Nathaniel Weisenberg: My name is Nate Weisenberg. I am here with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Wednesday, April 25, 2018 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I am here with Roger Cloutier and my first question for you is if you could please tell me your name and spell it.
Cloutier: My name is Roger Joseph Cloutier, C-L-O-U-T-I-E-R.
Weisenberg: My first question is just sort of to begin with the beginning. Could you tell me when and where you were born?
Cloutier: I was born in North Attleborough, Massachusetts in 1930.
Weisenberg: Did you grow up in North Attleborough as well?
Cloutier: I grew up to the end of high school and then I left for the service. Served four years in Korea. Well, four years in the service, and then returned and went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and then to the University of Rochester. I immediately went to work after that for the Westinghouse Company on atomic power. Then, after about two years, left to come to Oak Ridge in 1959.
Weisenberg: We will get to more of that in a minute, but just jumping back a little bit, what did your parents do?
Cloutier: My father worked for the jewelry factories in North Attleborough. When they had work, you got to work. When they ran out of work, you had to go find another company to work for. My mother was a housewife most of her life.
Weisenberg: How many siblings do you have?
Cloutier: That’s a good question. I could do it the easy way by saying there are only three of us alive now. We had a dozen kids, but one of them was an adopted kid.
Weisenberg: What was your childhood like, growing up there in the Thirties and the Forties?
Cloutier: I grew up in the 1930s, where I first start to remember things. So we will say 1936. At that point, I guess I only remember playing with the other kids. By the time I got to junior high school or high school, I continued to play with the kids. We did all the things that most kids do. Unless you need more information, I will let it go at that.
Weisenberg: You graduated from high school and then you joined the Navy. Is that right?
Cloutier: At that time, the draft was coming back and that will allow me to take you a little askew. World War II ended in 1945, and we will come back to that later. But at the end of World War II, they released all the servicemen. Servicemen who had left school in order to join the service came back, and some of them attended high school. We had older people in high school than you normally have. But the draft had ended, and they were about to reinstitute it. The question was, do you join the service, or do you try to avoid it by avoiding the draft? Since all of my brothers had been in the service, I decided the smart thing to do was to join the service. I joined the service in 1948, right after I graduated from high school.
Weisenberg: You ended up being sent to Korea in 1950?
Cloutier: I started out on destroyers and had the good fortune to be selected by the military to go to what’s called the naval prep school for the Naval Academy. I spent nine months there and then discovered when I got to the Naval Academy, several of us got rejected for different reasons. I was released right at that point and returned back to the fleet. Well, that was in June of 1950. They said, “Here is somebody who is available.” I flew commercial across the country. Then managed to work my way all the way to Korea.
Weisenberg: During the Korean conflict, were you deployed offshore?
Cloutier: I was on a cruiser at the time. When I arrived there, immediately, Pusan was being invaded and they needed all the help they could to keep the North Koreans, at that point, from overtaking Pusan. We spent all the time shooting at anything we could see. The Inchon invasion was set up, so we went over to that side and participated in that. I could give you sails, all the sea talk, but that is of no great value. Those books have already been written.
Weisenberg: So you were involved in that campaign, and you served there until 1952. Is that right?
Cloutier: I got out in 1952. While I was over there, the President extended my three-year appointment for the field. I have forgotten the exact phrase, but for whatever length of time the President wanted you to serve. But by then, a year later, serving the extra year, they released me.
Weisenberg: How did you get interested in atomic energy?
Cloutier: Well, I went to the University of Massachusetts and soon got married. I was originally interested in animal husbandry and then switched to physics because it seemed more interesting. Because of my appointment in the physics department, I got an appointment to go to Brookhaven National Laboratory – which was created about 1945 and ’46 – to work with the biology people, as opposed to the physics people, because that’s where they had room. My wife and I went there, and spent the summer, but we lived in a barracks with a whole bunch of people from the University of Rochester. They were in a radiological physics program, which is today called health physics. We went from meeting these people and we learned that they were on fellowships.
Since I was going to graduate in a couple of years, I applied for the fellowship program and was sent to Rochester. I got a Master’s degree out of Rochester. From that program, I went to work for Westinghouse. ORINS, the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, was handling the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission] program that paid the fellowship. I was interested in the fact that they paid my way through graduate school. When they sent a letter out saying they were interested in somebody coming to Oak Ridge, I thought, “That’s pretty interesting. I could repay them in a sense.” I applied for the job and was sent down here in order to be interviewed. We will also go into that in a little more detail later. I came intending to spend only two years here. That was in 1959. I stayed until today.
