Battelle said it again received top grades, matching or besting the nation’s other nine Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories, for its operation and management of DOE’s national laboratory in Richland.
This is the seventh consecutive year that DOE judged Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to have the highest overall performance or be tied for the highest performance, director Mike Kluse said in a message to employees Tuesday. The grades cover the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
Battelle received 94 percent of the maximum $11.9 million in award pay available for the year, or $11.2 million. That matches last year’s percentage.
Much of the payment will be used by the nonprofit Battelle for the upkeep of buildings, purchase of new equipment, charitable giving and expenses not reimbursed by the government.
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“It was another good year. We are really pleased,” said Julie Erickson, deputy manager of DOE’s Pacific Northwest Site Office.
Battelle received all As in Science and Technology, including an A-minus in the most important category, mission accomplishment, or the quality and productivity of research work. In Management and Operations, it received four B-pluses and an A-minus.
Battelle’s top goal for the year was to align the science coming out of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) on the PNNL campus with DOE’s priorities within the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Kluse said.
“That was a significant challenge and we worked very hard on it,” he said. “We delivered.”
Erickson called the management of EMSL exceptional, and the evaluation said EMSL achieved more than 100 percent of the expected operating hours. Its supercomputing capabilities also exceeded plans.
EMSL is a DOE “user facility,” with scientists, facilities and instruments available to researchers around the world.
Other biological research at PNNL was similarly aligned with DOE priorities. Kluse said he was proud of the recognition PNNL has received for its work toward modernizing the nation’s electrical grid. Battelle received an A-plus from the Office of Electricity and Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
Its highest program office grade, an A-plus with a slightly higher numerical score, came from the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. The evaluation said the lab contributed greatly to the intelligence community’s awareness of the potential impacts of emerging technologies and related issues.
The national lab significantly exceeded the majority of its targets related to the transfer of technology into the marketplace, including in the number of inventions, patents granted and revenue for intellectual property, the review said.
The fiscal year had a difficult start with the shutdown of the federal government because Congress failed to appropriate money. But Battelle continued to operate PNNL using limited money left from previous years and developed a plan to delay furloughs and a shutdown of the national lab as long as possible.
“(Battelle) used lessons learned to resolve gaps and strengthen business continuity planning, becoming a model for such an event,” the evaluation said.
DOE also was pleased with Battelle’s work to continue to modernize the PNNL campus, Erickson said. Building is continuing on a systems engineer laboratory and construction is expected to start in 2015 on a general purpose chemistry laboratory.
The evaluation found few serious issues at PNNL. But it did discuss Battelle’s discovery that it was not meeting requirements to fully protect workers from beryllium, which can cause an incurable lung-disease in people who are genetically sensitive to the metal.
“The lack of awareness of the true health of the program ... was quite troublesome,” the evaluation said.
However, Battelle discovered the problem and reported it, and DOE was pleased with its response and work to correct issues.
In the coming year, PNNL will maintain its sharp focus on continued alignment of biological research and science with DOE priorities, Kluse said.
Kluse has announced plans to retire this spring, and Battelle’s last full fiscal year evaluation under his leadership was “one of the best beginning to end in all aspects,” he said.
He will leave confident that the lab is well positioned for the future, he said.