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ORAU History - 1997

An illustration of the Cassini space probe, which was launched on Oct. 15, 1997. ORISE staff provided emergency response planning, training, and support for this mission. Image courtesy of NASA.

Fiscal year 1997 was another year of accolades as the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Business Operations Division was recognized as a Tennessee Quality Achievement Award winner and a DOE Quality Champion Award winner. In addition, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) was named the DOE Oak Ridge Operations Contractor of the Year for Outstanding Performance in Support of Small Business.

When NASA launched the Cassini space probe on Oct. 15, 1997, to travel to Saturn and its moons, three ORISE groups had already spent many months working behind the scenes. The Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS) conducted medical radiation accident preparedness training for emergency department personnel at five Brevard County hospitals, and delivered similar training to medical professionals at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Station, and Patrick Air Force Base.

In addition, the Emergency Management Laboratory provided training and conducted drills for the Advanced Launch Support Group, and the Center for Human Reliability Studies—as part of the Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel—assisted in evaluating the safety of NASA missions that involve plutonium-238.

REAC/TS received investigational new drug status for a rarely used pharmaceutical called Prussian Blue. With this status, REAC/TS became an approved source for distributing the drug in the United States for cases when individuals are accidentally contaminated with radiocesium or radiothallium. Soon after, REAC/TS was called on to help with two cases involving nonradioactive thallium poisoning, and both patients recovered.

The Radiation Internal Dose Information Center (RIDIC) was called on in 1997 to help researchers determine the safest and most effective radioisotope to be used in a new follow-up procedure to angioplasty operations. RIDIC scientists developed a model of the blood vessel and incorporated this model into a computer program that can be used by physicians in clinical trials to calculate how much radiation the patient's vessel would receive from the treatment. Based on accepted radiation exposures for individuals, the physician can then determine the safest amount of radiation for the patient.

To assist them in cleaning up many of the buildings at the East Tennessee Technology Park, DOE awarded ORAU's Environmental Survey and Site Assessment Program (now referred to as Environmental Assessments and Health Physics) and Jacobs Engineering, Inc., a multimillion dollar site verification contract in 1997. ORAU and Jacobs will verify that federal standards have been met as the consortium led by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., the cleanup contractor, decontaminates each piece of equipment and three buildings.

ORISE’s Center for Epidemiologic Research (now referred to as Occupational Exposure and Worker Health Studies) completed a long-term study that examined the mortality experience of workers employed between 1943 and 1985 at three Oak Ridge sites, K-25, X-10, and Y-12.

Fiscal year 1997 marked the beginning of a new training era for ORISE using distance learning. Programs combine multimedia technologies such as the Internet, Intranet, videoteleconferencing, and two-way, interactive satellite transmissions to provide timely, cost-effective courses that can serve an unlimited number of participants. Distance learning programs can be tailored to any client need, and ORISE is unique, serving as a one-stop shop able to handle any request, from training development and delivery to multimedia production and maintenance.

The University Radioactive Ion Beam (UNIRIB) consortium began a new program involving the study of extremely proton-rich nuclei, those very close to the limit of stability, through the use of a next-generation Recoil Mass Spectrometer, which separates ions according to their mass and charge. This program is located at the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility and is poised to take advantage of its radioactive ion beams.