Issue 79   Sep 3,  2000
       Ideas - Opinions - Personal Experience

       "The best things in life are not things."
                      - Art Buchwald

Look who's talking today:

Michael West Rivers (68WB), Patty Stordahl (72),
Shirley Collings (66), Vernon Blanchette (64), 
John Allen (66), Dick Epler (52)

Subj:    Re: A Sandbox Note
From: (Michael West Rivers)

Just a small question, WHERE, is Shippenville,
 USA? Any where near the Simpson's home town
 Springville USA? :o)  Sounds like an "neat" place
 though. :o)...-Michael West Rivers :o)  (68WB)

Answer: About five miles from Clarion.  Yes,
 Shippenville USA is a "neat" place, both from the
 standpoint of nature in an environmental sense,
 with beautiful rivers and woods, and the nature of
 people, too; people who flash their lights to
 relinquish their right of way so you can get in and
 out of traffic easily, where if there are two lines
 waiting to buy stamps at the post office, folks at
 the head of one line will relinquish to a person in
 the other line if he or she has been waiting longer,
 where if you sneeze on the street, a local doctor is
 likely to walk up and write you a prescription at no
 charge, even if you are not one of his patients; stuff
 like that.  You can smile freely as you pass folks
 on the sidewalk whether you know them or not,
 without fear of being shot.  Wish you could all
 come up here for the spectacular fall colors
 celebration we'll be having here in just a few
 weeks.  A supremely beautiful time of year in
 Shippenville, USA and the surrounding environs!

                                 ~ ~ ~
Subj:   Sandbox Note
From: (John M. Allen)


I assume that since you didn't mention it, you have
 not lost any submissions in your latest move as you
 did when you moved back East. Is Shippenville in
 a state?

Answer: No, John, I don't believe any submissions
 were lost in this most recent move as did happen
 concurrently with my last move do to a computer
 crash.  Some may feel their submissions have been
 lost, however, since quite a backlog of Sandbox
 submissions has developed due to a high level of
 interest and participation in this forum by so many
 of our fellow alumni.  I hope to be able to find the 
 time to put more issues out more frequently in order 
 to keep up with the demand.  I certainly do 
 appreciate everyone's enthusiasm and want to make 
 every effort to assure that all contributions are 
 published in a fresh and timely sequence. 
 Shippenville is not a state, but if it were, it would be
 a very good state to be in.

                               ~ ~ ~

Subj:   Re: A Sandbox Note
From:   DZIGNRITE@aol.cfom (Patty Stordahl 72)
To: SendBOX

Where is Shippenville?
-Patty Stordahl 72

Answer: In Clarion County, USA

                                 ~ ~ ~

Subj:    Re: A Sandbox Note
From: (Shirley Collings Haskins, '66)

What an inspirational message!  Thanks for sharing
 your thoughts, Al.  Best of luck in your new

          :)  Shirley Collings Haskins, '66

Thanks Shirley!  I certainly am enjoying life out
 here.  Also I find myself supremely busy handling
 various events, all of them with positive outcomes,
 I am sure.

                               ~ ~ ~

Subj:    Re: A Sandbox Note
From: (Vernon Blanchette, '64)

where is Shippenville?

Answer: Shippenville is 5 miles from Clarion, The 
 County Seat of Clarion County in Western 
 Pennsylvania, kinda midway between Pittsburgh 
 and Erie.  Maybe not quite midway but somewhere in
 between.  If you follow Interstate 80 to exit 8 in
 Pennsylvania, you'll be getting very close to me.
 Pennsylvania: Where much of what our nation is today
 began and where much of it is still the same!

