Sandia LabNews

DOE Secretary Abraham helps launch Sandia's new JCEL facility

Secretary Abraham helps launch new JCEL facility

DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham joined members of the Sandia Corp. Board of Directors, senior Labs management, and other Sandians on April 28 to officially mark the opening of the new Joint Computational Engineering Lab building (Lab News, April 30).

JCEL, as it is called, will house some 175 researchers and support staff in its 60,000-plus square feet of space. The $30.8 million JCEL facility was funded by DOE/NNSA’s Advanced Simulation and Computing program and represents an integral part of the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) project.

In prepared remarks before a standing-room-only audience of Sandians, Abraham said the new facility is emblematic of DOE’s commitment to keep the nuclear weapons complex infrastructure at the cutting edge of technology.

JCEL, Abraham said, represents a significant upgrade, consolidation, and enlargement of Sandia’s computational capabilities, which is extremely important in DOE/NNSA’s stockpile stewardship mission.

Abraham said that when the current administration assumed office in 2001, "The President and I agreed that modernizing [the nuclear weapons complex infrastructure] was urgent. . . . Three years and $1.8 billion worth of investment later, we are rapidly achieving that."

In another area, Abraham took a moment to acknowledge Sandia Board member James Schlesinger, who was in the audience, noting that Schlesinger served as the first secretary of DOE in the 1970s.

Abraham also congratulated Sandia on its selection as a research "Center of Excellence" in the administration’s national hydrogen initiative (see "Labs selected as virtual Center of Excellence" on page 1), the goal of which is to begin the transformation to a hydrogen-based economy (as opposed to the current fossil-fuel based economy).

Sandia, he noted, will work "on probably the most challenging issue in hydrogen vehicle viability," the ability to store enough hydrogen to be able to provide a vehicle with a 300-mile range that American drivers demand.

Abraham expressed his confidence that Sandia and its research partners will "use their tremendous creative skills to solve this problem."

Labs Director C. Paul Robinson, preceding Abraham at the speaker’s podium, said, "My key word for the day is ‘connections.'"

JCEL, he said, will facilitate and enable connections among the best minds in the nuclear weapons SMU, across the Labs, and at other sites within the weapons complex. The facility also will provide new levels of connection with industrial and university research partners.

Paul also lauded the new JCEL facility — both in its construction process and in its subsequent use as a laboratory — for its "green" qualities, taking special note of the building’s designed-in indoor environmental air quality.

Senior VP Tom Hunter, master of ceremonies for the JCEL dedication, thanked DOE, the NNSA, and the Sandia Site Office for their on-going support of the JCEL project and for the larger MESA project to which it is integrally linked. He thanked Congress, and especially the New Mexico congressional delegation, for their commitment to MESA and JCEL.

"This [facility] is one more tangible piece of a vision" of how the Labs will move into the future, Tom said. In JCEL, he said, "the engineer of today will get a glimpse of the engineer of the future."

Abraham extended his "heartfelt thanks and good luck" to the Sandians who brought JCEL to fruition and extended that appreciation to all Sandians — and colleagues in Los Alamos — when he said, "New Mexico may have been the 47th state to join the union, but in many ways you are first in helping secure the nation’s freedom. . . . The research you do has a direct and dramatic impact . . . providing hands-on benefits in the real world."

Abraham, who noted at the beginning of his remarks that the sound of aircraft overhead during the dedication ceremony always reminded him of the adage "the sound of freedom," concluded on a similar theme: "That freedom is well-protected because of what you do every day."