Spence Bush was born on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1920, in Flint, Michigan. After attending high school and junior college in Flint, he worked as an assistant chemist at Dow Chemical Company in nearby Midland, Michigan, until he left to serve in the Army from 1942 to 1946. He spent the last years of the war in the Special Engineering Detachment assigned to the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
After the war, Spence enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in metallurgical and chemical engineering in 1948, a master’s degree in 1950, and a doctorate in chemical engineering in 1953. During that time he also launched a publishing career that eventually included more than 100 journal articles, as well as book chapters, formal reports, and one book.
In 1953, he went to work at the Hanford Site near Richland, Washington. Reactors at Hanford produced the plutonium for the Trinity test, the Nagasaki bomb, and, later, for the nation’s Cold War arsenal. Bush transferred to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in 1965, when the U.S. Department of Energy spun off the laboratory from Hanford and widened its research base. Although he retired in 1983 to establish his own firm, Review & Synthesis Associates, Spence said he “could not imagine not being involved in some way with the nuclear power industry.” He continued as a consultant to the laboratory and others in government and industry worldwide until his death.
Spence was a registered professional engineer whose areas of research included failure mechanisms in pressurized nuclear reactor systems, stress corrosion in piping and turbines, effects of radiation damage on material properties and component design, and seismic design of pressure-boundary components. His early work centered on the effects of radiation on materials used in reactor fuel and reactor fabrication, particularly metallic uranium, zirconium, austenitic stainless steels, and pressure-vessel steels. He directed fundamental studies on irradiation damage of fissile and non-fissile metals and supervised the development of fabrication processes for nuclear fuels and