June 26, 2002

Lab Chemist Receives 2002 Seaborg Award

LIVERMORE, Calif. — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory chemist Leonard Gray has something in common with renowned chemist, Nobel laureate and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Glenn Seaborg.

And it’s more than just a love of chemistry.

Gray recently received an award named after and first given to Seaborg in 1984. Gray was awarded the Glenn T. Seaborg Actinide Separations Award earlier this month at the 26th Actinide Separations Conference.

The award, given out annually, was established in 1984 to recognize a scientist or engineer who: develops a new or improved method of recovery, separation and purification of the actinide elements on a laboratory or production scale; develops a new or improves technology and equipment for the plant-scale recovery, separation and purification of the actinide elements; or conducts basic research that is directly and clearly related to the separation of actinide elements.

"This recognition is quite overwhelming," said Gray, a Waycross, Ga., native who has worked at the Lab since 1989. "I am honored to be recognized along the likes of someone as distinguished in science as Seaborg."

The Actinide Separations Board, chartered in 1977, is a forum where U.S. scientists and engineers meet annually to present and discuss experiences, research results and other matters of interest concerning development, testing and application of actinide separations processes in chemistry and engineering.

During Gray’s 33-year career at the Savannah River Plant, Savannah River Laboratory and the Livermore Lab, he has focused on development of processes for the recovery and purification of uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium and curium from special reactor targets and fuels designated by the Department of Energy as non-processable and hard to recover scrap and residues.

This prevented many hundreds of tons of reactor fuels from being added to the DOE legacy materials while adding hundreds of kilograms of plutonium to the weapons stockpile. In addition, these processes removed several hundreds of tons of plutonium scrap from the scrap backlog and returned the plutonium to the weapons stockpile. As a result, tons of residues were removed from the DOE list of materials without a disposition pathway.

Gray also designed and developed processes for futuristic plutonium plants, including Special Isotope Separations, Complex-21, Plutonium Immobilization Plant and Modern Pit Facility.

During his career, Gray also received the "Award of Excellence" for significant contributions to the Nuclear Weapons Program from the DOE’s Director of Military Applications.

Gray’s further research includes:
• Development of process modifications that allowed the dissolution rate of plutonium metal to increase by a factor of four.
• Service as the primary technical investigator on the expert team invited by the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy to investigate the explosion within the uranium-plutonium separation plant at Tomsk-7, Russia.
• Recruitment and leader of the international team of scientists and engineers that developed the ceramic immobilization form from the disposition of excess weapons plutonium.
• Service as the primary technical and only non-federal spokesperson for DOE at various public meetings on the disposition of excess plutonium.

"These are achievements over the span of his career," said Lou Terminello, division leader of the Material Science and Technology division of Chemistry and Material Science ."The Laboratory is fortunate to have someone of such a high caliber working here."

Gray received his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of South Carolina in 1972, his master’s degree in chemistry from Texas Technological College in 1967 and his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 1964.

Other Seaborg Award recipients include Don Ferguson of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1985, Lawrence Mullins of Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1988, Don Orth of Westinghouse Savannah River Company in 1990, Leslie Burris of Argonne National Laboratory in 1994, Major C. Thompson of Westinghouse Savannah River in 1997 and George Vandegrif of Argonne in 2001.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

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