energy and sustainability

Northwest forests could store more carbon, help address greenhouse issues

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The forests of the Pacific Northwest hold significant potential to increase carbon storage and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, a recent study concludes, if they are managed primarily for that purpose through timber harvest reductions and increased rotation ages.

In the complete absence of stand-replacing disturbances – via fire or timber harvest – forests of Oregon and Northern California could theoretically almost double their carbon storage.

Although it isn’t realistic to expect an absence of disturbance, the estimates were based on average conditions up until now that include variation in forest biomass, age, climate, disturbances and soil fertility. If all forest stands in this region were just allowed to increase in age by 50 years, their potential to store atmospheric carbon would still increase by 15 percent, the study concluded.

That would be a modest, but not insignificant offset to the nation’s carbon budget, scientists say, since this region accounts for 14 percent of the live biomass in the entire United States.

The findings were made by scientists in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, as the result of almost two decades of analysis of 15,000 inventory plots in a large region, through several different projects, as part of the North American Carbon Program. The scientists, who said they have often been asked what the theoretical potential was for storing carbon in these forests, conducted the analysis using inventory data that captured current variation in biomass due to many factors.

“We have known that forests in this region have high productivity, and in recent years we have learned they have a high potential to store large amounts of carbon even at very old ages,” said Beverly Law, a professor of forest science at OSU. “The forests west of the Cascade Range are also wetter and less likely to be lost to fire. We suspected these forests might provide more opportunity for carbon storage than has been recognized, and these data support that.”

Many economic, ecological and land management issues come into play, the researchers said, and the recent study does not consider what effect increases in temperature or changes in precipitation might have on these lands, or the implications that might have for catastrophic forest fire. But looked at from nothing more than a carbon offset perspective, the optimal approach would be to leave the forests alone, the scientists said.

“Increasing carbon storage in this region might be one contribution to what clearly is a much larger global issue, something that policy makers could consider,” Law said. “A lot of land management approaches are now being seen as a short-term bridge to a period where we will be using fewer fossil fuels and addressing carbon issues in other ways.”

Largely because of its many forests, researchers say the various “carbon sinks” in Oregon already sequester from 30-50 percent of the emissions caused by use of fossil fuels in the state. That’s much better than many other states or the national totals, Law said.

Among the findings of the report:

  • About 65 percent of the live and dead biomass in this region is on public lands, while private lands often have younger age classes of vegetation and less total biomass;
  • Contrary to accepted views on biomass stabilization and decline, biomass is still increasing in stands more than 300 years old in the Coast Range, Sierra Nevada and the West Cascade Range, and in stands more than 600 years old in the Klamath Mountains;
  • The entire study region of Oregon and Northern California, as far south as San Francisco, holds a total live biomass of about two billion tons of carbon – about 14 percent of the biomass in the whole nation;
  • If forests in this region were managed over hundreds of years to maximize carbon sequestration, the carbon in live and dead biomass could theoretically double in the Coast Range, west and east Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada; and triple in the Klamath Mountains.

This research was supported by the Biological and Environmental Research Terrestrial Carbon Program of the U.S. Department of Energy. It was published in Ecological Applications, a professional journal.

Story By: 

Beverly Law, 541-737-6111

OSU researchers strive to harness microbes to make hydrogen

CORVALLIS, Ore. ­ Researchers in Oregon State University's Department of Bioengineering are spearheading efforts to develop sustained production of hydrogen fuel by harnessing photosynthetic microbes that use solar energy to split water molecules and make hydrogen.

OSU professors Roger Ely and Frank Chaplen were notified this week that they are receiving $900,000 over the next three years from a U.S. Department of Energy grant to bolster their efforts.

Hydrogen as a fuel source is a hot topic - hydrogen fuel is clean and energy-rich. Fossil fuels such as gasoline or coal generate greenhouse gasses, but burning hydrogen as fuel produces only water. To make hydrogen fuel takes energy, and current methods typically manufacture hydrogen from fossil fuels. To produce hydrogen fuel without emitting greenhouse gasses, a renewable form of energy would need to be used - from the sun, wind or from a biological process.

