Idaho State JournalIdaho State Journal

INEEL gets most federal research funds in state

By Anne Minard
Journal Staff Writer

POCATELLO - Congress last week released a breakdown of how appropriated research dollars are spent across the nation, eliciting a mixed response from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.
Using information from the 1998 fiscal year, the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy reported that INEEL is the largest recipient statewide of federal research dollars.
But Idaho as a whole remains about two-thirds of the way down the national list of states in terms of those dollars spent.
Getting more money for research is one of the biggest challenges facing the site as it makes strides to live up to a recent congressional nod recognizing it as the nation's lead nuclear research lab.
"The point of the whole report was to look at where federal research and development money went. I think what was remarkable is that the INEEL is by far the largest research and development center in the state of Idaho," says Brad Bugger, Department of Energy spokesman in Idaho.
"Obviously, we would like to pump up the research and development spending. That's one of the goals for the Bechtel program." Bugger was referring to a recent partnership between the site and Bechtel BWXT-Idaho, its general contractor.
"We want a high focus on science, and they're working on the site to do that." He said a subsurface science center is an example of one item on the site's wish list that could bolster research capabilities.
"The whole idea is to integrate the science into your operations, so cleanup decisions are based in good science."
Overall, Idaho gets $274 million for research and development. That amount represents about 10 percent of the federal research and development budget and is the 32nd-largest award doled out among the states.
Of the state total, DOE is awarded about $209 million annually. About $21 million is spent on U.S. Department of Agriculture activities, $16 million each on the U.S. Department of Defense and miscellaneous research activities. The smallest amount, $11 million, goes to statewide activities of the U.S. Department of Interior.
Bugger said the DOE portion of the funding has remained consistent over the years. He said the federal research and development program is a portion of the roughly $800 million needed for operations and cleanup at the site.
In the upcoming fiscal year, the DOE is seeking to spend $18.9 billion across all of its projects, an increase of about 9 percent over this year. Congress will approve or change that spending request in the fall.
The department also is requesting to boost its overall research and development budget by 8 percent.
Meanwhile, INEEL will continue to compete for research projects funded by other DOE divisions, such as the offices that oversee energy efficiency, defense programs, nuclear operations and national security.

Anne Minard covers science and the environment for the Journal. She may be reached at 239-3168 or by e-mail at aminard@journalnet.com.