • M 223
  • N 240
  • O 267
  • P 276
  • Q 296
  • R 299
  • S 318
  • T 357
  • U 380
  • V 391
  • W 397
  • Y 406
  • Z 408
  • Chronology of Atomic Energy 411
  • Selected Bibliography 427
  • Index 445
  • About the Author 492
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