The technology to do this is not yet fully developed, but Ely and Chaplen hope to change this.

The two bioengineering researchers - who are faculty in both the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Engineering - are especially interested in the hydrogen-generating potential of a large group of photosynthetic microorganisms called cyanobacteria. These bacteria, formerly known as blue-green algae, naturally generate energy from sunlight and, under certain conditions, can make hydrogen rather than sugars.

Ely says cyanobacteria may be a perfect living source for a safe, efficient, and economical production of hydrogen for fuel.

"Imagine an ideal energy device," said Ely. "It wouldn't burn fossil fuels, and it wouldn't pollute. It would be made of low-cost, non-toxic materials, would run on the power of the sun, and would be safe, clean and economical.

"Nature has been conducting research and development on solar energy capture for about 3½ billion years and can teach us much," he said. "From looking to nature, we already know three key things: visible light constitutes most of the energy reaching the Earth; we know how organisms capture it; and we know how they convert it into chemical energy."

But the researchers must overcome a major hurdle: In natural systems, during photosynthesis, cyanobacteria stop making hydrogen when oxygen is present. "In the organism we are studying, oxygen interferes with the production of hydrogen by 'gumming up the works,' so to speak," explained Ely.

With the grant, Ely and Chaplen hope to develop, via "metabolic engineering," oxygen-tolerant strains of cyanobacteria that can produce hydrogen continuously in the light. After developing sun-harnessing, hydrogen-producing strains, the plan is to grow them by the millions in systems that could also store the generated hydrogen and, using fuel cells, convert it into electricity on demand. They call these proposed systems "solar biohydrogen energy systems."

"These systems can be designed to be relatively simple and economical, and could serve as decentralized sources of clean electrical energy," said Ely. "The process will have one input, sunlight, and two outputs, electricity and heat," he said. "It will be safe, will operate at relatively low temperatures, and could be made in a range of sizes - from home to industry scale - from abundant, inexpensive materials, mostly from carbon and silica."

"I want to make oil obsolete," said Ely. "As I like to say, the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of rocks. We can do better."

Ely and Chaplen's efforts are in step with OSU's role as a Sun Grant University. As one of the country's five initial Sun Grant centers of excellence, OSU is a regional hub for evolving research, education and outreach programs largely focused on bioproducts and bioenergy.


Roger Ely, 541-737-9409

OSU Scientists Open Green Roof Test Site to Public for Tour and Discussion

CORVALLIS, Ore. — As human populations continue to transition into an urban landscape, cities are faced with challenges in developing and maintaining balanced ecosystems. One newer innovation has those interested in these challenges looking up, literally: green roofs.

In western Oregon, the high presence of non-permeable surfaces like roads, buildings and parking lots results in a specific set of issues surrounding storm water run-off and water treatment facilities. These surfaces do not allow the heavy winter rains to penetrate into the ground. As a result, storm water run-off often overloads treatment facilities causing pollution and other contaminants to be deposited into area rivers.

Green roofs, or eco roofs, can mitigate storm water run-off and reduce the pressure on already stressed infrastructure. The subject of new research at Oregon State University, these roofs are planted with an array of succulents in an engineered growing medium that absorbs rainfall and slows the speed of storm water through wastewater treatment facilities.

"Storm water management is a primary reason that many city governments are interested in green roofs, said Erin Shroll, the lead researcher on OSU's Green Roof Technology project. "But there are a host of other benefits associated with the roofs ranging from better building insulation, to reductions in the urban heat island affect and increases in wildlife habitat."

Despite the benefits of green roofs, the science behind building successful green roofs is still in its early stages in the Pacific Northwest, and around much of the world, said Shroll.

