Educational Outreach

Quick 'Chemistry 101' Refresher

Naturally occurring Uranium (U)  is composed of isotopes, all have the same Atomic Number (92) but different Atomic Weights.  These isotopes have similar chemical properties but different nuclear properties.

  • U-238  The most plentiful/abundant; over 99% of nature uranium is U-238.
  • U-235  The only fissile uranium isotope; approximately 0.72% of natural uranium is U-235.
  • U-234  Makes up only 0.0055% (55 parts per million) of the raw uranium, although enriched uranium contains more U-234 than natural uranium.
Uranium and the Periodic Table

Mass Number is a count of the total number of protons and neutrons in an atom's nucleus.

Atomic Mass Calc

Nuclear power reactors harness the energy and heat from nuclear fission to produce the steam that runs turbines which, in turn, generate electricity (see ).

Why Enrichment?

Uranium cannot be used as a fuel or weapon in its natural state.   To be used as reactor fuel or bomb manufacture, U-235 must be separated from natural uranium.

U-235 is the only fissile isotope in natural Uranium (U), therefore Uranium must be "enriched" to have a higher percent concentration of U-235.

% of U-235 comparison

U-235 Concentration needed for:

Power reactor:

  • 3-5% of U-235
  • This level of uranium is called Low Enriched Uranium (LEU)

Nuclear weapon:

  • 90% of U-235
  • Referred to as Weapons Grade or Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

All of the uranium isotopes are fissionable materials that can undergo nuclear fission reactions (see ).  Uranium-235 is a "fissile" material meaning that it is capable of undergoing a self-generated and self-sustained nuclear fission reaction.  Uranium-234 and U-238 are capable of a fission reaction only when their fission reaction is initiated by an outside energy source such as bombardment by neutrons.

Use of uranium as a reactor fuel or weapons component requires the U-235 isotope to be "enriched" until the U-235 abundance exceeds that of natural uranium (see ).  Typical U-235 enrichment abundance for use as a nuclear fuel is 2 – 5%.  One kilogram of enriched uranium-235 has the capacity to produce as much energy as 1,500,000 kilograms (1,500 tons) of coal.

Gaseous Diffusion Enrichment Process

Gaseous Diffusion is the method used at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant to enrich uranium.  See the process broken down to the molecular level.

Uranium Enrichment Stages

The PGDP Enrichment Process as presented to the Heath Middle School

PGDP: General Information

Facts and FAQs

Document TitleDescriptionYear
FAQ: PastPublic Educational Presentation2010
FAQ: PresentPublic Educational Presentation2010
FAQ: SciencePublic Educational Presentation2010
FAQ: CleanupPublic Educational Presentation2010
FAQ: FuturePublic Educational Presentation2010

Visual Sampling Plan (VSP) Training

Visual Sample Plan Program Flyer

Twenty-five attendees participated in a two-day Battelle-Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Visual Sampling Plan Program (VSP) hands-on software training session conducted at the University of Kentucky Mining and Minerals Resources Building. 

Participants installed VSP software on their computers and each participant executed a full-scale site investigation.  Through the use of VSP’s modules, participants conducted site program setup, data input, data analysis, sampling plan design, statistical-spatial evaluation of results, and development of cleanup goals. Visit the VSP information page at for more detailed information.

Visual Sample Plan Program Flyer

VSP attendees included personnel from:

  • U.S. DOE - Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO)
  • U.S. EPA - Atlanta
  • Paducah Remediation Services, Inc. - Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP)
  • KY Environmental Protection Cabinet-Federal Facilities Unit
  • Department of Homeland Security, LAW Environmental –Atlanta
  • UK-Kentucky Transportation Center
  • UK-Kentucky Geological Survey
  • UK-Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute

Spatial Analysis Decision Assistance (SADA) Training

A total of 28 Attendees from U.S. DOE - PPPO, U.S. DOE – PGDP,  U.S. EPA - Atlanta, Paducah Remediation Services, Inc. -PGDP, KY Environmental Protection Cabinet-Federal Facilities Unit, KY Cabinet for Health Services – Environmental Monitoring Lab, UK-Kentucky Transportation Center,  UK-Kentucky Geological Survey attended two-day Statistical Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA) training at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research.

