Originally created 12/06/01

SRS opens lab in research center



Savannah River Site officials and area politicians opened a new laboratory Wednesday that they hope will become a model for future partnerships between the federal nuclear-weapons site and local industry.

More than 100 people attended a ceremony to open the Aiken County Technology Laboratory on the 422-acre Savannah River Research Campus in New Ellenton.

The 22,000-square-foot, $2.7 million lab is the result of a deal struck in January between SRS officials and Aiken County.

The site got a new building at a bargain compared with what it would have paid to build on-site, some officials said. The county hopes that the presence of SRS scientists in that building will attract more high-tech companies to the campus.

"We will become a leader in the transfer of technology and the attraction of technology-oriented businesses to this area," said Ronnie Young, chairman of the Aiken County Council. "This lab will provide a facility from which even greater science can be launched."

The lab, built with funds from Aiken County, will be home to 50 scientists from the Savannah River Technology Center at SRS.

The researchers previously had been housed in the site's aging, remote TNX complex, which was insufficient to meet their needs, the technology center's director said.

"Not only does this building feature labs specifically designed to meet the needs of our researchers, but its conveniently located right to the site," Susan Wood said.

Westinghouse Savannah River Co., which operates SRS under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, will lease the building for eight years, said Angie Fitzgerald, a company spokeswoman. That money will repay Aiken County's investment to build the lab.

No classified work or work with radioactive materials will be done at the lab, Ms. Fitzgerald said.

Some economic developers said they were working to attract other SRS functions to the park.

"We think there are other programs that need new facilities and that could benefit from a closer proximity to the private sector," said Ernest S. Chaput, a former U.S. Department of Energy official at SRS and special-projects coordinator for the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership.

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.