"Each area in the city, and to a degree each portion of roof, has its own microclimate that creates a variety of conditions that must be considered before planting," said Shroll. "We're looking at what plants are most conducive to success in the northwest. It's a very regional study, but one that will tell us a lot about the intricacies of individual areas."

Shroll's study area includes 25 test plots at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture on OSU's campus and the roof of the Portland Building in downtown Portland. The campus test plots and the Portland roof have been covered with an engineered growing medium and planted with a variety of six different native plants. Shroll is irrigating the plots and documenting the amount of water necessary to keep the plants growing and healthy.

"We're really looking at how little water we can use to get the plants through the dry months so that when the rains start they are ready to start taking up moisture at a rapid rate," she said.

The OSU Green Roof Technology Project will host a tour of the Oak Creek test plots and a discussion about the role of green roofs in the urban environment on Oct. 3 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 844 SW 35th St., Corvallis, Ore. 97333. For more information contact Erin Shroll at shrolle@hort.oregonstate.edu, or (541) 207-6840.


Erin Shroll,

Conference to advance "passively-safe" nuclear future

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Nuclear energy experts from more than a dozen nations will meet at Oregon State University beginning Aug. 29 to confer on the latest advances being made in "passively-safe" nuclear reactor systems that could herald the future of nuclear power around the world.

The technology is well advanced for these nuclear reactors, which are being designed in the United States as factory-built systems with prior regulatory approval. Experts say that reactors of this type could soon begin construction, a renaissance for an industry that has been stalled for decades.

The professional conference, sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Association of the United Nations, will explore systems that have been developed in the United States and by other nations, as this new generation of nuclear plant designs come closer to a working reality.

Nuclear power, experts say, is gaining renewed interest as an energy source because it has no "greenhouse gas" emissions that raise concerns for global warming. It is increasingly reliable and cost-competitive, could lessen the nation's dependence on fossil fuels, and now has available plants with enhanced safety features that never before existed. Some reactors would also be able to produce hydrogen for use as an alternative fuel for automobiles - possibly the future of the U.S. automotive industry.

In the past decade OSU has become a leader in the development and testing of these new "passively-safe" nuclear designs. It has conducted test programs funded at more than $13 million that allowed the first two plans of this type in the United States to gain final design approval.

"I'm confident that within the next five years you are going to see new nuclear plants constructed in the United States using the new passive-safety features that we've helped test," said Jose Reyes, professor and chair of the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. "We're moving toward a new safety culture in the development of nuclear power, and the upcoming conference should be another important step in moving these designs closer to actual production."

Passively-safe reactor designs use natural forces such as gravity or convection to replace multiple pumps, pipes and valves. To be certified, testing and analyses must show that a passively-safe plant can cool itself for three days under worst-case conditions without operator actions.

As designed by Westinghouse Corp., and tested by OSU, the new AP600 and AP1000 reactor designs would be constructed in factories in large sections and transported by rail to the desired location, cutting construction time by about 70 percent, from a decade to three years or less.

Over the life of the plant they should be able to produce electricity at about two cents per kilowatt hour, less expensive than almost any energy form other than hydroelectric power. A streamlined certification process is in place to minimize delays and costs.

Even more advances are on the drawing board, Reyes said.

"In cooperation with the Idaho National Laboratory and the Nexant-Bechtel Corp., we're going to create a truly modular reactor design that could produce about 50 megawatts each of power, be totally self-contained for transport and would help address a number of security and safety concerns," Reyes said. "For instance, they would require no on-site fueling. Small systems such as this could be combined for a wide range of energy demands, or used in combination with the larger systems already approved."

Safety of the new systems has been improved by an order of magnitude over older designs, officials say, some of which had an estimated "core melt" possibility of one chance in a million. The newest designs have reduced that risk to one chance in 10 to 100 million.

