Senators want to spend $30 billion upgrading DOE's national labs, including SRNL near Aiken

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Jul. 1—A New Mexico senator has proposed spending $30 billion to revamp the Department of Energy's aging national labs, including the Savannah River National Laboratory south of Aiken.

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, pitched the funding in the Restore and Modernize Our National Labs Act, which was introduced in late June and has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Lujan said the legislation funds "necessary updates and upgrades that enhance our national labs' capacity to address 21st century challenges, like addressing climate change, creating and leading on industries of the future, and strengthening our national security."

"Our national labs, including Sandia and Los Alamos in New Mexico, have helped position our country as a global leader in innovation and scientific discovery," Luján said in a statement. "However, the labs' success depends on critical infrastructure that is often decades beyond its usefulness."

The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois, two Democrats. A similar measure, featuring $6 billion, was attached to the House-passed Moving Forward Act last year.

Durbin in a statement last month said scientific dominance and innovation requires proper funding; the Restore and Modernize Our National Labs Act, he continued, "can offer our scientists at the world-class labs, like those at Argonne and Fermi, the support they need."

Exactly how much funding would be allocated for the Savannah River National Lab, an institution at the Savannah River Site, is unclear.

There are 17 national labs across the U.S. Each has its own flair or focus or expertise. The Savannah River National Laboratory portfolio includes everything from nuclear waste cleanup and nuclear nonproliferation to forensics and energy manufacturing.

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