Weisenberg: What were your first impressions of Oak Ridge when you got here?
Cloutier: I am going to do a little background information. The principal reason for it is it doesn’t get told as much as it ought to. When I got the appointment, I went to the Westinghouse people that had come from Oak Ridge. I talked to them. Some people said, “Oh, that’s wonderful. Go to Oak Ridge because it’s a great place to live.”
I say, “Great.”
So I asked another one who worked for Westinghouse who had come from Oak Ridge and he said, “Who are you going to be working for?”
I said, “I will be working for Dr. [William] Pollard.”
They said, “Wonderful. Who else are you going to work with?”
I said, “Dr. Marshall Brucer.”
He says, “Don’t take the job.”
I said, “No, I am going to go.”
When I came to Oak Ridge the first time, I didn’t meet Dr. Pollard. He was off doing something. I met all the other people, and I met Dr. Brucer and I met Dr. Ralph Overman who I will talk about more later. But I said, “This is a good place to work.” It had a relatively brand new – because it was almost ten years – Medical Division. It had a training group. It had educational programs, all kinds of interesting things. At the same time, it also had a nuclear criticality accident the year before, in 1958. It also had bombings in Clinton because of the race problems, the desegregation of the schools. The question was, should I go down there with my young kids? I decided, “We will go.” Off we went, and we arrived.
Now, it was several weeks later, after I started work, before somebody said to me, “You haven’t met Dr. Pollard.”
I said, “No, he’s always so busy. I haven’t gotten to him.” I should explain why I was going to work right under him. It’s because safety should really be taken care of at the highest levels. That’s where they plugged me into the organizational chart. I was responsible, at that point, for just what’s called health physics. Health physics is the protection of people from the harmful effects of radiation.
In any case, after several weeks, somebody said, “You haven’t met him?” I said no. They said, “Come with me.” So I went in to meet Dr. Pollard. It happened to be a Wednesday, and as he got up from his chair and turned to come to me, I noticed he had on a Roman Catholic collar. I say Roman Catholic because I hadn’t been familiar with other people. I kind of stood back and it took me awhile to go and get introduced to him. I quickly learned that he had been a nuclear physicist at the University of Tennessee, and that during his career, he decided to become a priest in the Episcopalian church. I then realized that on Wednesday, he would go up to church, Oak Ridge church, and that’s why he had the Roman collar on. That’s what surprised me so much.
Now because I have gone into that, I once asked Dr. Pollard how ORINS got started. He said to me, “Well, a woman”—when he worked at the University of Tennessee, before the war – “There was a woman there, also in the physics department, named Katharine Way.” Good, somebody has told you that, but I’ll tell you my side. Katharine Way left to go to the Manhattan Project during the war, and she ended up in Chicago and Los Alamos and so on. Pollard went to Columbia University during the war in order to work on gaseous diffusion.
After the war was over, Katharine Way came back to the University of Tennessee, as did Pollard. Somebody held a reception, a chemistry professor, for Katharine Way. While they were at the reception, she was talking about the institutes that were being established at Princeton and other places where [J. Robert] Oppenheimer ended up at. She said they ought to start one in Oak Ridge. Pollard said he discussed that with her and after she left, he took it up with the university professor. Now mind you, at that time, the university was not a big university. The university professor said, “Well, see what you can do.” He got relieved of his duties in order to set up what turned out to be ORINS. Now Katharine Way, did somebody show you that book [One World or None]?
She is only an editor, but she is the editor with Dexter Masters. You have to know who Dexter Masters was, who was very well known at that time. For her to get around and be able to go and get all of these people including Albert Einstein, in order to write little articles about what’s going to happen, she deserves some credit. So there’s Katharine Way.
That’s back in 1946. Pollard gets permission from the Atomic Energy Commission, which goes out of business, I think, the first of 1946, but in any case the people just continue on [misspoke: the Atomic Energy Commission formally replaced the Manhattan Project as of January 1, 1947]. He gets an office within the barracks, is what we used to call it. Or Castle, which sits behind where the Department of Energy building is today. It’s a wooden structure. It’s such a structure that when I came down here, if you wanted to go from one end of the building to the other side, it was easier to go outside and walk around and come in, because inside you had to do zigzag here and there. He got put in place there, and as time went by, he was asked to pick up new jobs. Probably the most important one was the one that paid me to go to the University of Rochester.