"Issues of terrorism are more of a concern than they used to be, and that's one reason we're building reactors that are extraordinarily strong," Reyes said. "Our newest design would sit in an underground silo and have a very low profile, able to run five straight years with almost no maintenance. These are remarkable systems in which safety is the dominant consideration."

One of the most intriguing of the future designs, Reyes said, is the "very high temperature" thermal reactor that could crack water into its hydrogen and oxygen components, giving it the ability to produce hydrogen for fuel as well as generate electricity. A 600-megawatt reactor such as this might be able to produce the energy equivalent of 300,000 gallons of gasoline a day, he said.

Even existing nuclear power plants have increased their efficiency in recent years, OSU officials say, in the process producing the power equivalent of 30 new nuclear plants. Interest in the entire industry is sufficiently increased, Reyes said, that nuclear engineering education programs at universities around the nation are now growing again after years of decline.

Management of nuclear waste disposal is an issue that's made considerable progress but still faces some political hurdles and needs to be finalized, officials say. Nations sending representatives to the Oregon conference include Japan, Germany, France, Canada, India, Argentina, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and others.

All of these nations are developing their own version of passively-safe reactors and the conference will feature technical dialogues as well as other cultural and scientific exchanges.

The conference will also include tours of OSU's Advance Plant Experiment Reactor Facility. This one-quarter scale model of the AP1000 has proven invaluable in simulating and testing the safety features of the new design.

Story By: 

Jose Reyes, 541-737-7065

OSU Receives $1.1 Million to Install New “Hurricane” Wavemaker

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have been awarded $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to install a “hurricane” wavemaker at the O. H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, to better understand the impacts of hurricanes and other coastal hazards.

The high performance wavemaker will be installed in late 2008 in North America’s largest coastal wave flume, helping researchers around the world to better simulate waves generated by extreme storms. This is an important step in understanding the impact these waves have on coastal infrastructure and better educating coastal residents about survival preparedness.

“This new hurricane wavemaker will be the largest in the United States and will enable us to create the long-period waves and high wave heights associated with hurricane waves and other extreme storms,” said Daniel Cox, associate professor of civil engineering at OSU and director of the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory.

The U.S. has no coastal research facilities able to simulate hurricanes and other extreme storms that are large enough to minimize the effects of scaling.

The large-stroke, piston-type wavemaker will allow precision, large-scale studies, enabling safer and more cost-effective design of coastal infrastructure such as bridges, levees, buildings and lifelines, Cox said. This will lead to better practices for the repair and retrofit of existing structures and improved design codes for new construction. The facility will also improve education and outreach to people living in areas susceptible to coastal storms.

More than half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast – and the civil infrastructure along U.S. coasts, worth more than $3 trillion, is vulnerable to coastal storms. According to a 2007 report from the National Science Board, the economic and societal impacts of extreme events such as hurricanes are expected to escalate in coming years.

“This facility will assist engineers and scientists in developing resilient coastal communities in the face of increasing coastal population and rising sea levels due to global climate change,” said Cox, who will collaborate on the project with a number of OSU faculty from the OSU colleges of engineering, science, and oceanic and atmospheric sciences.

In addition to enhancing the study of wave impacts on coastal infrastructure, this new capability will enable researchers to study a range of engineering and scientific problems in constructed and natural coastal environments, including:

  • wave energy systems
  • coastal erosion and recovery after storms
  • dune erosion and overtopping
  • tsunami propagation over reefs
  • environmental fluid-sediment dynamics

Between 2000 and 2004, the NSF funded construction at OSU of the $5.4 million Tsunami Wave Basin, the largest facility of its kind in the world and part of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). Experimental data obtained from the basins are centrally archived at NEES, Inc. and can be used to validate and calibrate existing and future numerical models to solve engineering and scientific problems.

The Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory is a shared-use, international facility operated by the OSU College of Engineering. No other facility in the U.S. matches the size and performance of the basins, and only a handful of facilities in the world can operate at near-prototype ocean conditions. Due to the lab’s high level information technology, researchers worldwide can participate remotely in experiments at the facility.

