2008 Distinguished achievement award: James Rushton

// Engineering Physics

Tags: alumni, Engineers' Day, EP E-Day, James Rushton

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James E. Rushton
Director, Nuclear Science and Technology Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
MSNE ’67, PhDNE ’75
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest science and energy lab. The lab has a diverse research portfolio addressing energy supply and demand. Of its multiple departments, one of the largest is the Nuclear Science and Technology Division. James E. Rushton is the division director.

Rushton oversees 205 staff members, who work on a variety of nuclear topics, including research and development of advanced nuclear energy, nuclear fuel cycles, radioisotopes for medicine, and nuclear waste technologies.

He is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, and studied physics and mathematics at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1967.

His interest in a broad range of energy topics began as a nuclear engineering graduate student at UW-Madison, where he completed one of the first energy assessments for the state of Wisconsin.

Awarded an Atomic Energy Fellowship, Rushton focused his PhD work on measuring nuclear materials with the neutron slowing-down-time spectrometer.

After obtaining his PhD in 1975, Rushton applied his thesis to non-destructive measurements of nuclear materials in support of nuclear non-proliferation at ORNL. In 1979, he moved from the research world at ORNL to the nuclear fuel business. He was responsible for production optimization of three nuclear fuel enrichment plants that processed uranium for nuclear power plants in the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. He contributed to the development of advanced processes for uranium enrichment, and he later marketed these fuel services internationally.

In the early 1990s, Rushton led the Oak Ridge contributions to a U.S. legislative initiative to transfer the enrichment plants from government to private ownership.

Rushton returned to ORNL in 1994 and tackled some challenging environmental cleanup projects before re-entering the R&D world to work on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear energy.

Beyond work, Rushton is a member of the American Nuclear Society and the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management. He is a member of Rotary International and board member of a local natural gas distribution utility. He also is active with St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Rushton and his wife, Rebecca, enjoy golf, sailing and travel. In March 2008, as part of a South American trip, they played golf at the southernmost course in the world, in Ushuaia, Chile. Their daughter, Amy, her husband, Todd, and their two children live in Cumming, Georgia. Their son, David, lives in Oak Ridge.