When the war was going on, everybody had to have security clearance. When the war was over, the people who were in research and so on were tired of all that security. But the government still wanted to keep it, and they put up front money to train people, but they wanted them to have security clearance. The National Science Foundation was asked to do it, provide that training for security. They didn’t want to do it, because their people had been tired of all of this security. They wanted to be published in papers. So the Atomic Energy Commission had to put the work someplace, and they gave it to ORINS. Pollard then had some more money.
Another one – you can tell me if you’ve heard it – but it was to set up a library. Why did they need the library? If you look at Oak Ridge, and why they picked it, it was because of its security area. The only road from here to Knoxville was the old Oak Ridge Highway, no interstates or any of that.
Then they went and put that together. They said, “Well, we need to have a library in this area, a scientific library,” primarily for the people who want to go back to school from the National Lab [Oak Ridge National Laboratory] to get their degrees. If you look at the people who came down here, most of them were part of the SED [Special Engineer Detachment] military people. They wanted to finish their degrees. Periodically, you bump into articles where somebody is saying, “I left my university in order to come to Oak Ridge, and now I want to get my degree.”
They hired the head librarian and library association to set this up, and for years, Oak Ridge had one of the best security libraries, of articles.
The next thing they were asked to do at ORINS, which at that point consisted of about six people, was to hire some people. One to go and prepare people to safely handle radioactive materials. They hired Ralph Overman. He got a leave from the Oak Ridge National Lab to come over and work with ORINS and set up training programs. It’s the oldest program at ORAU [Oak Ridge Associated Universities]. It’s the first one set up and it’s still going today. It has changed its name up several times, but it’s a Special Training Division originally set up to train people, researchers, to use the material safely. People would come in large groups, groups of 60 and so on, and be divided up into smaller groups and take training. Overman started that program. I’ll come back to it if you want me to, but it continues.
The other person they hired was Marshall Brucer. Marshall Brucer was primarily a physiologist, but he was an M.D., a very clever person. I mentioned that somebody said, “If you are going to work for Brucer, don’t.” Brucer was the sort of fellow who could really put out sarcasm. You had to be very prepared to discuss anything with him. If you tried to defend your position when you weren’t ready to do it, then you lost ground. Some people liked him. Some people hated him.
Dr. K. Z. Morgan at Oak Ridge National Lab, who was the head of the health physics group, and ran lots of research programs, hated Marshall Brucer. On the other hand, Marshall Brucer was so loved by the people in medicine that he was one of the people that started the Society of Nuclear Medicine. The Society of Nuclear Medicine had its start almost in Oak Ridge.
I am going to mention another starting program, the American Nuclear Society. The American Nuclear started in an ORINS building with Dr. [W. W.] Grigorieff, who was playing like the executive secretary, for what became the American Nuclear Society. They moved to Chicago later.
Now, back to Brucer. Brucer’s assignment was to find uses for the radiation and radioactive materials in medicine. I will take the radiation first. The first part of it was, up until then, the only sources of radiation were x-rays. People had used x-rays for all kinds of things, including what [Wilhelm] Röntgen started with taking pictures of people. Brucer wanted to make radioactive materials and he chose cobalt-60. Cobalt-60 was used in order to make teletherapy units, radiation at a distance. He would develop new units in conjunction with the universities in Texas, and anyplace, to get these teletherapy units going.
The second part was to use radioactive materials. The Atomic Energy Commission was concerned with radioactive materials. One was radium, which had had a bad history back in the 1920s. Radium is not material made in the nuclear reactor, but the Atomic Energy Commission had nuclear reactors. The first thing they could do was produce oodles of radioactive material. Brucer looked at the studies, and his staff – I don’t want to leave anybody out. But he looked at it. They decided they would look at radioactive materials they could use for diagnostic or therapeutic tests.