Story By: 

Dan Cox,

Ocean Energy Conference to Review Progress, Needs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Ocean energy experts from private industry, government agencies and academia will meet at Oregon State University on Friday, Aug. 10, to discuss the latest developments in the evolution of wave energy in Oregon.

The conference, “Ocean Renewable Energy II,” is sponsored by the Oregon Science and Technology Partnership and 13 other co-sponsors. It is the second of its type to bring together leaders in this field to review technological progress, analyze challenges and propose needed actions to move wave energy from a concept to working reality.

More than two dozen experts in renewable energy, regulatory processes, fisheries, economics, scientific research and other fields will participate in presentations or panel discussions. Information on the event, registration, speakers and topics can be obtained on the web at http://www.ostpartnership.org

The theme of the meeting will be “Making Ocean Renewable Energy Happen in Oregon,” and Diane Enright, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Energy, will present at overview of wave energy policy progress in Oregon.

A keynote address on “The Oregon Innovation Council and the Role of Ocean Renewable Energy” will be presented by David Chen, chair of the Oregon Innovation Council and partner in the Oregon Venture Partnership.

Other topics and events will include:

  • Community and local government perspectives
  • Tour of the Wallace Energy Systems and Renewables Facility at OSU
  • Tour of the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab and Tsunami Basin
  • Permitting and regulatory frameworks
  • Nationwide activities in ocean renewable energy
  • The federal legislative agenda
  • The Oregon Wave Energy Trust

The Oregon Science and Technology Partnership works to promote growth of the Oregon economy by building collaboration among regional businesses, investors, academic resources and government agencies. OSU is an academic leader in research and development of wave energy in the United States, and is working to position Oregon as a focal point for the future of this technology.

Story By: 

Nancy Kline,

OSU Sun Grant Center lands $8 million in federal funds

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University's role as one of the nation's leading centers of "bioenergy" research got a significant boost today when President George Bush signed federal legislation providing more than $8 million in funding for the Sun Grant Center at OSU.

The Sun Grant Initiative funding, which is part of the federal transportation bill, will be spread over four years and will largely go to university researchers and extension agents, governmental agency employees, private entrepreneurs and others in the West, including OSU faculty members, who submit successful competitive grant proposals.

"The potential benefits of research being conducted through the Sun Grant Center loom large, for our nation and the world," said OSU President Edward Ray. "The fact that OSU's selection as a national center has been followed so quickly with significant funding to further this work is a testament to the importance of that research and the faculty who conduct it."

"Oregon's congressional delegation worked tirelessly to help make this happen, and it's going to be very good for the state," said Thayne Dutson, the dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, which hosts the Sun Grant Center. "The Sun Grant Initiative is going to bring new money here, help stimulate and sustain our agriculture industry, and thus our economy, and give OSU an opportunity to develop even greater expertise in this important area of research in collaboration with scientists at other institutions in Oregon and other states."

Last year, the federal government tapped OSU as one of the country's five initial Sun Grant centers of excellence - regional hubs charged with leading research, education and outreach programs largely focused on the evolving field of bioenergy. That began an R&D initiative intended to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, add diversity to American agriculture and revitalize rural economies.

For the Sun Grant Initiative, OSU will be the lead university representing nine western states, plus the Pacific Territories and associated Pacific island nations. The university's leadership for the initiative makes OSU one of only two universities in the nation, along with Cornell University, that are now designated as land, sea, space and sun grant institutions.

OSU faculty involved in bioenergy research are already focused on such projects as harnessing microorganisms to produce hydrogen, growing crops to make fuel for automobiles and heavy equipment, generating electricity and producing products like lubricants and pharmaceuticals that usually require petroleum.

