Temporary shutdown of research reactor turns into three-year hiatus as managers try to understand the world after Chernobyl
OAK RIDGE, TENN. -- Though it may be impolite, it's hardly news when a scientist avoids a meeting to carry out an experiment. But for Oak Ridge National Laboratory nuclear physicist George Wignall, showing up late for an interview with a reporter was cause for celebration.

"We've been waiting three and a half years for this machine," he explained to a reporter, exulting over the startup of the lab's High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). "We want to get every neutron we can."

As he spoke, a voice announced over a loudspeaker that the reactor was being shut down again. In fact, it will be sometime this month before the 85-megawatt reactor is scheduled to resume full-power, around-the-clock operations. But Wignall isn't complaining. "The reactor is actually operating," he said as he collected...

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