Photo of ORNL Science Fair demonstration

Tiny Atoms...Big Science

Nuclear science makes our lives better

When you hear the word “nuclear,” you might think of power plants and national security, but nuclear science is SO much bigger than that. ORNL researchers use nuclear science to develop advances in human health, energy, and scientific applications that benefit our nation.

Handle with care

Because many sources of radiation are dangerous to humans, scientists must wear more than just gloves when handling highly contaminated materials.

Special robotic “manipulators” allows operators to safely handle highly radioactive and radioactively contaminated objects.

Ready to give it a try? You’ll need concentration and a steady grip as you use remote robotic “hands” to safely move fake “radioactive” blocks in a research hot cell.

Be a radiation detective

Radiation is not always dangerous. In fact, you’re exposed to lower-energy, non-ionizing radiation daily when using a microwave, cell phone or laptop! While this exposure is generally safe, sometimes detection of dangerous levels of radiation is essential to public and worker safety.

Explore a variety of specially designed radiation detection equipment including “roadside tracker” technology and handheld radiation detectors in simulated everyday situations.

3D printing for nuclear energy

See how ORNL is using innovative science and technology and applying it to advance technologies for nuclear reactors. The Transformational Challenge Reactor Program is one of the unique ways researchers are making nuclear energy more affordable for the nation.

Also see a fusion reactor pellet injector that fires cryogenic pellets into a fusion reactor and learn about “fueling, tickling and terminating” the fusion plasma.

Finally, learn how ORNL scientists use a spinning centrifuge to separate isotopes and other materials—just like cream is separated from milk at dairy farms!