Jan Auyong, assistant dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, is overseeing the western Sun Grant Center. A number of OSU projects relate to bioenergy and bioproducts, said Auyong, offering four examples:

  • Michael Penner, a food scientist, is studying how to convert agricultural residues, particularly straw, into energy and other bio-based products.
  • Bioengineer Roger Ely is conducting research needed to allow the production of hydrogen for fuel cells by microorganisms that use solar energy to split water.
  • Don Wysocki, an Extension educator at OSU's Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center at Pendleton, is working with farmers and others to identify crops such as canola that can be grown and used in small crushing plants to produce biodiesel fuel.
  • David Hackleman and associates in OSU's College of Engineering are developing reactor technology for the production of biodiesel fuel. They plan to build and operate a pilot-scale facility on campus, using waste grease from campus dining halls.

    According to Dutson, OSU will form standing committees to help determine Sun Grant research needs and criteria for competitive grants. Members will include representatives of the agricultural and industrial communities in the West.

    Other regional Sun Grant centers of excellence are at: Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; and South Dakota State University, Brookings.

    There is more information about OSU's Sun Grant activities on the Web at: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/research/grants_sun_2002.html

  • Source: 

    Thayne Dutson, 541-737-2331

    Economists Find Current Biofuel Potential in Oregon May Be Costly and Limited

    CORVALLIS, Ore. - The adoption of biofuels in Oregon could reduce the state's fossil fuel use by less than one percent, but at a much higher cost to society than more direct approaches such as a gasoline tax or raising fuel economy standards. That is the conclusion of a study published this week by the Oregon State University Extension Service.

    The study, by OSU economists William Jaeger, Robin Cross, and Thorsten Egelkraut, compared three types of biofuels — corn ethanol, canola biodiesel, and wood-based (cellulosic) ethanol. They examined their commercial viability, potential production scale, and cost-effectiveness for achieving energy independence and reducing greenhouse gases.

    "The promotion of biofuels is a public issue," said Jaeger. "Would a shift to biofuels achieve energy independence and a reduction of greenhouse gas? To answer this, we need to compare the cost for different approaches. Especially in terms of energy independence, these biofuels represent a costly and inefficient method compared to other approaches the government might take to achieve the same goal."

    The researchers estimate that to achieve a given improvement in energy independence, biofuels could be 6 to 15 times more costly than other policy approaches such as raising fuel economy standards for vehicles.

    When looking exclusively at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, however, their analysis suggests that both canola biodiesel and wood-based ethanol may be cost-effective ways to achieve that goal.

    The results are also mixed in terms of commercial competitiveness. The study finds that corn ethanol and canola biodiesel are currently commercially viable in Oregon, thanks in part to government subsidies and regulations that have increased demand and lowered the cost of production. However, current production costs are still too high to make wood-based ethanol commercially attractive.

    How can these biofuels be commercially competitive yet represent very high-cost ways to achieve energy independence? The authors explain that in addition to subsidies that lower the cost of production while adding cost to taxpayers, there are large differences in the amounts of fossil-fuel energy required to produce each fuel, and there are large differences in the amount of energy contained in a gallon of each fuel.

    The OSU study looked only at large-scale commercial production of these three biofuels. The authors acknowledge that local or on-farm production may offer other advantages in some cases. They also caution that their estimates are subject to future changes in prices, technologies, or other developments.

    The authors find that the potential scale of production for these biofuels in Oregon is limited. They estimate that these biofuels could contribute no more than a fraction of one percent of Oregon's current energy use.

    "The main results of our analysis do not depend on our regional focus," Jaeger said. Although the scale of production of Midwest corn ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel is much larger than Oregon biofuels, the cost and cost-effectiveness of their production is not much different.

    To view the report, see: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/sr/sr1078.pdf

    Story By: 

    William Jaeger,

    Weatherford Hall Granted LEED Certification

    CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Weatherford Hall, home of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program, has become certified as a “green” building by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, or LEED. The 1928 building is the first residential building on the OSU campus to receive this designation.

    A program of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is a voluntary national standard for developing environmentally sustainable buildings.

