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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Atomic Power

Air Date: Week of

This week, we have facts about Oak Ridge National Laboratory which celebrates its 60th anniversary.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Yo la Tengo “Danelectro 3” Danelectro Matador Records 2000]

CURWOOD: Fifty-eight years ago this week, the Enola Gay dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. There were more than 100,000 casualties in this devastating demonstration of nuclear fission. Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee supplied the bomb with Uranium-235, and this year Oak Ridge celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Today, atomic power’s emission-free energy still has the potential to cause great harm. But much has changed for Oak Ridge, originally built as a monocrop Uranium farm.

A year after the atom bomb, scientists troubled by military control of nuclear power lobbied for civilian control and won. While many reactors got tied up in debates and budget problems, Oak Ridge focused its energy on harnessing nuclear energy for good: It delivered isotopes to doctors for medical tests and treatments, pioneered bone marrow transplants, studying effects of and treatment for radiation sickness.

And in the late 60’s, scientists at Oak Ridge began studying the effect of fossil fuel and power plant emission, correctly postulating acid rain and global warming as negative impacts on the environment.

And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.



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