The National Plutonium Registry’s name was changed to the United States Transuranium Registry (USTR) in its second year of operation, 1970. This change reflected the program’s concern for other transuranic elements as well as plutonium. The name change did not affect the basic mission of the Registry, which, according to its 1974 Annual Report, included following workers in order to ascertain if there were any adverse health effects associated with their plutonium exposures.
The registry identified work sites containing suitable populations and worked to establish agreements with these sites such that recruitment could begin. By June 1974, 5,843 transuranium workers had been identified, of whom 3,880 had signed medical and health physics records releases and 819 had given authority for autopsy. A total of 45 autopsies had been carried out, two-thirds (30) on Rocky Flats Facility workers.
Scientific activities in the first years of USTR operation were limited due to the lack of autopsy material as well as a limited staff and the need to establish procedures and organizational agreements. Still several early studies were initiated, focusing on the first 30 autopsy cases. Radiochemistry for early USTR cases was conducted at the Rocky Flats Facility, Battelle, Pacific Northwest Laboratories, and Los Alamos.
An important aspect of the USTR’s work involved developing an epidemiologic study. In 1974 a preliminary study was designed for the registry and in 1977 the advisory committee observed that the USTR and LANL had overlapping and perhaps conflicting responsibilities. Advisory committee members Breitenstein and Voelz looked into this matter and concluded that it was best left alone pending a better definition of the DOE study. Within months, the USTR shifted its focus from epidemiology to biokinetics and health physics.
The USTR Advisory Committee underwent several changes in the early 1970s and in 1977 it was restructured in order to accommodate the need for expansion and development in new areas. Several administrative changes also occurred in the 1970s. J.A. Norcross became director, but when he fell ill a year later Norwood filled in as interim director. Then in 1976 B.D. Breitenstein Jr. took over as director.
In 1978, Charles W. Mays became the chair of the Advisory Committee. Under May’s leadership, the Advisory Committee assumed a more active role in the scientific aspects of the USTR. Much of this scientific work was conducted by the Dosimetry Subcommittee and the Technical Subcommittee.