Into the Lab

UNM joins a high-profile consortium to manage a national lab

School of Engineering faculty and students will soon be spending more time in the lab. UNM is part of the Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) team that won a federal contract to manage the Idaho National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy. The 10-year, $4.8 billion contract to manage Idaho National Laboratory took effect February 1, 2005. The vision for the Idaho National Laboratory is to become a world-class laboratory and national center for energy research.

"It's a major accomplishment for our School of Engineering to be part of this team," said UNM President Louis Caldera. "This contract is another sign of the growing national reputation of our programs - in this case, for our work in nuclear energy generation in space."

The Battelle Energy Alliance won the contract over three other teams. The alliance, led by the non-proit research group Battelle Memorial Institute, includes many members of industry and two academic groups. The National University Consortium (NUC) includes Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State, Oregon State, Ohio State University, and UNM. The Idaho University Collaboration (IUC) is comprised of Boise State, Idaho State, and the University of Idaho.

UNM's unique strength in space nuclear power and nuclear science and technology garnered the university an invitation into the BEA team. "We are excited to be part of the team dedicated to making INL an internationally recognized space and nuclear power leader," said Dean of the School of Engineering Joseph L. Cecchi. "We look forward to collaborating on advanced nuclear technology as well as developing an academic center of excellence that will produce the next generation of space and nuclear scientists."

The mission of the 3,000-employee lab in Idaho Falls is to develop advanced nuclear technologies that provide clean, abundant, affordable, and reliable energy to the United States and the world. INL is developing the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, a new nuclear system to produce electricity and hydrogen to support a cleaner, more efficient hydrogen economy in the U.S.

One of the priorities for INL in its quest to become a world-class laboratory is a commitment to scientific excellence, innovation, and creativity. Five centers of excellence and a center for advanced energy studies have been established to further this goal. UNM will be establishing an academic Center of Excellence for space and nuclear research and will be involved in educating and training the future work force in nuclear engineering. UNM will work closely with INL and the NUC and IUC members.

As part of the academic alliance, UNM expects to offer internships and employment opportunities at the labs and new collaborations with the participating universities. The School of Engineering also plans to expand its nuclear engineering faculty.