Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Bill Cabage (cabagewh@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL Director Thom Mason's message on UT-Battelle contract extension

ORNL Director Thom Mason
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., March 23, 2010 — The following is the text of a message Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason sent to ORNL staff Tuesday regarding the Department of Energy's renewal of UT-Battelle's contract to manage the laboratory.

Director's Message, Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This morning we received news from Energy Secretary Steven Chu that the Department of Energy has awarded a five-year extension of UT-Battelle's contract to manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Secretary, who was joined by Governor Phil Bredesen and Representatives Zach Wamp and Lincoln Davis, announced the news before several hundred staff gathered in the ORNL Conference Center.

First of all, I am grateful to Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy for their confidence in UT-Battelle's leadership during one of the most exciting periods in the Laboratory's history. I am also grateful to the University of Tennessee and to Battelle, who together make up one of the most successful partnerships in the national laboratory system. Both UT and Battelle contributed in unique ways to the accomplishments that marked our first ten years at ORNL.

Most of all, I am grateful to the extraordinary staff at ORNL who in the end were responsible for delivering DOE's science mission. Since more than one-half of the staff currently at ORNL were not here ten years ago, it may be hard for many of you to imagine how far we have come since that first day in April 2000. The following are just a handful of examples.

-What we know today as the "Quad" was a massive parking lot, with a chain link fence surrounding an infrastructure that was old, unattractive and expensive to maintain. Working with the support of DOE and the state of Tennessee, UT-Battelle undertook a $350 million plan to transform ORNL from one of the oldest labs into the most modern in the DOE system.

-Ten years ago the SNS had just broken ground, with many wondering if we were capable of delivering a $1.4 billion project. Our computational program was housed in cramped and outdated facilities, and was not listed among the top 100 computers in the world. We not only delivered the SNS on time, scope and budget, we also developed a program of high-performance computing that today boasts two of the world's top three machines located in a state-of-the-art facility.

-In April 2000 climate and bioenergy were small parts of the lab agenda. By leveraging our partnership with UT and the state of Tennessee, ORNL is today among the national leaders in these two emerging fields of research.

-In April 2000, our rate of accidents was high, and our rate of growth was low. Through the great work of our staff, we now have a safety record among DOE's best, a research portfolio that has tripled our annual budget to more than $1.65 billion, and a staff that has grown by nearly a thousand.

As proud as I am about our success over the past ten years, I am even more excited about the potential that lies ahead for UT-Battelle and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Our partnership with the University of Tennessee and the state continues to mature, as evidenced by the new graduate program in energy sciences established by the state legislature in January. The next decade will witness more collaborative research with UT faculty and greater numbers of UT graduate students taking advantage of the facilities at ORNL. Likewise, we are part of a Battelle family of labs that offers an increasing range of opportunities for collaboration and growth with an emphasis on moving our science and technology into the marketplace.

In some respects, we have set a new bar of performance. The challenge to UT-Battelle, and to each of us who work at ORNL, is to meet this higher standard in the delivery of our scientific mission, the operation of our Laboratory, and our leadership among the local community.

Again, I want to thank the Department of Energy for providing us the chance to join in solving some of the most important scientific challenges of our time. Most of all, I want to thank the staff of ORNL, who have made our Laboratory one of the world's great centers for scientific discovery.