CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will play a significant role in a 10-year, $4.8 billion initiative that was announced Tuesday - the development of the nation's premier laboratory for nuclear energy research, development and education.
Increases in the university's research, educational programs, student scholarships and faculty base are all planned, officials say, mostly in the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. OSU could receive $10 million or more over 10 years under the new initiative.
Officials of the U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday they have selected the Battelle Energy Alliance to establish the Idaho National Laboratory.
This alliance is made up of a consortium of universities and institutions, including Battelle Memorial Institute, OSU, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University, the University of New Mexico, the Idaho universities and a number of industry partners.
The alliance was selected over three other finalists in the bid to run the new lab.
"OSU has been working to promote university collaboration within the state," said OSU President Ed Ray. "But clearly, partnerships across states with other major universities also represent an important way that we can bring Oregon to the forefront of important national research and economic development opportunities."
Todd Palmer, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, said that "we are extremely excited to have been awarded this contract."
"This is a testament to our collaboration with other universities, and our work as the lead institution in the Western Nuclear Science Alliance," Palmer said. "We're committed to working with other schools to improve designs for the future of nuclear power."
Universities involved in this alliance will conduct regional outreach and take the mission of the Idaho National Laboratory to other universities.
"The contract will also bring a major influx of money through Oregon State for nuclear energy research, and many departments can benefit from that," Palmer said. "In addition, each school in the consortium is involved in different areas of research and faculty members from across campus will be able to bid for the money going through the partners."
MIT will house the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, North Carolina State will operate the Center for Simulation, and OSU will expand its nationally recognized Advanced Thermal Hydraulic Research Laboratory. The OSU lab has become a national leader for studies of thermal hydraulics and reactor safety, officials say.
The contract will also provide OSU half the funding it needs for six new faculty positions. Faculty will be added in research areas that relate to national goals of energy independence and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the initiative should also generate a greater number of scholarships and fellowships for students.
"Large, multi-institutional collaborations, such are the one represented by this contract are increasingly important in the federal research environment," said Rich Holdren, vice provost for research at OSU. "We have been working strategically over the last several years with Battelle to make opportunities such as this one accessible to us."
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, in making the Tuesday announcement, said that "the Battelle team brings an outstanding reputation, an excellent plan and a superior management team that will make the INL a world-class, multi-program laboratory." "This new laboratory was the missing element in our strategy to provide long-term energy security for the nation," Abraham said. "We needed a laboratory that can work with the other labs in our complex, academia and industry to advance nuclear power technology and create an entirely new type of nuclear energy plant for the longer term future."
The Idaho National Laboratory will conduct science and technology research across a wide range of disciplines, including materials, chemistry, the environment, and computation and simulation. It will also play a key role in ensuring the nation's security by helping to protect the country's critical infrastructure and preventing the spread of nuclear material.
One of the laboratory's first major tasks will be to lead an international research and development effort to create an advanced nuclear energy technology called the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, which could produce both inexpensive electric power and large quantities of hydrogen - a way to reduce the nation's dependence on imported fossil fuels.