The training was conducted in collaboration with the The Institute for Environmental Modeling at the University of Tennessee, which developed and provides technical support for the Statistical Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA) software.

Spatial Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA) is free software that incorporates tools from environmental assessment fields into an effective problem solving environment. These tools include integrated modules for visualization, geospatial analysis, statistical analysis, human health risk assessment, ecological risk assessment, cost/benefit analysis, sampling design, and decision analysis. The capabilities of SADA can be used independently or collectively to address site specific concerns when characterizing a contaminated site, assessing risk, determining the location of future samples, and when designing remedial action.

Dr. Robert Stewart

Statistical Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA) Website

Adaptive Sampling and Analysis Plan (ASAP) and TRIAD Project Applications Training

A total of 26 Attendees from U.S. DOE - PPPO, U.S. DOE – PGDP, U.S. EPA – Atlanta Region IV, Paducah Remediation Services, Inc. - PGDP, the KY. Environmental Protection Cabinet-Federal Facilities Unit, Performance Results Corporation -Paducah, the KY. Cabinet for Health Services – Radiation Environmental Monitoring Lab, UK-Kentucky Transportation Center, and UK-Kentucky Geological Survey attended two-day hands-on TRIAD and ASAP training course at the UK – KY Geological Survey Core Barn.

Course instructors had been long-time collaborators in the development of the USEPA Technology Innovation Office’s TRIAD program and the DOE Argonne National Laboratory’s Adaptive Sampling and Analysis Plan program. Each participant conducted an evaluation, development of sampling methods, sampling plans, remediation and remedial verification strategies based on a multi-contaminant site utilizing "real-time" field instrumentation to accomplish attainment of project clean-up goals.

Dr. Robert Johnson, Argonne National Laboratory
Deana Crumbling, USEPA, Technology Innovation Program

TRIAD Resource Center website: 

Physical Models Devleopment and Construction

The Paducah Citizens Advisory Board, DOE Site Office, DOE Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) and University of Kentucky (UK) researchers routinely discussed needs to provide an interactive map or maps of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) that could be used to support discussions about industrial site cleanup, facilities demolition, waste disposal, groundwater remediation, future use, and other issues. Historically, such a request would be answered with a series of very basic, one dimensional subject matter maps.

Discussions shifted to models to address the cited needs. Models would typically be 3-D milled surface topography with topographic maps or imagery overlays – plastic trees - maybe some physical buildings. The simple milled surface model was unlikely to serve the intended uses. The size of the PGDP and the thousands of acres impacted by historical industrial operations simply would not translate well with traditional map and model approaches.

Initial discussions with the UK-College of Design indicated that a model appropriate to support multiple uses and convey multiple relationships on a scale of the PGDP and its environs was a very achievable challenge. Proposals to build a physical model of the PGDP site and environs were discussed, drafted, reviewed and put in place. An initial model of the PGDP and vicinity was to be constructed for the PGDP Citizens Advisory Board at a scale of 1:350. The design of the PGDP model was generated via interactive Design Industry methods which became the charge of the UK-College of Design (CoD) Spring 2011 Graduate Design Studio.

By the second week of the spring 2011 semester, the Graduate Design Studio had launched The Atomic Cities Project. CoD students collected information. First, information related to the Manhattan Project was collected, followed by information related to the City of Paducah and PGDP’s quietly kept history as a very important player in the Cold War. The Graduate Design Studio utilized extensive site-related information compiled by the Public End State Vision Project,, and followed up with additional information about PGDP operations, cities with similar industry, large scale aquaponic operations, indoor food production, the railroad industry, Federal rail system upgrade plans, the radioactive materials industry, nuclear power, n uclear power trends, the electronics industry, robotics, cities with similar histories and environmental challenges, PGDP impacts to the environment, the two largest TCE plumes in the DOE Complex, groundwater cleanup technologies, worker and neighbor lawsuits, and the regulatory environmental cleanup process.

