Work to start on $90 million lab in Richland, thanks to federal budget

A new $90 million laboratory is planned for the Richland campus of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, perhaps west of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory in the center of the photo.
A new $90 million laboratory is planned for the Richland campus of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, perhaps west of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory in the center of the photo. Courtesy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be able to start work on a $90 million new building with world-class chemistry capabilities in Richland, thanks to $20 million in federal dollars.

The spending bill for fiscal 2018 passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on March 23 included the money to start the project, said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in her visit to the Tri-Cities on Thursday.

The Department of Energy national lab is planning a 120,000-square-foot facility for work on basic science that could lead to the development of advanced catalysts and materials for use in new energy and transportation technologies.

The building will have labs and work spaces for about 150 PNNL staff, plus up to 50 visiting researchers working on projects with PNNL scientists and engineers.

A final decision on a site for the building has not been made, but PNNL officials are considering a site in the center of PNNL’s Richland campus west of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

The $20 million will let PNNL move forward with contracting for the design and construction of what’s being called the Energy Sciences Capability project, said PNNL spokesman Greg Koller.

The total project is expected to cost about $93 million, including some expenses at the start and end of the capital project.

Construction could start as soon as mid-2019, with the building possibly in use by 2022. However, construction depends on continued DOE approvals for the project and money in federal budgets.

DOE earlier authorized the start of conceptual design activities, and an independent project review occurred in December.

Approval to start construction and design was granted in February, pending the money approved in the 2018 spending bill.

The project also has an $8 million contribution made by Washington last year to help leverage federal money. The state contribution will go toward two scientific instruments to equip the new building.

One is a specific type of next generation electron microscope. The other is a state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance machine, similar to those used for medical imaging.

Both instruments look at materials at the atomic level to understand their structures, providing information to scientists as they design new materials with specific properties.

PNNL has been adding about one building a year to its Richland campus. It’s part of an ongoing program to make sure it has top-of-the-line space for cutting-edge science.

But recent projects have been on a smaller scale than the Energy Sciences Capability project, with buildings each costing about $10 million or less.

Work is almost finished on the latest project, Discovery Hall, initially called the Collaboration Center. It started construction with a $9.8 million budget.

A ribbon cutting and dedication event is planned for April 30.

The 24,000-square-foot hall will have spaces for the increasing number of meetings among researchers in different disciplines and working for various agencies, as complex science requires more collaboration.

Its larger spaces will let PNNL to play host to more science and technology conferences. The main room of the Discovery Hall has three zones that can be opened up to accommodate 450 people.

Events already scheduled at the hall include the American Chemical Society Northwest Regional Meeting in June, with about 400 people expected to attend.

PNNL officials say about 2,000 scientists, engineers and others visit PNNL annually, with each visitor spending about $200 a day in the Tri-Cities.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews