After receiving a bachelor's degree in metallurgy from a predecessor of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, James Francis Schumar began his career in 1940 as chief metallurgist for Wolverine Tube Company. During World War II he was recruited for the Manhattan Project, and he developed procedures for cladding metallic uranium fuel rods with aluminum for the first plutonium production reactors at Hanford and for Chicago Pile 3. He joined Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in 1946 as associate director of the metallurgy division and directed 50 staff metallurgists in developing materials and fabrication techniques for a variety of research reactors. During his tenure, he oversaw the first application of a uranium oxide fuel for generating civilian power, in the BORAX-4 and -5 reactors and the Experimental Boiling Water Reactor.
During his tenure as chair of the metallurgy department at Gulf General Atomic from 1960-62, he directed research on materials for gas-cooled reactors, which led to the manufacturing of fuel elements for the first civilian high-temperature gas-cooled reactor in the United States, Peach Bottom Station.
He returned to ANL in 1962, where he directed the development of tungsten-uranium oxide fuel elements, which were specified for the space propulsion program. He retired from ANL in 1984, as senior scientist. Schumar was the first chair of the ANS Materials Science and Technology Division, which he helped organize. Schumar served on the board of the American Nuclear Society, was a fellow of the American Society of Metallurgy and published numerous papers and articles.
James Francis Schumar died of heart failure July 30, 2002 at the age of 85.
Last updated July 30, 2014, 1:05pm CDT.