Science: Atomic Hot Spot

The U.S. press, eager but uneasy, got its first look last week at a uranium pile in operation. The occasion: the sale at Oak Ridge of a pile-made radioactive isotope, produced as a peaceful by-product of atom bomb plutonium.

Enclosed in a white-and-green building the shielded pile looked like a mighty concrete block. A red light warned that it was working. Behind the massive walls, a blizzard of darting neutrons was smashing atomic nuclei, creating hundreds of radioactive isotopes so "hot" that invisible specks of them could kill. All around were vigilant Geiger...