Patty in the News

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory celebrated the completion of the Department of Energy national lab's largest construction project in its 46-year history.

About 750 staff are working today in renovated buildings or in new state-of-the-art offices and laboratories designed to provide space for the nation's cutting-edge science for decades to come. The project cost more than $300 million.

PNNL began discussing new offices for the employees as early as 2003 as DOE planned to speed up demolition of buildings in the Hanford 300 Area just north of Richland as part of environmental cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation. The project from planning to completion took about six years.

It was a massive undertaking -- from getting money from a collection of federal agencies that depend on the lab to planning environmentally friendly laboratory space flexible enough to meet future needs, to moving all the workers and their complex research projects.

But "we completed it on schedule and budget," Mike Kluse, PNNL director, told a crowd of about 300 people who gathered to celebrate Tuesday.

The odds were unbelievable at times, with challenges including administration budget requests not sufficient to keep the project on schedule, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a proclamation read by her staff at the ceremony.

A new funding model was used to pay for the project, said Julie Erickson, acting manager of the DOE Pacific Northwest Site Office. It required $99 million from DOE's Office of Science, $69 million from the National Nuclear Security Administration and $56 million from the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, $77 million of private money was used to build laboratories that are leased to Battelle, which operates PNNL for DOE.

The focus of the new laboratories is on biological, physical and computational science, a three-pronged approach the should have an enormous impact on the nation's research goals, such as advancing clean energy, said William Brinkman, director of the DOE Office of Science.

The most recently completed was the Physical Sciences Facility, a complex of new buildings on Horn Rapids Road that now is home to about 250 staff who support PNNL's energy research, and national and homeland security research. It cost about $224 million.

It includes a Materials Science and Technology Laboratory used to develop and test high performance materials for new energy, construction and transportation technologies and systems. It also includes Radiation Detection Laboratory and Ultra-Trace Laboratory to develop radiation detection methods needed for identifying weapons of mass destruction and terrorist activities.

In addition, a Large Detector Laboratory and outdoor test track are being used to develop and test radiation detection technologies designed for U.S. border entry points. An Underground Lab supports homeland and national security research.

"Investing in a modern, 21st century nuclear security enterprise is essential to preventing nuclear terrorism or nuclear proliferation, and that is why this (project) is so important," said Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

James Johnson, director of the Office of National Laboratories for the Department of Homeland Security, had been involved in planning the facility from its start and said as an engineer, it was hard not to be excited by its capabilities as he toured the finished project.

Southwest of the complex is the new Biological Sciences Facility and Computational Sciences Facility, built at a cost of $77 million. About 300 staff there work on biological systems science and use its computer capabilities for data-intensive research.

In addition, four 300 Area buildings were renovated to allow nuclear, national security, environmental and other research to continue there.

"Central Washington is better off and the nation is safer because of the excellent work you do at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory," said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., in a statement read at the celebration.

- Tri-City Herald