By mid-semester, the Graduate Design Studio completed organization of PGDP-related information into four common module themes amongst Atomic Cities: Energy, Economy, Education and Environment. The four modules addressed characteristics of cities with atomic pasts, similar environmental impacts, uncertain economic futures. A fifth module "The Problem is the Solution" proposed visionary and contemporary options for future development of the PGDP and vicinity.

Three semesters of Graduate Design Studios aptly named "Manhattan Redux", "Paducah+", and "Making City" integrated with the Spring 2011 Atomic Cities Project. Each studio developed a model relative to conveying the information related to the PGDP, infrastructure, and impacts to the local environment.

Spring and Summer 2011 Atomic Cities – Manhattan Redux Studio – 3 Dimensional Model of PGDP and Vicinity and the underlying aquifer.

Fall 2011 Atomic Cities – Paducah + Studio – Industrial Site Model

Spring 2012 Atomic Cities – (re) Making City – International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam Exhibit,

Project Team

Project Manager:

Steve Hampson

Principle Investigators:

Anne Filson AIA, Filson and Rohrbacher, UK CoD Asst. Prof.
Gary Rohrbacher AIA, Filson and Rohrbacher, UK CoD Asst. Prof.

Post-Graduate Research Assistants:

Maggie Clines
Sydney Kidd
Carolyn Parrish

Graduate Research Assistants:

Mikaela Coston
Ross Graham
Jennifer Jourdan
Michael Schenkenfelder


Bridgett Click
Mikaela Coston
Lindsey Elza
Matthew Gannon
Lauren Gilliland
Seth Gover
Ross Graham
Christopher Hayse
Jennifer Jourdan
Jon Lee
Jenna Martini
Melvin McClure

Heather Micallef
Bobby Morris
Joseph O’Toole
Nate Owings
Araba Prah
Bradley Prinze
Josh Robinson
Anne Schwab
Taylor Steele
Katherine Vanhoose
Kellin Vellenoweth
Carrie Wahl

DOE-EM Flickr Page – CoD PGDP Model Exhibits

DOE-EM Flickr Page – CoD PGDP Model Exhibits

The Models

Model 1 – Manhattan Redux Studio - PGDP Aquifer and Environs
PGDP PLUME MODEL Exhibition + Scientific Tool

Model 1 – Manhattan Redux Studio - PGDP Aquifer and Environs

Model 2 – Paducah + Studio – PGDP Industrial Area
PGDP INDUSTRIAL SITE MODEL Exhibition + Scientific Tool

Model 2 – Paducah + Studio – PGDP Industrial Area

Model 3 – Making City Studio – PGDP and Vicinity Layer Model
8 Piece PGDP Site Layers Model Exhibition + Scientific Tool

Model 3 – Making City Studio – PGDP and Vicinity Layer Model

Atomic Cities – DOE PGDP CAB National CAB Chairs Meeting Exhibition

Atomic Cities – DOE PGDP CAB National CAB Chairs Meeting Exhibition

Atomic Cities – University of Kentucky CAER Exhibition

WPSD Local 6 News featured the University of Kentucky, Center for Applied Energy Research Exhibition.  The newscast is titled, "The Future on Full Display".
The newscast can be viewed on YouTube

(re)MAKING CITY – International Architecture Biennale Exposition

The Main Exhibition Hall Exhibits (below) and Banner at the
International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, April – August 2012

See more photos from the Exposition

PGDP Groundwater Accomplishments Model Exhibition - WKCTC

Groundwater Accomplishments Model Exhibition – WKCTC – Introductory Board

Groundwater Accomplishments Model Exhibition – WKCTC – Introductory Board

Groundwater Accomplishments Model Exhibition – WKCTC – GW Accomplishments Display

