The end of 2015 marks the beginning of a new decade for Idaho National Laboratory. Ten years ago, the Department of Energy, with support from Idaho’s congressional delegation and state elected officials, separated DOE cleanup actions from the lab’s important research and development mission.
INL was tasked with conducting nuclear and other clean energy research, protecting lives through an enhanced national security mission and building partnerships with education institutions in Idaho, the U.S. and around the globe.
Over the last decade, scientific discoveries led by the lab’s talented staff have saved lives, helped keep nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands and improved the world’s energy choices.
In my two months as INL director, I have been amazed by the excellence of this institution — its people, facilities, equipment and partners.
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My career has taken me across the nation and I’ve worked in and collaborated with several of DOE’s 17 national labs. Before landing in Idaho, I was familiar with the unique capabilities and talents at INL.
I see now how dedicated the lab is to its research and development mission in nuclear energy, integration of clean energy options and becoming a leader in cybersecurity, and grid and critical infrastructure protection.
INL has invested its dollars wisely to recruit the best and brightest, and built superior facilities that allow great minds to solve our nation’s largest challenges.
INL helped power missions to Mars and Pluto. INL is leading development of new nuclear fuels that are safer and more efficient. And INL will help combat climate change by improving energy storage, making manufacturing more efficient and developing advanced nuclear reactors.
INL leads the nation in advanced electric vehicle testing, trains radiological first responders and was recognized by the U.S. Army for its work in designing and manufacturing tank armor that protects our soldiers in battle.
The work we do at INL makes the world safer and cleaner; it also boosts Idaho’s economy.
INL is Idaho’s fifth-largest private employer, with approximately 3,900 employees earning an average of $88,635 annually. In 2015, INL added nearly $1.6 billion to Idaho’s gross economic output.
In 2015, INL hired 500 people, many graduates from Idaho colleges and universities. INL employed 350 interns and subcontracted more than $130 million to Idaho’s businesses.
As Idaho’s leaders have shared with me, the value of INL is not lost on them. They are grateful for INL’s contributions, including our commitment to improving STEM education in Idaho, our charitable giving and our help developing a strong technology culture through corporate grants.
I am confident that INL, DOE and our state partners appreciate the national and international value of nuclear energy research and embrace the responsibilities that come with being the nation’s lead nuclear research laboratory.
As we launch this next decade of INL discoveries, we want to do so in partnership with all Idahoans. The journey ahead will be easier and more rewarding if made with our education institutions and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), a consortium that includes Idaho’s three major universities and the University of Wyoming. We will not, in future years, be able to grow without a talent pipeline from which to draw.
We will be transparent, answer tough questions and address concerns head-on. Under my leadership, INL will be responsive. If you have a concern, we will address it.
By researching complex problems and implementing pragmatic solutions through an inclusive and collaborative process, we can create a world that is safer, cleaner and more kind.
INL’s employees stand poised to play an integral role for this country. We hope you will join us.
Mark Peters is director of Idaho National Laboratory.