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USA: Some great things that happened in Oak Ridge in 2011: The DOE/ORNL edition


ORNL Director Thom Mason plugs in his Nissan Leaf as fellow electric vehicle owner Kathy Huczko looks on. ORNL provides solar charging stations for the new EVs, part of new energy and environmental sustainability practices being implemented at the laboratory.

As we continue the focus on positive accomplishments in 2011, I continue to get input and am amazed at the variety of achievements forthcoming. I hope to wrap up the series soon with a look to the future. This installment will include some insights Gordon Fee shared. Remember, he is the person who initiated this whole series by his email questioning why he did not see more positive stories reported.

I am pleased to see the annual month-long newspaper emphasis, Progress, a look at progress in our area, sponsored by The Oak Ridger and its advertisers. Gordon’s initiative and my response by creating this series of Historically Speaking articles have been complimentary to that effort, I believe.

Gordon notes the forward movement of the airport studies should also be included in significant accomplishments in 2011. He identified Sitel adding 150 new jobs in Oak Ridge as significant, as well.

There are two things that will impact Oak Ridge for years. The decision by Department of Energy headquarters to adopt the “Base Commander” organization structure. We are lucky to have John Eschenberg to fill the top position locally and to have his intense interest in what’s good for Oak Ridge.

The other thing is the decision to marry the Pantex and Y-12 management contracts. This decision was not favored by federal elected officials, state or city officials. Fee sees these two items as most significant issues that surfaced in 2011 and that will have substantial impact on Oak Ridge in the foreseeable future.

The award given B&W Y-12 for managing Y-12 may be the most ever given to a contractor — $56 million. As the new contract that combines Pantex and Y-12 with possible elements of Savannah River Site, the ability to keep contributions from the contractor here in Oak Ridge may be more of a challenge than in the past. It is imperative that community support be an integral part of the new contract regardless of the location of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) office of oversight. Our city leaders must keep their eyes on this issue.

Other things Fee identified were: The opening of Sexton Motors in Oak Ridge; Oak Ridge science students winning the National Siemens Competition; and a list he saw in the Knoxville MetroPulse newspaper.

The list was labeled “New Influential People for Oak Ridge.” If you did not see that list, here it is: UCOR President Leo Sain; new Police Chief Jim Akagi; new Fire Chief Darryl Kerley; new Tech 20/20 Executive Director John Morris; Gerald Boyd moving to the private sector, a University of Tennessee replacement for Homer Fisher — Fred Tompkins; John Eschenberg and ORNL’s Technology Transfer Division Director Mike Paulus.
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