Brucer chose iodine, which had been used pre-World War II to study the thyroid. The thyroid has an affinity for iodine. When Brucer looked at the availability, he says, “I have nuclear reactors in Oak Ridge and we can get all kinds of radioactive iodine that we need to do these studies.” So radioactive iodine was going to blossom like mad. Brucer set up a way to interact with all of the medical schools around. What he discovered is, depending on which school you went to, depended on what sort of results you got. So he, very clever, set up a whole bunch of mannequins with what’s called mock iodine. It’s a mixture of other radioactive materials that simulate radioactive iodine. Why did they need a mock iodine? Because radioactive iodine is eight days half-life. He took these mannequins all over the world. Brucer set up a correction program, so people got better results.
Later on, he had people working for him, Dr. Granvil Kyker, who was interested in the radioactive materials from nuclear fission. Many of them are rare earths, and because they are rare earths, it includes things that go to the liver. Kyker started studying the effects of them on the liver. The liver is a very important organ. It cleans up lots of things in the body. He chose gallium.
I think it was ’71, but I can’t remember right at the moment. He chose gallium, and he tried to use it in animals to see what would happen. It was actually a complete failure. Later on, Dr. Ray Hayes decided he would try the studies again. But now they had a new way of getting the gallium. The gallium that he chose was made by a cyclotron, as I recall. The cyclotron produced it. Therefore, it wasn’t a fission product. The question was whether or not the Atomic Energy Commission, all of those people who followed them, would support it. Well, on a sort of serendipitous sort of thing – and we used the word because we pushed it – when they gave very small amounts of this gallium-67 without any other gallium present, it didn’t do what the other gallium did, which also had other gallium with it. It showed up on a number of different things. I will just mention one, inflammation. You could now pick up spots in the body where you had inflammation.
I could go on with that part, but there was also the instrumentation that was necessary. The Medical Division got involved with lots of people from lots of schools. If you have been to the hospital, and they put you under that little Anger camera, we dealt with the people at the University of California that had developed it. A fellow named Dr. Hal Anger. With that you could go and to image people. Long before the camera came along, you had to have little devices that did it very crudely. Many of those, called linear profile devices, were developed here in Oak Ridge.
We had a fellow from the University of Arkansas, Dr. Grigorieff, who came here to work with the universities. When ORAU was set up, it was set up with other universities, not just the University of Tennessee. It started out, I think, with 16 and ended up today with over 100. So it has lots of universities. The universities were interested in getting their people to Oak Ridge, not just ORINS, but Oak Ridge National Lab. When the idea was first proposed by Katharine Way, it was then taken to the Atomic Energy Commission. They agreed to set up programs like the program I was in, the fellowship program, including other universities. So the program grew.
They had the problem of trying to get all of these people to work. One of the big things that ORINS, when they changed its name to ORAU and all these other names that it now has, and I leave that to somebody else to talk – when they put all that together, they then discovered that all these people wanted to use the instrumentation. Jerry Duggan used to bring his students up here to use the accelerators and Van de Graaffs and things at the National Lab. He ended up being on the board of the ORAU.
That leaves me only one last group to talk about. That’s the museum. When the city decided it was going to open its gates in 1947 [misspoke: 1949], the city said that we had to have something they could show people. Somebody recalled that the Atomic Energy Commission had previously had some exhibits up in New York and that they were sitting in a warehouse down here. The Atomic Energy Commission turned to ORAU and said, “Quickly create a museum.” They meant quickly, because it was a last-minute thought.
They opened up the museum in an old cafeteria. Those exhibits were brought in. Almost immediately, they had a plutonium-beryllium source. Plutonium, of course, is a bad actor. If you go back, I said they had trouble with radium causing bone cancers and so on. Well, plutonium is an alpha emitter just like radium is. There was a concern that plutonium is going to cause all kinds of trouble, but if it was in a sealed container that it ought to be safe.
Somebody said if we take a dime at that point and we put it up next to that plutonium-beryllium source, which is producing neutrons – that’s one of the original things that was done. In fact, it’s what [Enrico] Fermi originally did. It will become radioactive but only for a very short period of time.
Today, you can get on the web and you can look for containers that contain dimes that were irradiated. There are all kinds of them that are available. Are they safe? Yes, because within about twenty seconds of having taken them away from their plutonium source, that little bit of radioactivity was reduced. But it was such a big thing, like hula hoops. Everybody had to come to Oak Ridge to get them.
