AIKEN, S.C. – Each year, EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) honors one of its most influential researchers, Dr. Donald A. Orth, by presenting the Donald Orth Lifetime Achievement Award to an employee for technical excellence and leadership.
SRNL presented this year’s Orth award to Tracy S. Rudisill, a principal investigator in the laboratory’s Separations and Actinide Science Group, leading a team developing chemical engineering flowsheets for the dissolution of used nuclear fuels and other nuclear materials.
“Tracy is a world-renowned expert in actinide materials who time and again has demonstrated his ability to provide practical solutions to our nation's most difficult and pressing problems,” said Dr. Terry A. Michalske, SRNL director. “He is personally involved in many national and international programs but always makes it a priority to mentor and help develop the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
Rudisill has worked for SRNL for more than 30 years, conducting research and development for uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium processing. His accomplishments include developing chemical engineering flowsheets for plutonium metal finishing, scrap recovery, dissolution of plutonium materials and the recovery of enriched uranium from research reactor fuels. He also developed processes to save valuable americium and curium isotopes, which are used in the manufacturing of californium-252, a neutron emitter for radiation therapy and other applications, from disposal as waste.
“Dr. Orth was an exceptional researcher,” said Rudisill. “When I was a new employee, like many others, I went to Don to talk about a new project I was starting. Now at this point in my career, I find myself in much the same position, advising and mentoring many of our new employees. His impact on the laboratory and Savannah River Site (SRS) is continuous.”
The Orth Family and Dr. Michalske celebrated Dr. Orth’s contributions to SRS by dedicating a living memorial in his honor. The memorial, located on the grounds of the Savannah River Research Campus, includes a tree and a bench.
Dr. Orth began work at SRS in 1951 with the Du Pont Atomic Energy Division. His primary contributions to SRS included being a technical liaison for many DOE programs moving from concepts through operating facilities. His work included the development, design, and operation of processes and facilities for nuclear materials production, specifically, plutonium finishing operations. Dr. Orth’s work in this area led to a technical liaison and support assignment for later SRS programs in plutonium fuels, californium, and other transplutonium elements, uranium-233 and thorium, offsite fuels processing, waste management, plutonium isotope separations, naval fuels and tritium operations. He was also appointed to the Du Pont corporate technical position of Departmental Fellow and subsequently as Consulting Scientist by Westinghouse Savannah River Corporation, where he worked to improve company research efforts.
Dr. Orth received a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in chemistry (nuclear) from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, he worked at Argonne and Oak Ridge national labs before joining SRNL. He retired in 1992 after a distinguished 41-year career at SRS.
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