Apr 3, 2007

LANL: Bingaman aims to boost lab, science funding

April 3, 2007
LOS ALAMOS -- Los Alamos National Laboratory can help solve major problems facing the country, from tracking the flow of nuclear materials to developing better energy sources to rely upon, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman said Monday.

Bingaman addressed scientists at the lab and small-business owners at Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, and sent the message that he's working to increase federal funding for science work nationally and at the lab.

"My message was very simple," Bingaman said to a crowd of small-business owners and other community members. "We need ... in Washington to get back to a focus on the major long-term challenges that we face in this country. I think we've been diverted from those challenges in recent years, both with the war in Iraq and to some extent with the war on terror."

Bingaman said the lab has "a great deal to contribute" in determining the future of the nuclear weapons stockpile, ensuring that nuclear weapons are not used in the coming decades and "transitioning our economy both in the way that we produce and transmit and use energy, so as to deal not only with our economic security but to deal with the very real problem of greenhouse gas emissions."

Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has great influence over national energy policy.

He said the committee will address large-scale demonstrations of carbon capture and storage technologies; more promotion of biofuels like ethanol; and tax incentives for producing energy from renewable sources like the sun.

Bingaman also covered a worrisome subject in Northern New Mexico today -- the possibility of layoffs to permanent workers at the lab. Bingaman said it was somewhat surprising when he was asked about that, and he then asked Lab Director Michael Anastasio about it.

"He said that he has repeated numerous times that there are no layoffs planned and there is no plan to plan for layoffs," Bingaman said.

Last year, the company that manages the lab announced 350 to 550 layoffs to contract workers. The lab's permanent work force of about 8,920 workers was not affected. Instead, lab managers have been saving money by not filling some vacancies when workers leave.

The lab's overall budget is about $2.2 billion. President Bush's proposed budget for the 2008 fiscal year would cut Los Alamos' money from the Department of Energy by about 1 percent, or $18 million, compared to the 2006 fiscal year.

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or alenderman@sfnewmexican.com.

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