I wandered around that much – a couple of other things. ORINS’s special training and museum both got involved in international training programs. In the museum, they set up a whole bunch of little mobile laboratories that visited high schools all over the United States. They went out in the fall and they stayed all year and came back in the spring. The training division set up mobile laboratories in order to visit schools and put on two-day programs. They also got heavily involved with programs overseas.
Now I come back to me. When I came to Oak Ridge, met Dr. Pollard and I worked for him. Then after a while, I got involved in things at the Medical Division. That’s why I know a little bit about them. The Medical Division had people from Japan always coming over. I got involved with the Special Training Division because we started a program on teaching people health physics for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. State people would come in and slowly got moved into what they call agreement states, where some states would take over the responsibility. Those people would need training in the state to get permission to be able to take over responsibility. Why is that necessary? Because any radioactive material that comes out of the ground doesn’t fall under the Atomic Energy Commission. If it’s produced by a cyclotron, it didn’t come under Atomic Energy Commission. The states had all kinds of x-ray equipment to produce radiation. It also had radioactive materials that came out of the ground. That program ran and continues to run today.
They picked up another one, which was Atoms in Action. That program did things over in Europe, but the one I got involved in went through Central and South America. I was asked if I would take a course in Spanish, even though I worked for the Medical Division then. I would come over and I would take a Berlitz course in Spanish. This was a problem for me because I knew French, because I had grown up in French schools in North Attleborough. At that point, there were half day French and half day English in the parochial schools. I knew French and had the Boston accent. I have bad hearing. So I don’t pick up sounds very well. I managed to get past that course. We would go to South America, Central America, and we would do all kinds of programs down there.
At the same time, I started doing research at the Medical Division and I was involved in several programs. The one that is notorious, meaning it’s gone, dealt with radiation dosimetry. Since the Medical Division had training programs, people came. They took the course, knew almost all medical people and we had to teach them dosimetry. It became clear that we needed to collect that information. So the Radiation Dose Information Center has other names. It was set up in order to do that program. It was partly funded by the Food and Drug Administration and the Atomic Energy Commission and subsequent groups.
Weisenberg: One other question I had for you was if you could say a little bit more about REAC/TS [Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site], the organization that was founded in the Seventies.
Cloutier: The Medical Division was widely known all over the world about its nuclear medicine programs. Whenever there was a problem that came up someplace in the U.S., or someplace else, we would get notified. Because I was involved in dosimetry, I would get involved.
I want to tell this story just because I love telling it. One of the first ones we had was a fellow from the island of Antigua, which is in the Caribbean. He was a radiographer of metals, parts and tanks. The doctor was concerned because he had lost a radioactive source that was inadequate or it was in the shield. He reached down in the sand in Antigua to find it and put it back in the camera. He was sent up here for us to look at him.
When I talked to him, it became very clear that his dose wasn’t from picking up the source. It was from every day that he did work. One of the things he would do was climb up on the side of a tank that he was welding pieces to, and put the camera there. He would sit on the tank and would irradiate himself. His problem was continuous, long-term irradiation.
They examined him. The blood picture gave essentially that same answer. One weekend – because we were always trying to keep track of where he was going – he said to me, “I am going on a trip.”
I said, “Okay, check in with me when you get back.”
He called me and said, “I’ve had an accident.”
I said, “What kind of an accident?”
He said, “Well, I was flying a plane that I rented, and it crashed.”
I said, “Well, how are you doing now?”
He said, “I’ll be back on Monday.”
Now, he is the sort of fellow who didn’t worry about very much. He was followed for years now. I don’t know if they are still following.
Let me take a more serious one, and not go on and on with them. We had various accidents occur, also dealing with radiography. Somebody had a radiographic device and it had been used originally as a teletherapy unit. Remember, Brucer had developed teletherapy units. It had now ended up in a Mexican junkyard. The people who discovered it took this little thing home. We now have people getting exposed, so much so that there are real problems.
Later on, a company down in El Salvador. El Salvador, you may recall, had civil war going on. It’s quiet now. The fellow was trying to run this while the civil war was going on. Things didn’t go right because it was made to radiate devices, medical devices, to sterilize them. As the thing moved through, it gets stuck and the people couldn’t get in. So they climbed in through a way in. Two of them got serious exposures. They were moved from El Salvador up to Mexico. If you talked to the REAC/TS people, I am sure they told you this. When they got to Mexico, I was sent down to join with Bobby Ricks, who was part of REAC/TS at that point. I got to talk to him.