Groundwater Accomplishments Model Exhibition – WKCTC – GW Accomplishments Display

University of Kentucky College of Design: Atomic Cities Graduate Design Studio

Download a copy of
"Paducah; Atomic City" by the University of Kentucky, College of Design Stuudents, January 2011.
(52 MB)

Atomic City Book Cover

Atomic City Book Cover

April 16th 2011 CoD Lecture in Paducah –
First Public Presentation & Discussion about PGDP Physical Models and Atomic Cities Project.

(re) Making City, HOPEFUL FUTURES,
Lessons from the Manhattan Project


The Manhattan Project began in 1939 in an earnest attempt to develop the nuclear power and weapons that were to protect the West and its global interests. The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), built at the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the beginning of the Cold War was the first stop for all of the raw uranium to be enriched for the nation's energy and weapons programs. Paducah was only one of dozens of similar sites nationwide, most top-secret, each part of this network which provided essential processing, manufacturing and services to the Nation's nuclear program.

The Atomic Cities Research Group took on the task of proposing a hopeful future for the PGDP. Recognizing that we are not hydro geologists, economists, or decontamination specialists, but designers, what role can we play in proposing the plant's future? Furthermore, what is the magnitude of the contamination below? What type of contamination exists? Should we try to preserve the jobs at the plant, or recreate them? What can be done to preserve the enormous structures on the site?

Faced with these and other seemingly insurmountable questions, we began to exemplify the audacity of the original Manhattan Project scientists. How were they able to maintain confidence in the face of so many daunting questions? How did they mitigate the risks involved in pursuing such speculative work - with almost unimaginable consequence? Over time we have realized that this is the territory where designers typically operate best. Not as specialists, but as generalists, we began putting together the pieces of this enormous puzzle. Over time, we began to understand some of the complex interrelationships that resulted in the site's present condition and began to determine how they would need to change for progress to occur.


Download a pdf of this Display Board (approx. 6 MB)

Hopeful Futures; Lessons from the Manhattan Project Hopeful Futures; Lessons from the Manhattan Project

Manhattan Redux

Over the three semesters from the spring of 2011 through the spring of 2012, the Manhattan Redux and Paducah + studios have been working as Atomic Cities Research Teams, which in turn are a part of University of Kentucky College of Design’s (UK CoD's) River Cities Projects.

The Spring 2011 Manhattan Redux studio took on the tremendous challenge of developing a 150 year scenario plan for one of the most contaminated top-secret sites in the nation’s history, the Padauch Gaseous Diffusion Plant(PGDP). The site, which has been the point of origin for fissile materials bound for both energy and defense for the last 60 years, consequently has a nearly five mile long heterogeneous plume of contaminants running beneath it. Slated for closure in the near future, the PGDP has been the primary generator of the regional economy for over half a century, initially providing tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. Closure will eliminate the 2,500 employees that are left. Still, there is tremendous uncertainty regarding the plume that lurks below. The Manhattan Redux studio refused to be disheartened by this somewhat overwhelming scenario, and instead channeled the audacity of original Manhattan Project scientists by proclaiming that instead of the region's demise, the plant's problems are indeed the solution. The studio proposed an economy generated by the serious undertaking of cleanup, and built a first-ever 1:350 scale model of the site and plume itself. The model is intended to provoke conversation and debate among scientists, and to communicate issues to the public, all with the hope of stimulating progress toward resolution of aquifer and ground contaminations, enabling regeneration of the site and region.

The Fall 2011 Paducah + studio started with the Manhattan Redux studio's conclusion that the problem is the solution. The studio was organized into three groups, each related to one another in multiple ways.  In this way, a networked set of processes was proposed. The Paducah + group considered Paducah's particular issues through an analysis of nine global cities, each with toxic concentrations similar in size or virulence to Paducah's plume.

