Mason: new contract ‘tremendous vote of confidence’

ornlaerial2014UT-Battelle, a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, has received a new five-year contract to manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

ORNL Director Thom Mason confirmed Monday that the new contract with the U.S. Department of Energy had been signed and will go into effect April 1.

UT-Battelle has managed the lab since 2000. The annual budget exceeds $1.5 billion.

The new contract was no surprise because the Department of Energy had stated its intention since late 2013 to extend UT-Battelle’s management role for another five years.

However, the actual negotiations and ironing out the contract details took a while to complete.

Mason recently said the new contract will be virtually the same as the old one, but noted, “It actually turns out there’s a fairly lengthy document, so there’s a lot of details that have to be sort of checked and cross-checked.”

In a message to staff, the lab director said there was good reason for UT-Battelle’s latest contract extension.

Over the past five years, Mason said, the laboratory has “maintained its pre-eminence in high-performance computing and materials sciences, continued to build on its strengths in neutron science, bioenergy and global security, and watched an amazing growth of both capability and public interest in advanced manufacturing.”

Since taking over management of ORNL in 2015, UT-Battelle has orchestrated a major modernization of the government laboratory.

The most notable project in recent years was construction of the $95 million, 160,000-square-foot Chemical and Materials Sciences Building on the lab’s east campus.

“The contract extension … is a tremendous vote of confidence from our DOE sponsors and, more than anyone, you earned it,” Mason said in his message to staff.

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