Now, I come back to the States. Jack Beck has a fellow in California who has stuck a thing in his pocket and we could go on and on and on. I’ll just mention those two.
Weisenberg: Just a quick, very basic question about that. How would you explain to somebody why is REAC/TS important, somebody who didn’t know anything about this?
Cloutier: Well, I’ll come into it by several different ways. Long before REAC/TS was created, the Medical Division was doing things. It got to the position where the [SL-1] accident out at Idaho Falls had created problems. DOE [Department of Energy] or AEC, depending on who was there at the time, decided they needed more sites.
Dr. Gould Andrews, who I haven’t mentioned, and I should have done it a thousand times, was the chief clinician at the Medical Division. He realized that the Oak Ridge Hospital had just built a new building and in it a short period of time, but realized they needed more space. They mentioned to Andrews, “We are trying to justify this extra space.” It isn’t quite that direct, but it becomes almost.
The AEC, or DOE at that point, was interested in setting up locations where they could have accidents. He approached them and said, “We will help do it.” A group of us met, a group of 15 people, including Dr. [Clarence] Lushbaugh, and made plans for this facility. Then we met with the hospital. The hospital agreed to allow us to have the lower part of one wing. We opened up that wing with a lot of fanfare, with shielded things. I am sure somebody took you through there and showed you that. If they didn’t, then you really ought to see it.
At that point, I was also writing papers that, throughout the United States, there are so many nuclear medicine departments that have instruments that could be used to make the measurements. It turns out that facility has not been really used in the way it was designed. That’s how things change with time. At the time it was built, there was a great concern because they had the Idaho Falls accident and these people were highly radioactive and they both died [misspoke: 3 people died in the accident]. Things have changed. Today, in my mind, it serves less of a purpose. We could spend another two hours on this. Next question.
Weisenberg: You had mentioned the professional training program and I wanted to get back to that. But before we do that, about the hospital that was established here, the small 30-bed hospital that had a lot of innovations in nuclear medicine. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about why that was significant.
Cloutier: Well, I left out lots of things. When the Atomic Energy Commission was created, there was a great push – we would call it propaganda today – a great push to show the beneficial uses of radiation. I’ve mentioned in a sense Brucer’s job was to set up a program to find uses. Well, the same thing was done at Brookhaven National Lab. Same at Argonne National Lab, except it was downtown Chicago. It was also done at Berkeley. Each group had set up things. Brookhaven National Lab, in addition to other work they were doing, also did boron therapy. If you have talked to them, they talk about how you put boron in a patient, and also enhance the radiation. Each group did a different sort of thing.
That went very well until the 1970s. At that point, the Atomic Energy Commission or DOE or the group in between decided that maybe they didn’t belong in that business. I am oversimplifying it greatly, but they sent a committee headed by Dr. [James] Potchen, who was at Johns Hopkins at that time. He came through with his committee. Their goal was to discredit the medical part of it because the National Institutes of Health and everybody else already had it.
They said nasty things about the Medical Division and the reason was the building was too old. Because the building was too old, they couldn’t get money from insurance companies to pay for the care. Up until then, the Atomic Energy Commission paid for all the care. Patients paid nothing, just like St. Jude’s in Memphis. The patient doesn’t pay anything. Now they wanted Medicare to start paying or private insurance to pay. They wouldn’t approve it unless the hospital built a new one.
Dr. Andrews was forced to choose a position. The position essentially was we need more money to build a hospital. They said, “Well, we can’t afford it.” That would be fine if nothing else happened, but they also cut Brookhaven medical programs back, cut the Chicago programs back, where by the way technetium-99 was first developed with Dr. Paul Harper and Katherine Lathrop. The other people also had the same problem. Essentially that ended the program. The only agreement that was really made was that the people who had been hurt in the Y-12 criticality accident in 1958 were to be monitored to the end of their lives.
Weisenberg: While it was in existence, the hospital was making strides in trying to use radioisotopes to treat people with severe cancer?
