The Savannah River National Lab could stand to benefit from a bill passed in the U.S. House that, if passed by the Senate, would make for easier access for public-private partnerships to conduct research and bring new ideas to the lab.


U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., and several other legislators introduced the Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2014 on July 16. The bill passed in the House on July 22.


“Our national laboratories have been, and continue to be, the birthplace of some of our most revolutionary technologies. This legislation makes it easier for entrepreneurs and business leaders to harness that research so start-ups with one or two employees can grow into companies that create hundreds of quality jobs,” Hultgren said.


The Aiken Standard reached out to the Lab on the issue, and Director Dr. Terry Michalske said the flexibility to expand and strengthen this laboratory and the national laboratory network will be of value.


“State of the art equipment to monitor and analyze chemical and nuclear material, facilities to test advanced manufacturing prototypes, expanded computer resources, cybersecurity test platforms ... all of this is needed,” said Michalske. “Just like any business, as technology improves, the need to keep up with demands is vital.”


Michalske credited Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz with being an advocate of the nation’s 17 national labs. He added that the advocacy has helped the Lab develop various technologies, including a device called a SoundAnchor which is able to measure the anchor pins beneath a tall tower’s support cables to make sure they are solid and free from corrosion.


Other innovations that have recently taken place at the Lab include a microwave technology that turns commercial microwaves into a device that can destroy a wide variety of substances, ranging from harmful viruses to radiological materials.


“The labs contribute to our nation’s defense, environmental cleanup and the development of alternative energy. SRNL is a valuable part of the laboratory complex, and it’s gratifying to see an interest in improving this resource,” said Michalske.


U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., voted in favor of the bill. Spokeswoman Caroline Delleney said Wilson supported the bill because it allows the Lab to share information and assets that would spur job creation in the CSRA.


“It also increases lab directors’ ability to reach across bureaucratic lines and partner with the private sector,” said Delleney. “The Congressman has full faith in Savannah River National Laboratory Director Dr. Terry Michalske and knows he will continue to help SRNL achieve significant success if the Senate passes this bill and it becomes law.”


Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June 2013.