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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 13: The Aftermath of the Arkansas Trial

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Appeal to Continue Research

Mr. Rossbach's offer of assistance was appreciated, and I decided to ask if Senator Sasser would consider appealing to the Department of Energy for a continuation of my guest position. In the next few weeks I received copies of the following letters:

Mr. William S. Heffelfinger
Assistant Secretary for Management
    and Administration
Department of Energy
Washington, D. C. 20585
(May 18, 1982)

Dear Mr. Heffelfinger:

This letter is written on behalf of Robert V. Gentry, Associate Professor of Physics at Columbia Union College and currently Guest Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Mr. Gentry has been a Guest Scientist at ORNL for the past 13 years. During this time, he has published nearly 20 scientific reports, some of which have received national recognition. I have enclosed two published commentaries concerning Mr. Gentry's work which testify to the depth and importance of the research he has been able to conduct while at ORNL.

In addition, Robert Gentry has been particularly helpful to me and my staff on energy-related matters, particularly nuclear waste site selection issues. He has provided valuable evaluations and technical expertise, which has assisted us in ascertaining the full implications of various energy policies.

It is my understanding that Mr. Gentry has been notified that his current dollar-a-year consultant contract will be terminated on June 30, 1982. I also understand that he has recently discovered new evidence relating to nuclear waste containment about which he would like to conduct experiments and further research. However, he will be unable to do this if his contract is terminated on schedule.

I wanted to take this opportunity to bring my interest in Mr. Gentry to your attention and to request that he be allowed to continue his work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, if at all possible. I am sure that an extension of his contract would allow him to finish his research and prepare conclusions based on those experiments.

[p. 168]

I would greatly appreciate any assistance you can offer Mr. Gentry in this regard, and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

Sincerely,

/s/ Jim Sasser

Jim Sasser
United States Senator
(Sasser 1982a; Appendix)

I was grateful for this cordial response, but as the following letters show, it was ineffective in securing a renewal of my research contract.

(June 16,1982)

Dear Robert:

I wanted to bring you up to date on the latest information I have received concerning your contract with the Department of Energy as a Guest Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

You will recall that I contacted Mr. William S. Heffelfinger, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Management and Administration, Washington, D. C., on your behalf. As a result, I have received the enclosed letter from Mr. Heffelfinger, which is for your information.

Robert, it was a pleasure for me to make this inquiry, and I regret that a more favorable response was not received. However, I want to encourage you to contact me again in the future whenever I may be of service to you on matters of mutual concern.

Sincerely,

/s/ Jim

Jim Sasser
United States Senator
(Sasser 1982b)
********
Honorable Jim Sasser
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(June 14, 1982)

Dear Senator Sasser:

This is in reference to your letter dated May 18, 1982, on behalf of Robert V. Gentry, a guest scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) operated by Union Carbide Corporation for the Department of Energy.

At the time of his assignment at ORNL 13 years ago, Mr. Gentry's [p. 169] supporting sponsor was Columbia Union College. The original purpose of his research was to study pleochroic halos, an area of interest to ORNL at that time, but a field of less significance to the Laboratory's mission in recent years.

Mr. Gentry's more recent efforts in nuclear waste containment referenced in your letter are quite peripheral to the primary thrust of ORNL's ongoing waste isolation programs.

When ORNL entered into its current subcontract with Mr. Gentry, effective July 1, 1981, it was for him to continue his own research on halos, using Laboratory facilities. It was anticipated that he could finish his work during the year; no other work was authorized under the subcontract. He was advised in June 1981 that he should seek other arrangements under which to pursue his research interests beyond June 30, 1982.

Diminishing ORNL budgets require marked cutbacks in activities not directly related to its priority program areas. Unfortunately, Mr. Gentry's work does not fall in that category. Accordingly, we cannot be encouraging about an extension of his agreement at ORNL.

Thank you for your continuing interest in Department of Energy programs.

Sincerely,

/s/ William S. Heffelfinger

William S. Heffelfinger
Assistant Secretary
Management and Administration
Department of Energy
(Heffelfinger 1982; Appendix)

The message in Heffelfinger's letter was quite clear. The recent attention given my work in the U. S. Senate was not a sufficient basis for the Laboratory to renew my guest-scientist status.

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