Leaders in the Manhattan Project laid the groundwork for the government’s mass-production of radioisotopes during the war. The U.S. Army constructed the Oak Ridge reactor as a pilot plant for the Hanford plutonium-producing reactors, and its postwar fate was uncertain. Scientists wanted to dedicate it to radioisotope production for external users with the dual aims of to benefiting civilian science and justifying a national laboratory in Tennessee. This chapter covers the establishment of the civilian agency (the AEC), the launching of radioisotope distribution—still under the auspices of the Manhattan Project until Jan. 1, 1947—and the U.S. government’s public relations efforts that were staged around the early shipments. It tracks isotope production at Oak Ridge through early postwar period, which supplied stable and radioactive isotopes, as well as irradiation services, to civilian scientists and physicians. The same reactor was producing radioisotopes for sale and materials for radiological warfare experiments and other classified research projects, showing the overlap between the AEC’s civilian and military activities.
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