Argonne reactor pioneer wins international prize

05/11/04

Award to be presented by Russian president

Retired Argonne National Laboratory engineer Leonard J. Koch will be awarded the Global Energy International Prize by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia this June. Koch, a leading world expert on fast reactor technology will be recognized for his role in development of Argonne 's Experimental Breeder Reactors I and II.

Koch was selected for the Global Energy International Prize from 60 nominations received from 400 experts from all over the world. Selections were made based on originality and the significance of their achievements to science and world energy.

"The contribution of Leonard Koch and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory lives on today as the world considers new options for meeting demand for energy use," said Hermann Grunder, Argonne director. "We applaud this award to Leonard Koch for his work in pioneering Argonne 's fast reactor technology."

Chicago-native Koch worked for Argonne between 1948 and 1972, beginning his career as a mechanical engineer on EBR-I and rising to project manager for EBR-II and director of the reactor engineering division. In 1950, Koch and nine of his colleagues at Argonne moved to Idaho to complete EBR-I and put the plant in operation. Koch returned to Illinois in 1952 to begin working on EBR-II.

In just 12 years of operation, EBR-I achieved many firsts: the first reactor to generate usable quantities of electricity from atomic energy, the first breeder reactor, the first to use liquid-metal as a coolant, and the first plutonium-fueled reactor. While EBR-I successfully demonstrated the feasibility of breeder reactors, or reactors that could breed more fuel than they consumed, EBR-II showed that reactor and fuel recycle systems were scalable to a full-scale power station. During the first few years of its operation EBR-II recycled the core through the reactor five times, demonstrating the feasibility of a closed fuel cycle.

Koch shares the award with two Russian scientists, Fyodor Mitenkov, also a pioneer in fast reactor technology and Alexander Sheindlin, honored for his work on thermo physical properties of materials at very high temperatures. The $900,000 in prize money will be equally shared among the three prize winners.

The Global Energy International Prize award was established two years ago by Zhores Alferov, 2000 Nobel Laureate in physics and Vice President of Russian Academy of Sciences. The annual energy award is sponsored by three Russian companies natural gas company Gazprom, utility Unified Energy Systems, and the Russian oil company, Yukos.

Koch is the author of numerous scientific articles and publications on fast reactor technology, including the 2003 historical perspective, EBR-II, An Integrated Experimental Fast Reactor Nuclear Power Station . Koch is also a Fellow in the American Nuclear Society and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory conducts basic and applied scientific research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy physics to climatology and biotechnology. Since 1990, Argonne has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies and other organizations to help advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for the future. Argonne is operated by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

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