                                  ~ ~ ~

Subj: The Politics behind Richland's Fast Flux Test
   Facility (FFTF)
From:  (Dick Epler, '52)
I have to believe that Jim Moran (87), writing in
 SANDBOX #75, realizes by now that I did NOT
 say that the FFTF was shut down by the present
 Administration. I clearly stated that I thought it
 was shut down in 1991. Actually, the FFTF's last
 operating day was March 19, 1992, and yes, I was
 there and signed the commemorative log in the
 control room.
I suspect Jim is responding to my statement that
 "Unofficially it [the reactor] was shut down for
 two reasons: 1) Washington State doesn't want
 anything to do with nuclear stuff; and 2) the
 present Administration wants to build a new
 reactor for producing Tritium and medical isotopes
 in Tennessee (wonder why Tennessee)?" What I
 should have said is that the reactor was not
 *restarted* because of [those] two reasons. That
 would have made my statement correct. You see,
 technically, the FFTF is not shutdown, it's on
 standby, and the Clinton Administration had the
 option of restarting it in 1993 and maybe for a few
 years after that. At this point, however, the reactor
 probably can't be restarted since much of the talent
 is gone. I suspect it's finally time for the sodium to
 be drained and the facility dismantled.
Nevertheless, Jim is quite correct when he says that
 the shutdown of the FFTF was many years in the
 making. Indeed, even before the reactor went
 critical for the first time on February 9, 1980, its
 future was in doubt. The FFTF is a test reactor and
 was built for the express purpose of testing
 materials for the LMFBR (Liquid Metal Fast
 Breeder Reactor) that was to be built at Clinch
 River, Tennessee. In those days, liquid metal
 breeder reactors (LMR) were the solution to the
 shortage of fissile materials like U-235. Well,
 anyway, shortly after the Three-Mile Island nuclear
 incident (March 28, 1979) President Carter
 stopped construction of the LMFBR, and
 challenged the FFTF to find another mission or be
 shut down as well.
No problem. As a research test reactor, the FFTF
 was without peer in the world. Indeed, at different
 times, the reactor was actually a revenue producer
 for DOE as it was able to produce very useful
 research under contract for LMB's belonging to
 both France and Japan. And for the United States,
 the FFTF demonstrated viable capabilities in four
 critical areas: 1) Medical Isotopes that were in
 increasingly short supply; 2) the transmutation of
 Hanford's long-lived waste isotopes, including
 I-129 and Tc-99; 3) the transmutation of
 Americium and Neptunium into Pu-238 and
 Pu-239 for use in thermoelectric power generators
 for the NASA's space program, and 4) the
 production of Tritium for the DOD. Oh yes, one
 more thing. FFTF was built with a power option
 that could deliver, I believe, a little more than 100
 MW of electricity to the grid.
Jim is also correct when he alludes to President
 Bush's Energy Secretary, Admiral James D.
 Watkins, who after touring the FFTF on August
 29, 1989, made the comment that the FFTF is the
 "crown jewel" of DOE's reactors – and then, just a
 few months later, in early 1990, announcing that
 the FFTF would be shut down at the beginning of
 FY91. For political reasons, however, the decision
 was delayed a year to FY92. 
Understand, now, the FFTF was the nation's
 newest, largest and safest R&D reactor. Indeed, it
 was the ONLY DOE reactor that met all modern
 criteria for nuclear safety and environmental
 protection. Its operation had already been subject
 to a complete EIS (Environmental Impact
 Statement) just like commercial reactors licensed
 by the NRC.
Moreover, at least four FFTF missions had been
 identified, all critical to the Nation's medical,
 waste-cleanup, space, and defense programs. So
 how was the DOE going to meet these critical
 needs? Their choice was to transfer existing FFTF
 programs to the tiny, aging, EBR-II (Experimental
 Breeder Reactor-II) at INEL in Idaho, with the
 possibility of building a new reactor in Tennessee
 at a later time. The point was that FFTF HAD to
 be shut down, and EBR-II designated inadequate,
 before Congress would consider funding a new
For most of us at FFTF, it seemed the only way to
 reconcile such an overtly political decision was to
 conclude that if the FFTF were located in Idaho or
 Tennessee (two states that are much more tolerant
 to nuclear research), then the FFTF would be alive
 and well for many years into the future.
I should probably mention that in February 1991,
 the Washington State congressional delegation
 introduced a bill in Congress to permit private
 industry to support FFTF operations, but of course
 it went no-where and really didn't fool anyone.
 Over the years, both DOE and NRC had quite
 enough of Washington's environmental lawyers
 and really needed to get out of Washington as
 quickly as possible.
Maybe the worst thing Jimmy Carter did, as
 President, was to create the DOE in a way that
 politicized the nation's energy policy for all
 succeeding Presidents. The DOE really has no
 power to do or suggest anything useful. Anyone
 who has had to deal with the DOE knows the
 problem. In effect, the President is the one and
 only Energy Czar and the DOE secretary is just the
 whipping boy. No doubt, Admiral Watkins found
 that out soon enough. It must have been hard for
As an aside, President Reagan was the first to try to
 abolish the DOE recognizing that it had no useful
 function, but was prevented by the Democratically
 controlled congress. The Democrats were
 concerned that doing so would help bring the
 budget into balance. The budgets Reagan
 submitted to Congress were always balanced, and
 the possibility that Reagan's success could be even
 greater was anathema to the Democratic Party. So
 they simply put the money for DOE (along with a
 great many other things) back into the budget.
 Currently, the direct cost to taxpayers for DOE
 will be $16.8 billion for FY2000.
In defense of DOE-RL, they treated the Reduction
 Of Force (ROF) of the mid-90s the same way they
 did the one that resulted from a shutdown of
 N-Reactor. No competent employee was forced
 out of a job. In the '95 ROF, most transferred to
 the 200 Areas for waste cleanup; some, like
 myself, took early retirement; and some transferred
 to other DOE sites like Savanna River. A few
 accepted a voluntary-ROF that provided them with
 educational opportunities to learn new skills.
 Richland has always tried to take care of their
Before leaving this subject, I should probably say
 that I'm not unhappy that the LMRs didn't
 succeed commercially. Their failure, in the face of
 the nation's increasing energy shortage, has
 provided the impetus for the private development
 of a much more satisfying energy source: fuel cells.
 Check it out. It's a technology that's been waiting
 in the wings for a long time now and is just about
 ready to go commercial big time. Unlike Wind and
 Photovoltaic's, DOE has let private industry
 develop fuel cells with little interference, and that's
 been a very good thing for the nation.

                      - Dick Epler (52)

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