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ORAU History - 2011

An ORAU health physics technician conducts a characterization survey.

ORAU’s environmental assessment team performed a comprehensive, three-week-long radiological verification survey of a maritime transport ship that had been located off the coast of Japan during the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

In 2011, Japan experienced an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that caused massive damage and threatened a nuclear power plant meltdown. As the U.S. offered support in the wake of the devastating events, ORAU provided diverse and comprehensive capabilities to assist our federal agency partners and the U.S. and Japanese governments. ORAU experts supported senior DOE officials on the ground in Japan and provided 24/7 assistance with DOE’s Nuclear Incident Team. ORAU physicians and staff advised on hundreds of requests for information regarding potential health hazards and consulted with federal officials to plan for the possibility of radiation emergency medical treatment in Japan.

At the same time, ORAU assisted the CDC in hosting a national conference focused on public health and radiation emergency preparedness and disseminated information to the U.S. public to allay fears of atmospheric exposures. In the months following the crisis, ORAU experts also responded quickly to characterize possible contamination of maritime assets off the coast of Japan that likely traveled through the radioactive plume emanating from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

In work performed for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in fiscal year 2011—as part of the DOE Oak Ridge Office’s efforts to reduce the number of radiologically and chemically contaminated facilities on the Oak Ridge Reservation—ORAU applied several specialized techniques and tools to address various project challenges. Through the use of these and other tools and techniques, ORAU customers have realized projects savings in both time and money. For DOE alone, performing upfront characterization on K-33 saved more than $1.7 million, while other work by ORAU shaved six to 12 months off the time needed have a project “shovel-ready” for demolition.

Partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other federal agencies for many decades, ORAU has become a national repository of data for worker health information. Through multiple databases, the system covers more than 3.5 million de-identified, active and former workers and includes approximately 26.5 million health surveillance, exposure and work history records from hundreds of DOE sites and NRC-licensed facilities around the country. From 2010 into 2011, ORAU processed and incorporated more than 17 million records for approximately 1.1 million workers into our databases—nearly tripling the number of records ORAU had managed prior to 2011.

For the 2011 Extreme Classroom Makeover, ORAU named Herman Sutton, Jr., a fifth grade math teacher at Green Magnet Math and Science Academy in Knoxville, Tenn., the grand prize winner. As grand-prize winner, Sutton received a $25,000 grant to use toward the purchase of technology enhancements, including Apple iPads, laptops and a desktop computer, an interactive response system and a new television for his classroom/math laboratory, which is used by an estimated 300 students.