Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oregon National Laboratory Proposal

The following proposal by Steven A. Sylwester was the July 31, 2009, Featured Post at, which is linked here and here.

A shorter version : Eugene Weekly : Letters : "A NATIONAL LAB HERE" : Appeared in print Aug 6, 2009. See here.

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Eugene-Springfield has a golden opportunity. The 1,100-acre parcel of land adjacent to Lane Community College that is owned by Arlie & Company would make an excellent location for a national laboratory focused on the “green” development of energy generating technologies using the many eco-friendly natural resources found in Oregon.

The selling points are these:
1) two nearby public research universities: the University of Oregon (sciences, nanotechnology center, and architecture school) and Oregon State University (sciences, wave study center, and engineering school);
2) adjacent Lane Community College (technician training);
3) the Pacific Ocean;
4) five nearby mountain rivers: McKenzie and Willamette from the Cascade Range, and Umpqua, Siuslaw, and Alsea from the Coast Range;
5) more than thirty hot springs throughout Oregon, many nearby;
6) the Columbia River and Bonneville Dam;
7) four nearby reservoirs: Fall Creek, Lookout Point, Dorena, and Fern Ridge;
8) an abundance of forest and agricultural byproducts;
9) five potentially active volcanoes in the Cascade Range mountains in Oregon;
10) frequently cloudy skies on the coast and in the Willamette Valley;
11) frequently sunny skies east of Bend;
12) coastal winds;
13) Central Oregon winds; and
14) located on Interstate-5 near Highways 58, 99, and 126 in a community with both a train station and an airport.

Nearby energy producing natural resources include: ocean waves and currents, river currents, dams, biomass, geothermal, volcanic, solar, and wind. Where else in the United States but in Eugene, Oregon, can all of the above be found within 150 miles of a central location, with most of it being within a comfortable 75-mile radius?

Currently, only one national laboratory comes close to what I propose: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory located near Golden, Colorado — a place with no ocean, no rivers, and no volcanoes, but with a lot of wind and sunshine. It was founded in 1977 as the Solar Research Institute, and was renamed in September 1991 when it was designated a national laboratory. NREL currently has approximately 1,000 full-time employees, of whom 47% are scientists and 42% are engineers. NREL had funding totaling $378.4 million in 2007. Its overall campus covers 327 acres, of which 136 acres are developed and 191 acres remain open space.

*Regarding NREL:*
*Regarding Arlie & Company (click on: "projects" then "college park"):*
*Potentially Active Volcanoes in the 48 United States:*
*Hot Springs in Oregon:*
*Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI):*
*Green Chemistry at the University of Oregon:*
*Green Architecture at the University of Oregon:*
*Oregon State University Wave Research:*
*Oregon Biomass Energy:*

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The first national laboratories were born out of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which was formed in 1946. Argonne became the first national laboratory on July 1,1946. What became Argonne had existed previously as a smaller lab since December 2, 1942. By comparison, Brookhaven came into being in 1946 when nine major eastern universities formed a nonprofit corporation to establish a new nuclear-science facility, and on March 21, 1947, Brookhaven became a national laboratory. Reading the histories of the different national laboratories describes a process of forming that differs from lab to lab.

The Fermilab was commissioned by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission under a bill signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 21, 1967, so it is possible to establish a new national laboratory from scratch through an Act of Congress if a compelling national need can be identified and addressed.

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How much energy is inside of the Earth? According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the energy released from the lateral blast when Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, was 24 megatons of thermal energy (7 by the blast itself, and the rest through release of heat).

A 1-megaton weapon would have the energy equivalent of 1 million tons of TNT, and 1 bomb with a yield of 1 megaton would destroy 80 square miles.

The positive uses of thermal energy are now being developed. Consider:

What I wonder is if the danger of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes can be reduced or eliminated if technologies can be developed to actively and efficiently release the deep energy within the Earth in ways that can generate useful power. As it is, the security of the United States is vulnerable to planet Earth. If the super-volcano at Yellowstone National Park erupts again or if the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812 happen again, our nation will experience unparalleled widespread devastation that will dwarf what happened during and after Hurricane Katrina.

It becomes a question of priorities. Consider:
Excerpt: "NASA has projected that costs for its human lunar exploration program and robotic support missions will total about $95 billion between 2005 and 2020--or roughly $66 billion for human exploration and $29 billion for robotic support missions."

By comparison, consider the current funding of earthquake research by the USGS:
Excerpt: "The USGS is awarding $5 million in grants and cooperative agreements in 2009 for earthquake research. Funding will go to 84 recipients, including universities, state geological surveys and private firms. In addition, applications are being accepted for up to $7 million in grants and cooperative agreements for earthquake research in 2010. "These grants underscore once again the importance to our nation of the earth science work accomplished by the USGS," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. "Earthquakes are one of the most costly natural hazards faced by the nation, posing a risk to 75 million Americans in 39 states."