Leonard Koch

A retired, "Pioneer", Leonard is probably the oldest continuing supporter and participant in the development of the original concept of nuclear power. This concept was conceived by Enrico Fermi and his brilliant colleagues in the late 1940's and provided the basis for the original "scientific concept" for nuclear power: the need to use fast neutrons and to recycle the fuel. From the beginning he was directly involved in establishing the feasibility of meeting those requirements.

He joined Argonne National Laboratory in early 1948 and participated in the development, design, construction and early operation of EBR-l as the Associate Project Engineer.

He was responsible for the development, design and construction of the EBR-ll as the Project Manager. He wrote the book, "EBR-ll", published by the American Nuclear Soceity, which describes that activity.

Leonard received his B.S in M.E. from Illinois Institute of Technology and his MBA from the University of Chicago.

Twenty five years after ending his employment as Vice President of Illinois Power Company he continues to believe that Fast Breeder Reactors with Fuel Recycle are the energy source of the future.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society. He received the Walter H. Zinn Award from the Power Division of the ANS and the Global Energy International Prize from Russia.

 

Fri, May 15, 2015

Our dear friend Len Koch passed away this morning at 5 AM. He had been living in Tucson, Arizona for the past several years, and had recently celebrated his 95th birthday. It happened that my wife Nicole and I were going to be passing through Tucson at the end of April and we made plans to have a slightly belated celebratory birthday lunch with Len and Mimi and Bill Sacks. When we showed up at the retirement home where Len lived to pick him up, we were told that he had fallen in his apartment and hit his head and was in the emergency room at the nearby hospital. As he was being put into the ambulance he kept telling the employee there to contact us; he was sorely disappointed to be letting us down.

So we drove over to the hospital and Len was quite alert. He'd bled some but mainly because it was a scalp wound, and not really a big one. The bleeding had stopped and they were going to do a CAT scan to see if there was any intracranial bleeding. We were only allowed to go in to visit with him one at a time, so after Bill sorted out the situation I went in and Len and I had a good talk about the latest developments in our IFR efforts, including my recent activities in New York, Washington, and Moscow. Len, as many of you know, was one of the early laureates of Russia's Global Energy Prize, and as a member of the selection committee I had just participated in deciding this year's winner. I'd brought Len a small bottle of Armenian cognac from Moscow, courtesy of the Energy Prize organization, and Len slipped it into his pocket, intending to enjoy it later. I'm sure someone—either hospital staff or a family member—found it later and probably wondered about it. Len expected that the doctor would give his noggin a few stitches and that he'd be heading back home shortly.

The CAT scan revealed a bit of intracranial bleeding, so they decided to keep him overnight for observation. By the next morning the bleeding had worsened and they decided to operate. By that time Len was unresponsive, and according to Mimi's email tonight, Len never regained consciousness after the surgery to treat the subdural hematoma. It would seem that he didn't suffer in the process, since he was feeling fine when I saw him and apparently slipped gradually into unconsciousness during the night.

We'd had a chance to talk with a lady friend of Len's who's spent a lot of time with him lately, and she said that Len had told her he was ready to go when the time came. He had been suffering from breathing difficulty (emphysema?) that necessitated the use of an oxygen tank.

These past several years Len got re-involved with nuclear power and our efforts to get IFRs finally built and online. It seemed to give him a new lease on life after several years of being somewhat out of that loop, and we were all able to enjoy his comments and observations, and even his attendance at various conferences around the country. It's great to know that Len stayed sharp to the end, involved in the endeavor which he'd pursued all these decades.

Tom Blees