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Peacetime use of radioisotopes at Oak Ridge cited as Chemical Landmark
Date:2/19/2008

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The production and distribution of radioisotopes became part of the answer to the question of what would happen after the end of World War II. Accordingly, on August 2, 1946, Eugene Wigner, the laboratorys director, stood in front of the Graphite Reactor and presented a small container of carbon-14 to the director of the Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital of St. Louis. Wigners presentation marked the beginning of the peacetime uses of atomic energy.

In the first year alone, the facility made more than a thousand shipments of radioisotopes, mostly of iodine-131, phosphorus-32, and carbon-14. Over the years, thousands of shipments left Oak Ridge, destined for use in research laboratories and medical centers. These isotopes had numerous scientific and medical applications as well as industrial and agricultural uses.

Perhaps the most common uses of radioisotopes are in medicine, for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Nuclear medicine began in the post-War years with doctors using iodine-131 to diagnose and then treat thyroid diseases, a very successful therapy.

Radioisotopes of carbon, cesium, cobalt, and many other elements have been used in cancer therapy. Technetium-99 has a multitude of uses in diagnostic imaging, and other radioisotopes are used as tracers in biological systems. These tracers are generally short-lived radioisotopes.

Plant hybridizers used radioisotopes to induce mutations in developing new horticultural varieties and to study the absorption of nutrients in plants. Radioisotopes have a number of industrial uses; one isotope, americium-241, for example, is used in smoke detectors.

The designation ceremony takes place on March 6 at 2:00 p.m. in the conference center, Tennessee Rooms A&B at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. A second, identical plaque will be placed at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge.

The American Chemical Society est
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Contact: Charmayne Marsh
c_marsh@acs.org
202-872-4445
American Chemical Society
Source:Eurekalert

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