Lab takes global outlook as it benefits Tri-Cities

Tri-Citians are weathering these economic tough times with the same even keel they’ve handled other highs and lows. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, as always, is playing an important role in keeping the local economy on course.

PNNL has seen–even thrived in–ever-changing economic times. We’ve done this by focusing our science and technology expertise on national challenges in energy, environment and security. In 2008, we made great strides in demonstrating how our work is making the country a better place.

With the opening of the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, PNNL is teaming with Washington State University Tri-Cities to advance biomass research in hopes of discovering new energy options. We’re also developing technology that enables homeowners to monitor, and in part control, their demand for electricity from the power grid. And our state’s geologic may play an important role in our efforts to permanently capture carbon dioxide in basalt formations underground, reducing the environmental impacts.

Our environmental research continues to advance Hanford cleanup through technical evaluation of the effectiveness of the pretreatment system for tank waste. We are also shedding light on global challenges by improving computation models that can help predict climate change and its impacts.

Our staff are keeping the nation safe. In the Puget Sound region, we’re working with various organizations to test technologies that can detect radioactive material on small water vessels. This project is an important step in stopping the transportation of harmful materials through waterways into the United States. We are also leading a project that focuses on spotting explosive devices from a distance. Known as “standoff detection”, this capability is intended to protect the public from terrorist attacks in free-flowing crowds.

Progress in these complex issues positioned us well for business growth. In 2008, our business volume increased $130 million to $880 million, and we hired an additional 113 staff.

Our campus is changing as we update it with new and replacement facilities. Our steward, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, is teaming with the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to help fund the new Physical Sciences Facility, due to open in 2010.

The funding is also helping us upgrade the Radio-Chemical Processing Laboratory, located in the 300 Area of the Hanford site. And the Biological Sciences and Computational Sciences Facility will open this fall.  When complete, all of these new or upgraded buildings will make PNNL one of the most modern multiprogram campuses in the DOE national laboratory complex.

Our contemporary campus will be a cornerstone of the Tri-Cities Research District. Last year, TVA Architects completed a master plan for the 300-acre core of the TCRD. In all, the TCRD encompasses 1,600 acres that promise to be a hub for living, working, playing and learning. And PNNL and WSU Tri-Cities continue to support the TCRD by bringing in national speakers who advise on how to develop a successful research park.

Beyond the boundaries of our work, PNNL, and Battelle have long been partners in improving our community’s quality of life. Our staff donated more than 20,000 hours among 60 community projects, and Battelle contributed more than $800,000 to a variety of civic and philanthropic organizations. Battelle also made a second $1 million pledge to the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center and a $1.2 million commitment to the new science, technology, engineering and math-based Delta High School.

Through the power of partnerships, PNNL and the Tri-Cities have come together to better educate our community’s children, diversify the economy and help those in need. As this national laboratory expands the impact of our science and technology across the globe, we always will keep our roots firmly planted here at home.

Source: Tri-City Herald Progress 2009

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