National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             FREDERIC W.ALBAUGH                                         3
                         FREDERIC W.ALBAUGH
                                  BY ERSEL A. EVANS
                FRED WAS BORN IN ALBIA, IOWA, received a B.A. degree in chemistry
            from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1935; an M.S. degree in
            chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1938; and a Ph.D. in chemistry from
            the University of Michigan in 1941. He was a research chemist with Union Oil
            Company in Wilmington, California, from 1941 to 1943 and 1945 to 1947; and a
            highly respected research chemist with the Manhattan Project from 1944 to 1945.
            His wife, Edrey, was also with the Manhattan Project. He played a major role in
            the project and at the Hanford Plant with General Electric Company in
            developing a series of increasingly effective processes for separating plutonium
            from irradiated uranium fuel. For example, the waste generated per ton of
            irradiated fuel processed decreased thirty-fold over a period of only one decade
            as a result of the reprocessing developments for which Fred furnished much of
            the vision in addition to providing and developing world leadership in a brilliant,
            but self-effacing way. He also provided leadership in developing processes for
            extracting desired isotopes from high-level wastes and for vitrification of the
                He played an important role in the formation of the Hanford Laboratories in
            1956 to integrate all the research and development activities formerly spread
            across the Hanford site in separate organizations dealing with reactors, fuels,
            reprocessing, and
             FREDERIC W.ALBAUGH                                         4
             other technical operations. He then envisioned and implemented a program for
             peaceful use of plutonium. With the help of many other organizations worldwide,
             particularly other U.S. laboratories such as those operated by Argonne National
             Laboratory at Idaho Falls, Idaho, processes were developed for a wide range of
             plutonium, uranium, and thorium ceramic, metal, and cermet fuels. These were
             successfully tested in many reactors in the United States and in other countries.
             Perhaps most important was the conception, building, operation, and
             decommissioning of the Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor. The reactor was built
             for $2.3 million less than the $15 million cost estimate while meeting the two-
             year schedule and operated from 1963 to 1968. This program was an important
             part of the foundation for a wide range of government and industrial activities,
             including both thermal and fast reactors, isotopic heat sources, nuclear rockets,
             and, perhaps most important, the present awesome commitment to disposal of
             large quantities of weapons materials. These activities have ranged from
             fundamental property measurements to urgent safeguards, transportation, and
             waste disposal problems.
                In 1964 a management “revolution” occurred at Hanford, partly as a result
             of a joint diversification study by Albaugh and Paul Holstead of the Atomic
             Energy Commission (AEC). Operations originally managed by General Electric
             Company were opened to bids from other organizations. As a result, Battelle
             Memorial Institute assumed responsibility for operation of the laboratories as
             Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL—later, Pacific Northwest National
             Laboratory [PNNL]) or Battelle North-west, with Sherwood Fawcett as the
             director. Battelle provided a major financial contribution, which resulted in
             building a series of facilities, starting with a $20 million Richland Research
             Complex. Ultimately, these expanded to include the Sequim Marine Sciences
             Center on the Washington coast and the Behavioral Science Center in Seattle,
             Washington. The long-time medical, environmental, and related studies of
             medical isotopes—their measurement, problems, and uses—survived these
             revolutions and continued as a world-class Life Sciences Center pioneered by Dr.
             William Bair as part of PNL.
             FREDERIC W.ALBAUGH                                         5
                Overlapping this major management change was another vision of Fred’s—a
            large (400 megawatt) fast reactor test facility and supporting facilities, which
            could evaluate breeder reactor fuels and materials under a range of operating
            conditions. Responsibility for the actual construction and successful operation of
            this and other facilities was assumed by Westinghouse. The transfer of many
            Battelle employees to Westinghouse (with Battelle employment dropping from
            2,300 to 1,300 mostly because of this change) left a new and potentially fatal
            problem for Battelle. But this was successfully met by another “revolution” in
            which Fred played a major role, ultimately as director of the Battelle Northwest
            Laboratory from 1967 to 1970. The challenge was to negotiate with the Atomic
            Energy Commission an “1831 Contract” which would provide permission for
            Battelle to do research and technology transfer to industrial and other
            organizations, as well as the AEC or other government organizations. Thanks to
            the dedication and statesmanship of both government and Battelle employees, the
            contract was successfully negotiated, and subsequent accomplishments from “a
            unique mix of science and application with a wide range of customers” have been
            remarkable. One of the first and most impressive of these was the launching of
            the Exxon Nuclear Fuel organization.
                Ron Liikila, a long-time protégé recently summarized the decades-long
            evolution inspired and led by Fred Albaugh: “Through thirty years of change,
            researchers have invented dozens of technologies with a major impact on
            environmental restoration, energy conservation, health and national security. At
            critical points during those thirty years, PNNL also has reinvented itself, using its
            innovation and creativity to turn crisis into opportunity. That’s the wave of the
            future.” The recent construction and operation of the Environmental Molecular
            Sciences Laboratory as a collaborative, multidisciplinary research institute is a
            good example of this vision as well as a monument to the recently deceased
            PNNL Director Bill Wiley who made it happen.
                Fred served as Battelle’s corporate director for environment and energy
            programs from 1969 to 1970 and as consultant for other high-priority laboratory
            programs from 1970 until his
             FREDERIC W.ALBAUGH                                         6
             retirement in 1983. He was a superb writer and was the author of many papers
             and patents, many of which are still classified. Government missions included
             Australia and Europe, and he was adviser to the U.S.-Canada Joint Program
             Heavy Water Reactors. He was active in community activities such as the
             Washington State Human Rights Commission and the Washington State
             University Advisory Group. He was a fellow of the American Nuclear Society
             and the American Institute of Chemists, and he was a member of the National
             Academy of Engineering, American Chemical Society, American Association for
             the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and Alpha Chi
                He is survived by his wife, Edrey Albaugh, and three children, their
             spouses, and four grandchildren: Jeffrey S. and Francine Albaugh of Portland,
             Oregon; James F. and Audrey Albaugh of Los Angeles, California; Jean A. and
             Gale McKnight of Anchorage, Alaska; grandchildren—Kestly and Stephen
             Albaugh and Lee and Lindsey McKnight, and brother, Marion D.Albaugh, of
             Olympia, Washington.
             FREDERIC W.ALBAUGH                                                7
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