Sandia LabNews

DOE, NNSA agree to fund MESA . . . if . . .

DOE, NNSA agree to pay $518.5 million bill for MESA . . . if . . .

In the deliberately paced construction world of the gigantic MESA project — Sandia’s $462.5 million Microsystems and Engineering Science Applications center — it’s still midsummer in the baseball season as relatively small, hardly noticed achievements move the massive project along toward its own World Series of above-ground construction, equipment installation, and staffing.

In the latest mid-season step, according to MESA Program director Don Cook (1900), the DOE and NNSA have now agreed to pay the entire estimated cost of MESA, including an additional $56 million in operational costs — but only after NNSA formally reviews MESA’s completed baseline engineering-design plans and finds them feasible. Don expects this step to be completed in the next six months.

"With DOE approval, NNSA will pay the bill, the full bill — but nothing greater than the bill — in operating and construction costs," he says. "So it’s important that our baseline cost projections are accurate. They have been independently reviewed for accuracy. If we overstep the baseline, we would be in fiscal hot water."

Don doesn’t expect to exceed the baseline, because Sandia has a reputation for accurate assessments.

The project has already passed separate reviews of the conceptual design, project management, first stage of engineering design, and project cost estimate. "These steps reduce the possibility of buyer’s remorse for DOE later along the construction trajectory," says Don. "That’s a good thing. So when they come to us, our team never fears a question, we don’t waffle, and we answer the question that was asked."

DOE’s multistep funding procedure could be considered Byzantine in complexity or a careful, appropriate stewardship of the taxpayers’ money. But if NNSA approves the baseline plans on schedule, Don predicts that Sandians will see the project’s first building — a microfabrication facility — rise this fiscal year.

Power, communication, water, sewage, and other necessities are available from the project’s already-buried utilities, completed last fiscal year.

MESA, under the overall direction of Tom Hunter, Senior VP for Information, Computation, and Engineering Science (9000), is expected to renovate Sandia’s scientific equipment base, provide improved simulation and component fabrication capabilities for the nation’s nuclear deterrent, as well as facilitate interactions among researchers at Sandia, universities, and industry