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Weekend edition November 04, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Early Christmas presents for ORNL total almost $500 million

Christmas came in November for officials at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

In an announcement Friday, ORNL said that it will receive a total of $497 million in funding from the “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) via the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science.

Among the scientific projects included in the nearly one-half billion dollar package is the Stable Isotope Production and Research Center, or SIPRC, which will receive approximately $75 million. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited ORNL in October to break ground for the facility designed to expand the nation’s capability to enrich stable isotopes for medical, industrial, research and national security uses.

“This (IRA) funding will support multiple critical national missions at ORNL, including new isotope production, fusion energy research and development, supercomputing innovation, and the Second Target Station,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “We are privileged that DOE entrusts us to steward these world-leading capabilities for the nation.”

In addition to SIPRC, ORNL is receiving IRA funding for the following projects:

  • The US ITER project, managed by ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, will receive $256 million to support U.S. contributions to the international ITER fusion facility. US ITER is designing, fabricating and delivering hardware systems for a reactor-scale burning plasma experiment that will demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.
  • The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, which houses multiple supercomputers including the world’s fastest – Frontier – will receive $57 million. Researchers use supercomputers to deliver practical breakthroughs and new scientific knowledge in climate, materials, nuclear science, and a wide range of other disciplines.
  • The Second Target Station, or STS, will receive $42.7 million toward developing the next-generation neutron facility that will help the U.S. maintain leadership in materials innovation. The unique capabilities of STS will enable researchers to accelerate their work on materials well beyond the current pace, resulting in the rapid design and deployment of new materials necessary for energy applications.
  • The Materials Plasma Exposure eXperiment, or MPEX, is a cutting-edge linear plasma device under construction at ORNL that will receive $14 million. MPEX will support materials research relevant for next-generation fusion facilities, such as a fusion pilot plant.
  • ORNL will receive approximately $48 million to support additional isotope work, including $12 million for the Radioisotope Processing Facility, which will address the nation’s growing demand for radioisotopes.
  • LEGEND, officially known as the Large Enriched Germanium Experiment for Neutrinoless Double-Beta Decay, will receive $5 million. It is an international nuclear physics experiment led by ORNL that will seek an extremely rare signal. If found, the signal could dramatically revise scientists’ understanding of the universe and the imbalance of matter and antimatter.

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