Clarice E. Phelps

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Clarice E. Phelps
File:Oakridge clarice phelps interview.jpg Oakridge clarice phelps interview.jpg
At Oak Ridge in 2018
BornClarice E. Salone
🏳️ Nationality
🏫 EducationTennessee State University (BS, 2003)
💼 Occupation

Clarice E. Phelps (née Salone) is an American nuclear chemist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and formerly a US Navy Officer in the Navy Nuclear Power Program. She was part of the team that discovered element 117, tennessine. At Oak Ridge, Phelps works as a program manager for industrial use isotopes, and as a researcher studying the processing of radioactive "super heavy" transuranic elements, such as plutonium-238 used to fuel NASA's deep space exploration missions, and californium-252 used to treat certain types of cancer.

Early life and education[edit]

Phelps‘s interest in science began as a child when her mother gave her a microscope set and encyclopedia-based science kit, and was nurtured by her secondary school science teachers.[1] She is an alumna of the Tennessee Aquatic Project and Development Group (TAP), a nonprofit youth organization for at-risk youth.[2] Phelps earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Tennessee State University in 2003.[1][2][3]


US Navy[edit]

After graduating from Tennessee State University, Phelps joined the United States Navy, where she served as an officer[2] in the Nuclear Power Program,[1][4] which operates and maintains the nuclear reactors that power the Navy's submarines and aircraft carriers.[5][6] Phelps has said she joined because she was drawn to "the mystery" of nuclear science, "partly out of fascination and partly to dispel some of the fears others had towards the field."[1] While in the Navy, Phelps worked in nuclear power, reactor theory, and thermodynamics.[1]

Oak Ridge National Laboratory[edit]

File:Oakridge's Dr Rose Boll and Clarice Phelps in lab.jpg
Rose Boll and Phelps (right) working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2018

In 2009, Phelps joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory,[1][7] which was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project and is the largest science and energy laboratory in the US Department of Energy, with an annual budget of $1.4 billion.[8] At Oak Ridge, Phelps works in the Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate[9] as the program manager for the nickel-63 and selenium-75 industrial isotope programs.[1][4][7] In addition to being a program manager, she is a member of the research and development staff in Oak Ridge's Nuclear Materials Processing Group, where she works with "super heavy" transuranic isotopes that are produced mainly by nuclear transmutation.[7] She is also a member of the Medical, Industrial and Research Isotopes Group,[1] where her research focuses on separation and analysis of elements such as actinium, lanthanum, europium, and samarium.[1][7]

In 2010, Phelps was involved in the discovery of the second-heaviest known element, tennessine, element 117,[4][9] serving as part of the team that purified berkelium used to confirm the discovery of tennessine.[1][7][10] Berkelium-249 was produced through intense neutron irradiation of cesium and americium using Oak Ridge's High Flux Isotope Reactor, then shipped to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and combined with calcium-48 in a fusion reaction to create tennessine.[11] Over 50 staff members from Oak Ridge contributed to the production and purification of the berkelium used in the experiment.[12]

Phelps has contributed to several other notable research efforts, including spectroscopic analysis and spectrophotometric valence state studies of plutonium-238[13] and neptunium-237 and 238 for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA).[7] The plutonium-238 produced at Oak Ridge starting in 2015 was the nation's first in over 25 years and will be used to fuel NASA's deep space exploration missions.[14] Phelps has also studied electrodeposition with californium-252 for the Californium Rare Isotope Breeder Upgrade project (CARIBU).[7] Oak Ridge is the only US producer of californium-252 (used in cancer treatments and other applications) and produces over 70% of the world's supply.[14]

Memberships and awards[edit]

In 2017, Phelps won the YWCA Knoxville Tribute to Women Technology, Research, and Innovation Award, which recognizes "local women who lead their fields in technology and excel in community service".[4][9][15] Phelps is a member of the American Chemical Society[1][7] and serves on Oak Ridge's Educational Outreach Committee as its diversity chair for Knox County Schools.[1][4][7][9] Phelps helped establish a program to teach robotics, drones, circuitry, and coding to inner city high school students in Knoxville, TN through the ASCEND program of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority's graduate chapter, among other STEM outreach programs for local students.[1][4][9]


