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Tennessee's high-tech future became more secure last week when the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory would become the nation's top research facility for the future of nuclear energy. It is fitting that the laboratory that brought us into the nuclear age would be chosen to plan for its future.

The laboratory was awarded a five-year, $122 million grant to create the Nuclear Energy Modeling and Simulation Energy Innovation Hub. It is this type of basic, government-funded research that ultimately leads to innovation and new products in the private sector. The new research hub will include partners from other national laboratories, industry and universities. It will bring together the best minds to tackle one of the nation's and world's most pressing long-term problems, the development of alternative energy sources.

Oak Ridge boasts two the world' most powerful computers capable of modeling nuclear reactor design outcomes leading to major developments in reactor safety and engineering. The results are expected to fundamentally change how the nation designs and manages its nuclear facilities.

Sen. Lamar Alexander has long been a proponent of increasing the nation's use of nuclear energy. Other nations around the world rely much more on nuclear power than the U.S. The critical factors in creating nuclear energy are safety, cost of construction and nuclear waste management. Fortunately, much has been learned in recent years to aid in solving these problems. It is time to move past "Three Mile Island" nuclear accident fears and begin to research and implement new nuclear energy models.

The Gulf oil spill is turning into the nation's worst natural disaster and fueling greater interest in alternative energy. Worldwide rising demand for oil and political uncertainty in the Middle East compromise the future of any nation that relies on oil for energy production.

The time has come to move nuclear energy out of the postwar, Soviet-era mentality that it can become an uncontrollable nightmare. That thinking must be balanced against events such as the Exxon Valdez and Gulf oil spill environmental disasters. European nuclear reactors have been safely producing a large percentage of Europe's energy for more than two decades. It is time to move the nuclear energy industry into the 21st century. The new research hub at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is designed to do that.

America must become less dependent on foreign oil. We must develop energy technologies we control. And we must do so in ways that are safe for people and the natural environment.




Happy 50th birthday, city of Oak Ridge!
Part 1
By William J. "Bill" Wilcox
Special to the Oak Ridger
Posted Jun 01, 2010 @ 09:00 AM
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. —
EDITOR'S NOTE: Today marks the 50th birthday of the incorporation of Oak Ridge, making it a city.

In 1943, realizing that unhappiness with living conditions could imperil the already fragile prognosis for making an atomic bomb, the Army overseers of Oak Ridge bent over backwards to make wartime life as good as possible for the uprooted scientists and engineers sent here.

They created a town where housing for them, though temporary, was reasonably tolerable and less costly than back home, schools and medical services were as high a quality, and the protected culture much better. After the war, in 1947, the civilian-government owners who took us over, the Atomic Energy Commission, was faced with the unpleasant necessity of bringing down the cost of all services that were much higher per capita than in like-sized cities. Also they embarked on an ambitious program to make a "normal" incorporated city out of this five-year-old "town" that had always been anything but normal. It meant not only spending tens of millions of dollars to replace temporary houses, schools, hospital facilities, and municipal services with permanent facilities, but it also meant turning around the attitudes of the citizenry.

A lot of us who had been here from the beginning liked our "gated community" just the way it was and felt that our special treatments were compensation for having had to come here from back home where things were better -- so although we welcomed the road pavings and new buildings, we sure did not welcome changes in our "entitlements."

AEC's first real public move toward "normalcy" was to announce in 1948 that next year the Secret City would be opened to the public. That was met with howls of protest at a town meeting two weeks later. Town leaders voted 10:1 against the "opening." But when March 1949 arrived, we had accepted the inevitable and our flood of visitors got a warm welcome. The AEC moved ahead boldly with little or no input from the people to transform our crisis-built town into one that would last. Frederick W. "Fred" Ford, made the AEC Oak Ridge Operations Office Community Affairs Division director in 1948, deserves our lasting thanks for the really fine job he did for 13 long years heading that transformation office. Right away the AEC went out to get professional advice on a new city Master Plan from Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the folks who did such a fine job on the original town layout, and also from the Corps of Engineers, and from TVA (the AEC visited and loved the way the planned town of Norris had aged).

In their first two years, 1947 and 1948, they got rid of our 5,000 trailers, 4,000 hutments, barracks, some 40 of the cheap S-type dormitories, and then started building new permanent homes and schools around the newly planned city center south of the Turnpike and west of the former World War II Jackson Square Area. The new shopping center was to be bounded and served by two new inner streets they opened -- Tulane and Rutgers Avenues -- and by two new outer arterial streets, Lafayette Avenue (extended to Kerr Hollow Road) and Illinois Avenue.

During the five years, 1949-1953, the government invested $320 million in 2009 dollars in making us a new city. The first new building on the scene was announced in The Oak Ridger in September 1949 -- the new Willow Brook School. It was followed by an entirely new neighborhood called Woodland with 820 new houses, the strikingly permanent-looking 450 Garden Apartments, and 280 duplexes and dorms at Gamble Valley. Later came 350 walk-up brick apartments and 100 row houses built as a buffer between Woodland and the coming new town center shopping mall. In addition to the new houses, the AEC renovated and upgraded 1,200 Temporary Dwelling Units (TDUs) "to extend their life 20 or more years." They paved our once muddy streets, put in curbs, sidewalks, new electrical systems, extended water mains -- goodness, we thought, we are really getting civilized. But along with it came some real bummers, like when they installed electric and water meters in our homes.

One addition to our rebuilding city that we all raved over was the completion in 1951 of the very impressive, brick and concrete, state-of-the-art, nearly $3 million Oak Ridge High School on its 60 acre campus in the new center city. Afterward, they even added two latest-design, circular classroom buildings.

AEC dealt with the "Flattop" housing by selling off the smaller flattops and then eliminating the name of those left by putting gable roofs and lattice-work skirts on them. They also replaced 50 flattops the Army had shoe-horned into the cemestos area with new two story homes, added 400 new ranch homes (For Sale!) in West Village (along the turnpike west of Louisiana), and 500 new homes (For Rent) in East Village.

Everyone would agree the wartime city had been remarkably transformed in the last five years, so Fred Ford, with strong leadership from Chairman Waldo Cohn and the advisory town council, decided to hold a referendum on incorporation April 1953. They were surprised by the citizen's attitude -- the vote was 1,120 for incorporation, 4,584 against.

My goodness.

William J. "Bill" Wilcox is a longtime Oak Ridger and considered the city's historian. In Part II in Wednesday's edition, residents move to a successful end result -- Oak Ridge, Tenn., is born.



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