Saying goodbye

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Fusion researchers gather to bid farewell to pioneering facility

By Special to the Monitor

Former scientists, engineers, and operators gathered at LANL’s TA-21 on Monday morning for a commemoration at the former Tritium Systems and Test Assembly facility, or TSTA.

At the conclusion, an excavator began tearing away walls of the historic facility — one of 21 lab buildings and structures set for demolition with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Among the speakers was Jim Anderson, a Lab Fellow and former group leader of the team that performed early research on nuclear fusion.

Current commercial nuclear reactors operate on fission — splitting atoms — to generate heat. But fusion — the joining of nuclei, creating heat as a byproduct ­— holds great promise as a future energy technology, Anderson said.

At TSTA, scientists experimented with joining deuterium and tritium. The program started in 1977, and TSTA was stabilized and shut down in 2003.

“People joke, back then we were 50 years away from fusion — and now, we’re still 50 years away,” Anderson said. “But we’re really much closer now, thanks to that work.”

Former LANL and TSTA scientist John Bartlit would write limericks for colleagues as they moved on or retired.

On Monday, Bartlitt read a limerick for TSTA:

“Working shifts through the nights did not blight us

And those Tiger Team bites could not smite us.

The most frightful alarm

Could not ruffle our calm,

But this wrecking the place quite excites us.”