LIVERMORE, Calif., June 27, 2002 -- Leonard Gray, an alumnus of New Mexico Tech who is now a chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, recently was awarded the Glenn T. Seaborg Actinide Separations Award for his outstanding accomplishments and meritorious achievement in actinide element separations science.
The annual award was established in 1984 in honor of renowned chemist, Nobel laureate, and former chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Glenn T. Seaborg.
The criteria for the Seaborg Actinide Separations Award stipulates that recipients shall be limited to scientists or engineers who develop new or improved methods for recovery, separation, and purification of actinide elements; develop new or improved technology and equipment for plant-scale recovery, separation, and purification of actinide elements; or perform basic research directly and clearly related to the separation of actinide elements.
Actinide elements are a series of 14 radioactive metallic elements, which includes uranium, plutonium, and thorium.
"This recognition is quite overwhelming," said Gray, who received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from New
Mexico Tech in 1964. "I am honored to be recognized along the likes of someone as distinguished in science as Seaborg."
After graduating from New Mexico Tech, Gray went on to earn his master's degree in chemistry from Texas Technological College in 1967 and his doctorate in inorganic chemistry from the University of South Carolina in 1972.
During Gray's 33 years spent working at the Savannah River Plant, Savannah River Laboratory, and Livermore National Lab, he has developed processes for the recovery and purification of uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium from special reactor targets and fuels that had been designated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as "non-processable and hard-to- recover scrap and residues."
According to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Gray's processes have prevented many hundreds of tons of reactor fuels from being added to the DOE legacy materials, while adding hundreds of kilograms of plutonium to the weapons stockpile.
Gray has compiled numerous other accomplishments during his long scientific career, including having played an instrumental role in designing and developing processes for futuristic plutonium plants, such as Special Isotope Separations, Complex- 21, Plutonium Immobilization Plant, and Modern Pit Facility.
In the recent past, Gray also was named a recipient of a special "Award of Excellence" for his significant contributions
to the Nuclear Weapons Program by the DOE's Director of Military Applications.