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Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies SEC Dates: May 15, 1950 – December 31, 1963

April 8, 2020

April 8, 2020

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By Susan Adkisson

Radiation Emergency Medicine at REAC/TS provides a 3.5-day course is intended for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other healthcare providers. First responders, emergency management, and public health professionals may also find the course beneficial. The course emphasizes the practical aspects of initial hospital management of irradiated and/or contaminated patients through lectures and hands-on practical exercises. The course focuses on the fundamentals of radiobiology along with the medical care and management of patients involved with radiological and/or nuclear incidents. Topics include radiation physics; radiation detection/measurement/identification; early evaluation and treatment of the acute radiation syndrome (ARS), and cutaneous injuries, contamination control; and mitigating risks to patients, providers and facilities. All of these principles are incorporated in a hands-on exercise using live patients with mock injuries and transferable radioactive contamination. A little background here…

ORINS (Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies) hospital was opened in 1950. They did research on the potential effects of radiation, as well as treating workers who were contaminated on the Oak Ridge sites. It was a hospital in itself, complete with researchers, doctors and nurses. Later it was named ORAU (Oak Ridge Associated Universities) and today is managed by ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education). REAC/TS is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) facility managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) for the U.S. Department of Energy with the mission to strengthen the medical response to radiological and nuclear incidents. REAC/TS provides 24/7 medical support and deployment capabilities to provide emergency medical consultation for worldwide incidents involving ionizing radiation. REAC/TS also conducts ongoing research into the biological effects of radiation and provides continuing medical education for healthcare providers, other responders and students. Still continuing similar work to what was begun in 1950.

While working as a nurse at Methodist Medical Center, I had the privilege of visiting and speaking with the people working in REAC/TS; this was extremely interesting to me. It is located on the property of Methodist Medical Center and was operated by ORISE. They have the capability to treat potential radiation contamination victims, on-site, and the facility and it is amazing. Growing up in Oak Ridge, and having a father who worked as an Analytical Chemist at X-10, made me acutely aware of the potential for radiation exposure while living here. Part of our schooling required us to have “bomb drills” instead of “fire drills”. When alarms went off, we cowered under our school desks covering our heads. The five o’clock siren was nothing out of the ordinary, only if it continued or happened at another time would we become worried, and TV’s had test warnings. Most homes had make-shift “bomb shelters” underneath them stocked with canned goods, candles, flashlights, blankets, etc. We used the shelter to play hide and seek in a lot while I was growing up but were never allowed to touch any of the supplies.

From 1944-56, Oak Ridge National Lab, also know by the code name X10, released radioactive iodine to the air as it spent processed nuclear reactor fuel. This in turn contaminated milk, beef, vegetation, and other sources which was felt to have led to a higher incidence of Thyroid Cancers and associated illnesses in some areas surrounding X-10. I remember as a child having to take potassium iodide pills to protect the thyroid from potential radiation exposure; and as always, we just took the pills and did not think anything about it. Guess growing up in Oak Ridge gave me the interest in science that I have always had and the aura surrounding the city was not any big deal to those born here. I am still glad I was a part of the history of the “Secret City.”