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ORNL Building Model Submarines To Test ‘New Sonar’

September 12, 1985

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) _ Government scientists are turning out 80-foot submarine models to test sophisticated sensors that could let the Navy track nuclear subs by listening to their reactors, a researcher says.

The models are being built in a machine shop at the Department of Energy’s K-25 gaseous diffusion plant by researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Joe Lenhard, chief of research and development in Oak Ridge, said Wednesday.

The Navy hopes to expand on technology the laboratory uses to listen to commercial reactors for troubleshooting, Lenhard said. It could let the United States track enemy submarines while allowing U.S. vessels to go undetected.

″We do have some ... acoustics systems developed to listen to nuclear reactors to diagnose if there’s a problem,″ he said. ’Because of that the Navy was interested in learning about the acoustical technique.″

Every nuclear reactor has its characteristic pattern of sounds that can be mapped and studied, Lenhard said. The acoustic sensors, 10-year-old technology, ″are used routinely in reactors to look for problems such as increased flow or a pump that’s starting to make an unusual noise.

″It’s a rather routine monitoring tool. We’re just making them a little more sophisticated.″

The completed models, some up to 80 feet long, will be shipped to a deep lake in the western United States and tested using the sensors. Lenhard would not name the lake and said the project is highly classified.

The research is a joint effort by the DOE and Defense Department, said Navy spokesman Lt. Doug Hocking.

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