ORNL's Californium-252 Will Play Pivotal Role in New Reactor Startups
Californium-272 production team. Standing left to right - John Courtney, Dan Bettinger, Julie Ezold, Ed Smith, and Scott White.
East Tennessee occupies a special place in nuclear history. In 1943, the world’s first continuously operating reactor began operating on land that would become the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Now, ORNL is once again at the forefront of reactor history.
ORNL is the only place in the world capable of efficiently producing the radioisotope californium-252, an essential material for nuclear reactor startup. This summer, the lab shipped a batch of californium-252 bulk wire to support startup of two new nuclear reactors. The californium-252 is produced at ORNL through the DOE Isotope Program.
The reactors, now under construction at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia, will be the first new nuclear reactors built in the United States in over 30 years.