This group considered Economic, Environmental, Energy and Education (the four E's) as parameters essential to the health and growth of any community, and they are proposing a methodology for the regeneration of these towns through alignment and equilibration of the four E's. The Radical Remediation team researched remediation methods and also proposed a demonstration. The proposed treatment facility for the site will be based on a local knowledge of the infrastructure, dependent upon local labor, focused on a local problem, but also generating intellectual capital and technical innovations exportable to the world. The Radical Remediation group is proposing remediation techniques at the nexus of biotech and robotics - interrelating freely across humans, things, technology and nature. Rather than propose a typical plan, or planning guidelines, the site team is proposing performance specifications for operations at the site that might successfully generate continued stability and growth, across Energy, Environment, Economy and Education - seen as the essential building blocks of a healthy community. The site team's work is interrelated with the macro-economic principles proposed by the Paducah + group, and the regenerative potentials found in the Radical Remediation group.

The Spring 2012 semester's task was to gather all of the materials developed in the first two semesters and coalesce them into a thoughtful, concise, provocative and hopeful story. This story will be presented in several venues, including: the National Citizens Advisory Board meeting in Paducah, attended by representatives from all 200+ DOE legacy contaminated sites across the United States, the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research Exhibition on April 27, where various State and Local officials were present, and as part of UK CoD's River Cities Project at the International Architecture Bieannial Rotterdam (IABR) opening on April 18 - attended by over a 100,000 planners and designers from every country in the world. The studio's optimum outcome would be to successfully link all of these venues with the idea that - The Problem is the Solution.

Download a pdf of this Display Board (approx. 3MB)

Atomic Cities Display: Manhattan Redux

Shared Pasts and Futures


During the Cold War, over 1200 communities across the U.S. were implicitly tied together in a network of defense related industries and efforts. Initially, each location benefitted from massive public investment, affording a high quality of life and education to their citizens. Today, many of these communities are struggling both environmentally and economically.

At the time, little was known about the consequences of these processes on the environment. Today, as plants close down and environmental damage is assessed, jobs are disappearing and cleanup estimates are skyrocketing. Many of these communities are becoming overwhelmed by the question of how to handle this situation.

By evaluating several of these communities across the country and the world, the Atomic Cities Research Group made the observation that Energy, Economy, Education and Environment are inextricably related. Further, the health and wealth of any community can be diagnosed through the success of numbers and kinds of interrelations between and among these attributes at any time. To prove this hypothesis, the group needed to learn how these elements act in different scenarios.

The team ran exhaustive comparisons of nine Atomic Cities involving almost 100 different criteria. Seven of the sites are in the United States, but Shannon, Quebec, Canada and Seascale, England were also considered very closely. By understanding how various cities handle cleanup, employment, stress and health issues, education, public participation and other factors, the Atomic Cities Research Group is starting to understand how deeply interconnected Energy, Economy, Education and Environment really are. The Atomic Cities Research Group believes that "Atomic" communities can learn from one another.

It is from this analysis that the team draws its greatest optimism. When clean Energy, thriving Economy, Educated populace and a healthy Environment are poised in precise dynamic equilibrium, the Atomic Cities Research Group believes that growth will follow.

Download a pdf of this Display Board (approx. 2MB)

Networked Communities, Shared Pasts and Futures Networked Communities, Shared Pasts and Futures

(re) Making City, NETWORKED IMAGING,
        Becoming Plant, Becoming Machine


One of the first things that the Atomic Cities Research Group was asked to do was to provide a 1:350 physical model of ground concentrations present under the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP).  We were amazed to find that scientists typically understand the ground concentrations primarily as sets of numbers and points. As designers we would first seek to define the slowly moving shape, formed by underground features, dynamic attributes, and the chemical make-up of the substances themselves.

Because of this, we began to take our imaging role very seriously. After our first pass at the 'plume model', we began to think of other ways to simply communicate the issues at hand.

