Fueling Nuclear Discoveries

Illustrator: Nathan Armistead

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 At 85 Megawatts (MW) the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) is the highest flux reactor-based source of neutrons in the United States and one of the most powerful in the world. Neutrons from HFIR are used to reveal the secrets of matter and energy, which fuels important discoveries in physics, chemistry, materials science, engineering, and biology. In addition, HFIR has nuclear forensics capabilities that are used to help solve crimes by tracing elements in the environment, provides unique resources enabling scientists to study the effects of radiation on materials, and is the sole source in America for a number of isotopes vital to national security, medical and industrial applications, and space exploration.

Artist’s Note:

This stylized depiction of HFIR’s refueling process is meant to capture the awe-inspiring, reverent feeling of pivotal scenes from classic science fiction films. The environment is simplified to create a sense of monumentality, and the glow from the fuel is emphasized to cast dramatic lighting across the scene. Geometric typography echoes the concentric circular shapes of the reactor core and recalls letterforms popular at the inception of ORNL. —Armistead