The Oak Ridge History Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Talk on Oak Ridge’s Mercury Saga

On May 17, 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it had “lost” or could not account for 2.4 million pounds of mercury in the Oak Ridge environment as a result of lithium production for a thermonuclear weapons program.

On Thursday, May 17, which is the 35th anniversary of DOE’s public disclosure, Carolyn Krause will speak on “Oak Ridge’s Mercury Saga: A History of Mercury Contamination in Oak Ridge and the Public and Scientific Response” at 6:00 p.m. at the Midtown Community Center (formerly the Wildcat Den) at 102 Robertsville Rd. The talk is hosted by the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association.

“The release of information to the public about the release of the heavy metal mercury to the Oak Ridge environment since 1950 sparked DOE’s inauguration of a national environmental management program,” Krause said. “Through contractors, DOE has been addressing contamination at its 75 nuclear sites by uranium, plutonium, other radioactive substances, and chemical pollutants.

“Almost 50 years of mercury research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has helped reduce cleanup costs and resulted in amazing discoveries that may lead to ways to make mercury in waterways less toxic.”

Krause, a frequent contributor to The Oak Ridger, was editor of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review, a research magazine, for 25 years. She previously worked as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Press and The Oak Ridger. She has a master’s degree in journalism, with an emphasis on science writing, from Northwestern University.

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