Former director at Richland’s national laboratory dies

The former director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory from 2003 through 2006 has died.

Len Peters died Monday in Louisville, Ky., following an illness. He was 79.

He was born the son of a western Pennsylvania steelworker and became an authority on environmental chemistry.

As the leader of the Department of Energy lab in Richland, he expanded lab employment by nearly 10 percent and guided the direction of new research in energy resources, national security and nanoscience.

When he left PNNL, then Gov. Chris Gregoire said he had “helped to grow Washington’s reputation as a leader in research and technology.”

He worked to increase collaboration between the lab and Washington State University, resulting in the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

“Len was a tremendous supporter of the Tri-City community,” said Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council.

He served as TRIDEC board chairman and on the TRIDEC Higher Education Task Force, advocating for expanding WSU into a four-year institution.

He also co-led fundraising efforts for the Reach museum in Richland before leaving Washington state.

He left PNNL to serve as a corporate executive for Battelle, which holds the DOE contract to manage and operate PNNL.

In 2008 he was named the energy and environmental secretary for Kentucky, a position he resigned in 2015.