The Science Behind the Standards
If you visit the Web site of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (please click here), as I did when I started preparing for this issue, you will discover an impressive array of research areas. The U.S. Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory, located in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is involved in neutron science, energy, high performance computing, systems biology, materials science at the nanoscale and national security. It is home to the world’s most powerful neutron source, the Spallation Neutron Source, and the High Flux Isotope Reactor. In short, ORNL is a scientific beehive of innovative thinking about the energy challenges that we face in the 21st century.
In early autumn last year I drove down a long access road to the huge campus of this national laboratory to interview Roger Stoller, this year’s chairman of the ASTM International board of directors. While the sheer size of the campus can be intimidating, it was good to settle into Roger’s office to talk about his work and about ASTM, to see how one individual is contributing to the effort to harness nuclear power for 21st century reactors through research and standardization.
With his degrees in nuclear and chemical engineering, and as a distinguished research staff member at Oak Ridge, Roger oversees research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, much of it on the effects of radiation on structural materials. A good deal of this work intersects with standardization. As Roger and I toured parts of the ORNL facility I saw ASTM International standards in action — used to test the behavior of materials that have been irradiated, or specimens so small that their properties have to be understood anew in the context of their size. Roger and dozens of other Oak Ridge staff members both participate in the development of ASTM standards and use those standards in their research.
Visiting ORNL brought the lab to life for me, and I hope this issue of the magazine does the same for you. In addition to the interview with our 2010 chairman, feature articles explore the nuclear program at the laboratory and how both ORNL and ASTM International are poised to deal with 10 of the most significant energy challenges facing the United States. At a time when the world is searching for answers to vexing questions about energy production and use, it inspires confidence to learn about the exemplary work of just one national laboratory — and one of its scientists — in the search for solutions.