As part of a comprehensive 'Radical Remediation' proposal, the Atomic Cities Research Group developed a 'plume' dashboard to be used by both scientists and citizens (Figure 1). The proposed dashboard would show every plume presently recorded, each with location and kinds of contaminants, with or without surrounding geographic information. Residents of any community, with contaminants or without, could log in to follow remediation efforts, plume movements, and successful cleanup strategies.

Information on this dashboard would be gathered by swarms of networked passive, sensing, 3d printed remediating devices or 'robots.' For these robots, rather than the typical sources, we took inspiration from sugar maple 'propellers', floating sticks and acorns - because nature has already designed these things to distribute themselves(Figure 2). Composed of variable rate degradation waxes, starches and other materials, these robots would be designed to decompose in a way that delivers remediating chemicals where they need to be over extended periods of time.

In addition to the dashboard and the robots, the Atomic Cities Research Group also proposed a series of hybrid species of plants that could be put into service to help remediate. Did you know that Poplar trees have natural properties that can help to degrade artificial chemical spills? The only problem is that these trees typically have shallow root systems that would not reach the depth of the contaminants in Paducah. The Group proposes grafting the Poplar tree with a plant that has a deep root system in order to create a new species for the job.

Download a pdf of this Display Board (approx. 12MB)

'Radical Remediation' Networked "Real-Time" Dashboard Proposal

Atomic Cities Display: Networked Imaging

Comprehensive 'Radical Remediation' Proposal



April 2012 Paradoxically, one of the more difficult considerations this team faced was what to do with the four massive buildings at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), which at the time of construction, were among the largest on the planet.

One would think that a team of architecture students would know precisely what should be done with the buildings, but our hesitation was two-fold. First, there is the issue of whether their historical use has left them too contaminated to even consider for future uses, and next, if we were to push for their reuse, there would be the necessity for whatever we were proposing to be as extraordinary as the structures are themselves. In short, what we propose would need to live up to this challenge.

It did not take long to make the decision to keep the buildings in our proposal. Polemically, they need to stay. If we are to claim the audacity of the original Manhattan Project scientists then we needed to believe that anything is possible. When it came time to propose what might occupy the buildings and the site, rather than proposing something spectacular of similar scale - like an amusement park - we instead chose to focus on something much more audacious. We wanted to find a way in which the site could fulfill the original brief: to continue operation as an economic generator for the city of Paducah and for the region at large for the foreseeable future.

Taking the lessons we've learned regarding the necessary networking and constructive interconnections of Energy, Economy, Education and Environment (the four E’s), we sought to propose a dynamically equilibrated future scenario for the site that would hopefully lead to future growth. Ultimately, the proposal for the site also became a description of the interrelationships proposed between the four "E's" in our healthy communities hypothesis.

To successfully clean up the plume, we need a commitment to research and education that would provide the knowledge base to make it happen. The outcome of that research would generate an industry of remediation technologies at the nexus of biotechnology and robotics that would occur on the site. To attract and power this industry, we would need access to safe, clean energy that we propose would be the focus of yet another research and education facility, also on utilize the (at some estimates) two-century supply of nuclear site. This effort would work to find the cleanest, safest way to energy already present. We propose (with borrowed courage from our Manhattan Project inspiration) that this happen at the PGDP.

Ultimately, the intellectual capital generated through the successful research, development and remediation industry generated at PGDP can become an exportable commodity. We imagine this to transform the region into the attractor that it could be - perhaps even resurrecting Paducah's rail past - and becoming the nexus of an American maglev rail line.

Paducah is in an advantageous position to serve as a model of industry growth and environmental remediation in the next century. In this way, the Atomic Cities Research Group believes that the problem could ultimately be the solution.

Download a pdf of this Display Board (approx. 20MB)

Atomic Cities Display: The Problem is the Solution Atomic Cities Display: The Problem is the Solution

Atomic City Project: Future Use Model

Acknowledgement of Support