The Oak Ridge National Laboratory could get up to $300 million from the economic stimulus proposal working its way through Congress, the lab director said Thursday.
Thom Mason said the stimulus plans under consideration in the Senate and approved Tuesday in the House could help speed construction of new labs and housing facilities and upgrade aging infrastructure at the Department of Energy lab.
“There are no earmarks in the bill that say that specific money will go for a specific project at one of the labs, so the department will have to prioritize projects based on the stimulus criteria,” Dr. Mason said after speaking to the Chattanooga Rotary Club. “But certainly Oak Ridge is very well positioned and we have a lot of projects that are in the pipeline that we can accelerate with more funding.”
One project is the $95 million chemistry and materials science laboratory that will replace 1950s-era labs, DOE spokesman Bill Cabage said.
Although the U.S. Senate could change the package, Dr. Mason said he is confident the Oak Ridge lab will get extra funds.
“Construction on the chemistry and materials science lab could begin this summer,” he said.
Other projects include a $10 million hotel complex next to the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source facility, faster full development of the power ascent at the Spallation facility and utility upgrades throughout the complex.
In his Rotary speech, Dr. Mason said research on new energy technologies is key to meeting national and economic security challenges and reducing the threat of climate change.
The Oak Ridge lab receives about $1.3 billion a year from the Department of Energy to conduct a host of research projects ranging from new types of materials to new ways of generating energy.
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Chattanooga, visited the lab Thursday and agreed that it’s performing vital energy research that deserves more federal support.
But Rep. Wamp, who is running for governor, said he joined other House Republicans in voting against the stimulus this week because he said only about 15 percent of the $819 billion bill will stimulate the economy in the right manner.
“There are many good things in this bill, but there (is) also just a whole lot of borrowed money for social programs supported by the Democratic leadership and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi in particular,” Rep. Wamp said.