    Kelley Engineering Center is the only other completed building at OSU that is LEED certified. It is certified gold, the second highest rating. According to Brandon Trelstad, campus sustainability coordinator, all future capital construction projects at OSU, including new buildings and major remodels, will be LEED certified silver or equivalent.

    "Weatherford Hall is a place where our students eat, live, learn, and socialize,” said College of Business Dean Ilene Kleinsorge. “Being LEED certified is consistent with the building’s role as a model for sustainable development in not only physical facilities but also a model for living including a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and innovation program.”

    LEED is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. Five key areas are looked at for obtaining this certification: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

    “In order to get certified by LEED, you really have to engage in this process from the beginning as the building construction or renovation is being designed,” said Tom Scheuermann, director of University Housing & Dining Services at OSU.

    Although Weatherford Hall was built in 1928, it underwent a $20 million renovation in 2004, thanks in part to a donation by Ken and Joan Austin. Now the building houses nearly 300 students in what is the largest residential entrepreneurship program in the country.

    Scheuermann said the goal during the remodel was to make Weatherford as “green” as possible, from the materials used to remodel the building, to how the site was prepared and what was done with the leftover materials.

    Some of the key factors in Weatherford receiving a LEED certification include:

    • Using low-impact, environmentally-friendly materials for paint, adhesives and carpet;

    • Building the ventilation, electrical systems, heating and plumbing to be as efficient as possible;

    • At least 75 percent of the building materials were recycled. In one case, an old dining center that had been attached to Weatherford in 1959 was torn down. The concrete was chopped into small pieces, which were used to fill in the basement floor;

    • Native plants and trees were planted. And in the front lawn of Weatherford, “eco-lawn” was planted. Eco-lawn was developed by OSU researcher Tom Cook and is a mixture of grasses, flowers, and herbs that looks like grass, but is weed resistant and needs less water.

    Scheuermann said making Weatherford a more sustainable building not only makes financial sense in terms of energy savings, but it serves as an educational model for the students and faculty who live in the building.

    “It is an educational opportunity for students and it is in keeping with the College of Business, our department, and the university’s sustainability goals.”

    Story By: 

    Tom Scheuermann,

    OSU to host United Nations conference

    CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University is preparing to host a week-long United Nations conference this summer that will bring delegates from 15 nations and 17 organizations to Corvallis, Ore., to discuss safer, "passive" nuclear energy technologies.

    "We're thrilled that the United States, through its permanent mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, has agreed to have this important conference here at Oregon State," said José Reyes, professor and head of the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.

    Reyes returned in January from a year-long appointment in Vienna as a U.S. technical expert with this U.N. agency. He played a key role in OSU's selection as the site for the conference, which runs August 29 through Sept. 2.

    Conference delegates will discuss natural circulation-based passive safety systems for use in nuclear power plants. Because these systems rely on natural processes such as gravity-driven circulation and natural convection, they are being considered for new nuclear plants worldwide, Reyes said.

    OSU researchers lead the nation in the development and testing of passive reactor technologies that are simpler, more compact, and exceed the highest safety standards of the nuclear industry.

    "Given the focus of our research, holding the U.N. conference here at OSU is a perfect fit," said Reyes. "Delegates will be able to see our research up close and tour our test facilities."

    Only two passively safe nuclear plants in the world have obtained final design approval by their licensing authorities, and both were tested at OSU, whose graduate program in nuclear engineering is ranked ninth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

    At the conference, Reyes will demonstrate a new concept for a passively safe modular reactor design. The Multi Application Small Light Water Reactor design, developed jointly with Idaho National Lab and NEXANT-Bechtel, works on a "plug and play" principle that allows utility companies to increase capacity as revenue builds rather than waiting for a return on the huge initial investment required by traditional reactor designs.

    The countries to be represented at the conference include Argentina, Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland and the United States.


    José Reyes, 541-737-7065