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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Keith Klein’s Interview

Keith Klein has worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy since graduating from college. In this interview, he recounts the timeline of his tenure with the AEC and DOE. He held positions on their Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor program, nuclear waste disposal, and with Tritium production. Klein was active in the efforts to clean up the Rocky Flats plant site after the FBI raid in 1989 and coordinated the opening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He oversaw the DOE’s cleanup effort at Hanford, and was fundamental in establishing DOE’s Office of River Protection. Klein speaks to the current debate and myths surrounding nuclear waste cleanup, the challenges that remain and the progress that has been made, and his vision for the future.

Gordon Fee’s Interview

Gordon Fee is the retired president of Lockheed Martin Energy Systems and the former manager of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, TN. He began working at Oak Ridge at the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant in 1956. In this interview, he describes his career at Oak Ridge, and shares stories about his work at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). In particular, he focuses on scientific developments connected with Oak Ridge, including the growth of the Nuclear Navy, the use of radioisotopes in medicine, and more. He also discusses the challenges of trying to explain Oak Ridge’s complex history to the public.

Ernest Tremmel’s Interview

Ernest Tremmel was a civil engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project for the Army Corps of Engineers, as a purchasing officer. He went on to work for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for many years and as a nuclear energy consultant. In this interview, Tremmel discusses the secrecy of the Manhattan Project and how he learned the goal of the project. He recalls interacting with General Leslie R. Groves, Admiral Hyman Rickover, and other AEC commissioners as well as directors of energy companies. Tremmel explains what made this period, and the quest to build nuclear reactors, so exciting. He also remembers witnessing a nuclear bomb test after the war.

Ralph Lapp’s Interview

Ralph Lapp was completing his PhD in physics at the University of Chicago when he joined the Manhattan Project. After the war, he worked for the War Department and served as a scientific advisor there before leaving the government to start his own firm. Lapp went on to write several books and advocate for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this interview, he discusses how he stumbled upon Enrico Fermi’s team working under Stagg’s Field in December of 1942, and was hired on the spot to work on the development of the atomic bomb. Lapp recalls witnessing the 1946 Bikini nuclear tests, and discusses the controversy over the Lucky Dragon boat, caught into the fallout of one of 1954 Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test. He examines how nuclear weapons have changed the course of human history.

Theodore Rockwell’s Interview (2005)

Theodore “Ted” Rockwell was born in Chicago in 1923. As a graduate student at Princeton University, Ted was recruited to work as an engineer at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, TN in late 1943. Rockwell was assigned to the “Tiger Team” at Oak Ridge, which responded to problems that arose in the Y-12 Plant. After the war, Rockwell continued his career in nuclear technology, becoming Technical Director for Admiral Hyman Rickover. In this interview, Ted explains how the electromagnetic separation process of the calutrons worked at the Y-12 Plant and how the gaseous diffusion process at the K-25 Plant worked. He discusses his duties in the Manhattan Project and his work with Admiral Rickover in the years after the war. He also explains why he thinks safety concerns over nuclear reactors, nuclear waste, and radiation are usually blown out of proportion.

Marilyn Hanna’s Interview

Marilyn Hanna was born on a farm in Spencer, South Dakota, and was trained as a clerk typist. She worked for the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge and later for the Security and Patent divisions in Washington, DC. She remembers meeting General Leslie Groves and Glenn Seaborg, as well as an accidental meeting with Admiral Hyman Rickover while stuck in traffic, which resulted in Rickover offering her and her friends doughnuts.