Cloutier: Treat selected people. The patients came to us after they had been treated by their own physician from all over the Southeast. If they met certain criteria – these criteria being they had been treated and nothing was really helping them. They would be sent to us. We hear a lot – and you may have heard it – about the [Dwayne] Sexton case. There was a young boy who was treated with total body irradiation. There were three types of doing it. One large enough to give a very high dose in a very short period of time, which was incidentally a unit built to irradiate cattle. We participated in getting the patient in and out, and how do you get them out if the source doesn’t get down. There was an accident out there later that went to REAC/TS, or the hospital, with a fellow who ended up with a blood disorder and died. We could go on.
The second one was medium exposure [inaudible] facility, which was about one roentgen per minute. The third one, a woman named Katherine Dalton – Rockline today. She is married. I designed a big room that Pam [Bonee] can show you, a beautiful brochure. It was made for – but it was a much lower rate, about 0.1. Amongst these patients, all of them signed statements saying that they knew it was experimental medicine. They came, and they were irradiated, and Lushbaugh headed up the medical side of the total body irradiator. With that all said, you have to look at time. You may have noticed I was careful to try to put times in here because you have to look at it with respect to time.
Sexton was the young boy who was irradiated. It was picked up by magazines like Mother Jones and so on. I support a lot of the things that Mother Jones did, but when they were against it, you have to go and say, “We didn’t study it very carefully.” So there was a lawsuit. Senator [Albert] Gore [Jr.]., who is a Tennessean, headed up a committee that was to investigate all of this.
Cloutier: He came down, they called the committees together. If you look on the web you will find where all those people came. When it was all over, it was proven that the Sexton thing was done with proper authority, he never apologized. Never even acknowledged that it did come clean. You can go back to the records that are on the web today and look it up.
At the time the work was done, the survival from – and I have now forgotten if it’s acute myeloblastic leukemia – the survival time was about two or three weeks. The reason I was reminded of it is doctors who got people who had this disease, even kids, would come here trying to get something that might teach somebody else what to do. I have a grandson who had the same disease, but many years later. I think that St. Jude’s Hospital now has survival up over I think about 90 percent. The world has changed. In the early days, kids would come in and two days, two weeks, they would be gone. There is a world of difference.
Weisenberg: I also wanted to ask you about your involvement with the Professional Training Program.
Cloutier: At about the time we were trying to get money, I was at the Medical Division at that point, heading up a medical physics group. We were trying to get money from NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and ORAU had changed its name from ORINS to ORAU. The principal reason was to be able to get money from other agencies. We were trying to get money from NASA because NASA had lots of money.
People who are up in space get more radiation. That was one of the reasons, and Lushbaugh will get most of the credit for that. They will get low levels of radiation, but much higher than you get on Earth. From that, we build that low exposure rate, total-body irradiator. I was working with a NASA group. They’d come in to talk about whether to give us money. I kept getting phone calls from Pollard’s office. Secretary would come up and say, “Pollard wants to talk to you.”
It was also the same time that Alvin Weinberg had gotten fired. That’s not the words we normally use, but he got fired from Oak Ridge National Lab. He also went to Washington instead of to Iowa after that. He had gotten fired and Pollard was trying to set up a place for him to do work. I will show you how petty we get. They didn’t have enough money for furniture, so they sent the poor fellow who kept track of furniture to go around the buildings and look in the rooms to see if there was – “Oh, there is a chair that is not being used. I’ll be back in a couple days to pick it up.” Well, I knew he was coming back, so I told my staff that whenever they left a room to lock the doors.
A few days later, I am up with NASA people and I keep getting calls from Pollard’s secretary saying, “Pollard needs to see you. Pollard needs to see you.”
I finally said, “Well, I will be done with them a little after 1 o’clock. I’ll be right over.” A little after 1 o’clock, I go over to Pollard’s office. In the meantime, I totally prepared to say to Pollard, “If they ask for chairs, I’ll give them the chairs, but they are not just going to come in and take them.” Shows how petty I am.
I opened the door and I’ve got my speech all prepared because I assumed he was going to do that. He said, “I want you to be in charge of the Special Training Division.” Mind you, I had worked over there with Overman and the fellow who replaced him. So I knew both of them.
I said, “I will do it on one assumption.” Evelyn Watson, who worked for me and who had come in as a clerk, I could never get her promoted into an exempt status. Even though she had a college degree and had worked for me, an exceptional person. I will give you a reference to go to later.
He says, “Yes.”
I said, “I have won that battle.” Because I had fought that battle with personnel for years. I agreed to move provided I could move the Internal Dose Center over to special training.
