May 02, 2011

Idaho National Lab: World-Class Innovation

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Many people understand that the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is a nuclear energy research lab.  However, the breadth of the lab's work may be largely unknown.  I am consistently impressed by the importance of INL's innovations, but never more so than following the tragedy in Japan.  INL specialists have stepped up to help address the trials in Japan in meaningful ways and continue to lead a wide spectrum of advancements that help both home and abroad.

 

Since the earthquake, INL experts have been helping U.S. and Japanese government officials assess the damage to the nuclear facilities at Fukushima and develop stabilization and remediation procedures.  In addition, INL technicians equipped a robot with sensors, detectors and cameras for use in helping map radiation contamination in areas of Japan's nuclear facility inaccessible to humans.  The lab's work with private industry to develop these robotic components is instrumental in helping detect radiation and provide geospatial mapping of radiation levels.  

 

In operation for more than sixty years, INL has a history of leadership in developing meaningful energy innovations and validating the technologies performance.  The lab supports the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear and energy research, science and national defense efforts and has achieved landmark accomplishments in this field. 

 

However, INL employees are expanding knowledge and technology in areas far beyond the development of nuclear power.  For example, lab researchers are developing and testing electric vehicle batteries that can lead to emission-and petroleum-free cars and light trucks and exploring biofuels and renewable energy resources, including hydropower, cellulose-based ethanol and wind energy.  Lab employees are developing technology to help protect critical infrastructure, including cyber security.  The lab works with the U.S. military, private industry and federal agencies to develop technologies for explosive detection, armor and survivability.  Additionally, lab employees have assisted with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) missions and have been recognized for notable assistance with a NASA mission to Pluto.  The lab also monitors earthquake activity in the area and assists with early warning activity.

 

INL is truly an asset to Idaho and our nation, and these are just a few examples of the extensive research and development conducted at the lab.  A sustained focus on learning and advancement, such as the efforts of INL employees, will assist in the continued development of nuclear energy and many other essential activities.  Idahoans are helping to lead this effort through providing important research and innovation.  INL researchers are influencing nuclear energy innovations and other important developments around the world.  The assistance the lab is providing Japan as well as its ongoing improvements are extraordinary and illustrate a level of excellence worthy of recognition and appreciation.   

 

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