  • Matoš, Milan; Boll, Rose A.; Phelps, Clarice E.; Torrico, Matthew N.; van Cleve, Shelley M.; Lewis, Benjamin E. (2013-10-01). Electrodeposition of Californium Using Isobutanol and Aqueous Ammonium Acetate. APS Division of Nuclear Physics Meeting Abstracts. pp. –009. Retrieved 2019-02-05.[7]
  • Van Cleve, S.M.; Boll, R.A.; Phelps, C.E.; Ezold, J.G. (May 2012). Recovery and Purification of Berkelium-249 for SHE Research. Poster Presentation for 36th Actinide Separations Conference, Chattanooga, TN.[7]
  • Torrico, M.N.; Boll, R.A.; Matos, M.; Phelps, C.E. (June 2013). Electrodeposition of Actinide Compounds from Aqueous Ammonium Acetate Matrix. Presentation for the 245th American Chemical Society National Meeting, New Orleans, LA.[7][16]
  • Warburton, Jamie L.; Phelps, Clarice E.; Benker, Dennis; Patton, Bradley D.; Wham, Robert M. (2013-01-01). UV-Visible Spectroscopic Process Monitor for Hot Cell Mixer-settler Separations at ORNL's Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Retrieved 2019-02-05.[7]
  • McFarlane, Joanna; Delmau, Laetitia Helene; DePaoli, David W.; Mattus, Catherine H.; Phelps, Clarice E.; Roach, Benjamin D. (2015-07-01). Hydroxylamine Nitrate Decomposition under Non-radiological Conditions. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Retrieved 2019-02-05.[7]
  • Patton, Bradley D.; Robinson, Sharon M.; Benker, Dennis; Phelps, Clarice E. (2016-01-01). Lessons Learned from Processing Mark-18A Targets at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  • Phelps, C.; Delmau, L.; Boll, R.; Hindman, C. (August 2016). Investigations Using LN, LN2 and LN3 resins for Separation of Actinium from Lanthanuum. Presentation for the 252nd American Chemical Society National Meeting, Philadelphis, PA.[7]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Simoneau, Sean (2018-12-17). "Clarice Phelps: Dedicated service to science and community". Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Tennessee Aquatic Project and Development Group" (PDF). Tennessee Aquatic Projectand Development Group. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-02-01. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  3. "Spring Commencement Exercise of the Ninety-First Year" (PDF). Tennessee State University. 2003-05-10. p. 22. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-09-08. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "YWCA Tribute to Women finalists and special award winners". Knoxville News Sentinel/USA Today. 2017-06-30. Archived from the original on 2018-09-08. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  5. Dabney, Tamara R. (2016-10-11). "Nuclear Power: A Satisfying Career Fulfilling the Navy's Needs". US Navy. Archived from the original on 2017-06-04. Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  6. Goering, Tom (2018-06-08). "Superior Training and Opportunity: Navy Nuclear Power Program". Navy CyberSpace. Archived from the original on 2018-10-21. Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 "Clarice E Phelps". Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Archived from the original on 2018-09-01. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  8. "Solving the big problems". Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Archived from the original on 2019-01-08. Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Ellis, Jason (2017-09-19). "Phelps wins YWCA Tribute to Women". Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Archived from the original on 2018-09-01. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  10. Chapman, Kit (2019-08-27). Superheavy: Making and Breaking the Periodic Table. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 9781472953896. Search this book on Logo.png
  11. Oganessian, Yu. Ts.; Abdullin, F. Sh.; Bailey, P. D.; Benker, D. E.; et al. (2010-04-09). "Synthesis of a New Element with Atomic Number Z=117". Physical Review Letters. 104 (14): 142502. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.142502. Retrieved 2019-02-06. (PDF Archived 2016-12-19 at the Wayback Machine)
  12. Roberto, Jim (2016-07-21). "The Discovery of Element 117" (PDF). Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  13. DePaoli, David W.; Benker, Dennis; Delmau, Laetitia Helene; Sherman, Steven R.; et al. (2017-10-01). Status Summary of Chemical Processing Development in Plutonium-238 Supply Program. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Retrieved 2019-02-06. Experimentation and analysis for process development was performed by members of the Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division, including Jonathan Burns, Kevin Felker, Chris Jensen, Catherine Mattus, Kristian Myhre, Joanna McFarlane, Clarice Phelps, and Joseph Spahr. Inventory management support was provided by Jon Garrison, Laura Harvey, Riley Hunley, Tom Hylton, Robin Taylor, and Gary West.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Parks, Cecil (2018). "Innovation Through Nuclear Science and Technology" (PDF). Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  15. "YWCA spotlights Karen Weekly at annual Tribute to Women". University of Tennessee Athletics. 2017-09-15. Archived from the original on 2018-09-01. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  16. Torrico, M. N.; Boll, R. A.; Matos, M. (2015-08-01). "Electrodeposition of actinide compounds from an aqueous ammonium acetate matrix: Experimental development and optimization". Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment. 790: 64–69. doi:10.1016/j.nima.2015.03.056. ISSN 0168-9002. Retrieved 2019-02-06. This work was performed at the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center (REDC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) under the supervision of the Nuclear Materials Processing Group (NMPG), which is part of the Nuclear Security and Isotopes Technology Division (NSITD) ... thanks to Sandra Davern for radiographic imaging and to Clarice Phelps and Donny McInturff of REDC for materials and chemical support.

External links[edit]

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