When we got to special training, we needed space. I said, “Well, we need to put Evelyn Watson in. What if we put a trailer out behind the engineering building?”
They said, “you can’t do that. There are no trailers in Oak Ridge,” which is a mistake. In any case, they said, “No, can’t have trailers.” We found a way to get not one, but in the end, two trailers put in over there. We got Evelyn Watson moved over there. When the Medical Division shifted again, she went back over to the Medical Division because I moved on to other things. What was the original question?
Weisenberg: Why the program was established and why it is important, what it’s done.
Cloutier: The Atomic Energy Commission needed people to go and train people who were going to do research. It started out originally with college faculty, military people. It then shifted to college students, and all kinds of other people. One of our great benefactors in terms of how important she thought it was a Sister Cabrini from Regis College up in Massachusetts. She would load up a bunch of students in the wintertime and come down here. Every winter was a whole bunch of students. Other people did it from Minnesota and other places. They came down for a mini-mester. That was another program. How did the programs change over time? Depending on who funds them.
Weisenberg: I understand you were involved in bone marrow transplants.
Cloutier: Bone marrows are interesting from the standpoint that they were brand new in a sense. Dr. [E. Donnall] Thomas at Seattle, Washington and others did bone marrow. Oak Ridge ORINS Medical Division was also interested in doing bone marrows. I was involved in the dosimetry, but not that actual medical side of it. I mention that the device that was used for doing animals at the University of Tennessee Agricultural Research Station – you have to ask almost why they have one. In any case, that was the unit that was used because the exposure rate was so high. The thought goes like this.
If you go back to the beginning of radiology, you discover that highly dividing cells are sensitive to high doses of radiation. If you lower the dose rate, the amount of damage done for the same total dose is much less. It’s an oversimplification, but that’s fundamental.
The same thing happens today in Knoxville: we have proton therapy. Proton is nothing more than a hydrogen nucleus where the electron has been thrown away. The argument goes that if this thing goes in, it causes some damage, but when it gets to the end, it will go towards what’s called the Bragg’s curve. The Bragg’s curve means more ionization, so you can irradiate brain tissue and limit the damage done to the healthy tissue. The same argument goes. I was involved with a program dealing with pions, which is another part of the thing that holds the nucleus together. The question, what did I do? I did the dosimetry. Somebody else decided who was going to get the irradiation. That’s the same place that the fellow walked into, a UT [University of Tennessee] employee, and he got the high dose.
Weisenberg: I think pretty much my last question is could talk a little bit about why Oak Ridge is significant in the development of nuclear medicine and health physics and with understanding how to fight disease today.
Cloutier: The long pause is because almost whatever I say takes away from what is going on today. Instrumentation has changed tremendously. Just before the Medical Division shut down a few years before, we got our very first CT, computerized tomography, unit. It used to be called CAT. As time goes by, things change tremendously. What’s changed in Oak Ridge, it used to be a small hospital. The hospital had one radiologist, Dr. Ball. Dr. Ball and I – I used to calibrate his instruments – he had two x-ray units. He had one diagnostic one and one therapy x-ray unit. Today, if I go to Oak Ridge Hospital, which lab or which x-ray unit would I go into? The whole thing has changed.
Now, what has changed in terms of medicine? I have to keep reading my Society in Nuclear Medicine and Nuclear – they have added two more letters to their name, medical imaging or something. Just to find out what’s going on today.
One thing I left out in the talk and I hope somebody has shown it to you. Medical Division once a year would run a symposium. This happens to be the one we were in dealing with radiation dosimetry, medical radionuclides. But there are all kinds of other ones, REAC/TS people. For these, their stack is about that tall. We had people from all over the world coming to it. The big thing that we have done in the Medical Division – the same thing with the training division – we have spread the influence of the use of radioactive materials throughout the world. REAC/TS continues to do it. Training people still do it.
Because of the thing that was going on, all kinds of people wanted to come here. I have a picture of Ralph Overman with King Faisal. I have pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt who came here, who wanted to be seen with Gould Andrews. So on and on it goes. I don’t know if that answers. It was an initiator and the Medical Division got closed down. In a sense, that is the end of that. The training program continues, and if I remember right, I said it’s the longest-running program of ORINS in terms of when it started and how it’s still going.