Lorraine Swift Abbott
Lorraine Swift Abbott
Lorraine Abbott founded Tec-Com Inc. in 1986 and served as its president until she resigned that position in 2014 at age 88 and reduced her work load in company projects.
When she formed Tec-Com, Lorraine was newly retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where she had been a technical editor and writer in the fields of radiation shielding research and nuclear engineering for 38 years. Her educational preparation for that work consisted of a 1948 bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee, combined with years of compulsive writing that included being a reporter for the college newspaper for three years and serving as the newspaper’s editor her senior year. Her education continued throughout her years at ORNL as she witnessed the development of new scientific fields and assisted research scientists in documenting their work. In addition, she served as editor of radiation shielding handbooks for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons and of reports on reactor safety studies for commercial reactors, including H.B. Robinson Unit 2 and Calvert Cliffs Unit 1. She also authored a report on design techniques for shields against initial radiations from nuclear weapons and a review of a radiation shielding project for the fast flux test facility reactor constructed in Richland, Washington. In addition, she wrote a review of an interim assessment project for a proposed U-233 fuel cycle.
Throughout her career, Lorraine has been concerned about the nation’s energy future and has promoted nuclear power as an important energy source, to the extent that she was involved in the pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear debate of the 1970s. In 1981, she became the editor of the newsletter of the new international Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), which was founded with a strong nuclear power safety contingent. She held that position until 1996, receiving the society’s Outstanding Service Award in 1994. At the same time she served for several years as editor of the newsletter of the Oak Ridge/Knoxville Section of the American Nuclear Society (ANS). She was also the technical coordinator of ANS exhibits at the energy-focused 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville and the subsequent 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. And in 1992 she was the lead speaker at a Special Session of the ANS Radiation Protection and Shielding Division held in Chicago during ANS’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear chain reaction, which had occurred in that city on December 2, 1942.
Because of the nation’s decreasing interests in nuclear power when she founded Tec-Com, Lorraine’s own interests could not be translated into Tec-Com projects; therefore, she determined to focus on oil and natural gas, which she has always believed will be the major U.S. energy source for decades to come. Focusing on oil and gas was a natural transition for her since she had grown up in an Oklahoma oil and gas family and was the sister of the founder of an independent oil and gas company based in Houston. In the meantime she has not wavered in her support for nuclear power and now foresees a more disciplined nuclear community deploying standardized small modular reactors (SMRs) world-wide.
Outside her career, Lorraine has been a devoted member and worker in the United Methodist Church, although sometimes dissenting to what she considers the church’s misguided stands on technology trends, e.g., its strong anti-nuclear activism in the 1970s. Closer to home, she has been a long-time proponent for Partners for Children-Knoxville, a preschool child development center primarily serving low-income families. In 2012, she received the Hometown Heroes award from the Modern Woodmen of America for her years of volunteer support for Partners for Children. (See her blog.)