Electromagnetic Separation of Isotopes at Oak Ridge

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Science  26 Oct 1973:
Vol. 182, Issue 4110, pp. 343-352
DOI: 10.1126/science.182.4110.343


In 1960 I attended a European conference on isotope separation, after which I visited the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. A staff member there ventured the opinion that the separation of isotopes will be first on the list of important contributions to the peaceful uses of the atom when the Atomic Energy Commission's memoirs are written in the year 2000.

In 1968 the AEC Division of Research contracted with the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a review of the AEC program for the separation of stable isotopes by electromagnetic and thermal diffusion methods. This ad hoc panel comprised seven scientists from the fields of chemistry, classical physics, geochemistry, geophysics, medicine, and physics. In their final report on national uses and needs for separated stable isotopes (9), they referred to the store of separated isotopes as a "real national asset that attains increasing value as science and technology develop" and recommended "continuation of the program as a national resource of great value to the United States."

Later, in a discussion of this report with A. M. Weinberg, J. Koch, himself a pioneer in electromagnetic isotope separation and member of the Danish Atomic Energy Program, said he would correct the statement that the Oak Ridge electromagnetic facility is a "national asset" to read "international asset."

From my narrow viewpoint after an extended and complete engrossment with this program for so many years, it is gratifying to learn that such men as those mentioned above share my belief that the work has indeed been worthwhile.