Non-scientific upgrades

Randy Ortgiesen

Randy Ortgiesen, head of the Facilities and Engineering Services Section, wrote this week’s column.

As the laboratory has now entered the fifth month of this year’s Continuing Resolution, there is still much uncertainty about the final fiscal year 2011 budget, but the laboratory continues to progress towards its future.

We have heard quite a bit about how the continuing resolution does not currently allow for new starts on capital projects and the impact it could have on project engineering and design funds for scientific projects such as LBNE, Mu2e and MicroBooNE. These projects have obtained DOE approval for “mission need” in order to continue to receive funding, but at some level are dependent on a final budget to determine how the projects can progress.

Another project has also received approval, including proposed funding in FY11 for engineering, design and procurements that take a long time. The Utility Upgrade Project, while not as well known as the scientific projects is still very important to the laboratory’s future. This project is a line item project, which means that it requires approval by Congress. It is part of the DOE Science Laboratory Infrastructure (SLI) program.

The Utility Upgrade Project will improve the laboratory’s industrial cooling water and high-voltage electrical systems. By replacing electrical switches that use oil as an insulator with more modern air switches, we enhance reliability and reduce environmental liability. Likewise, replacing industrial cooling water system components enhances system pressures for fire protection and building sprinkler systems. These improvements also create a backbone from which current operations and future laboratory projects can obtain process cooling water.

The laboratory has historically invested in utility infrastructure through laboratory-funded improvement projects but has made a strong case for line-item capital funding to help satisfy the growing utility requirements. In fact, you can observe some of the results of the laboratory’s utility projects in the excavations currently underway in the Industrial Center areas and for underground piping across the site. You will soon see more evidence of these as we enter the spring construction season. However, the significant increase in funding that will come from the DOE SLI Utility Upgrade Project at Fermilab is from a mission readiness standpoint, perhaps one of the most critical to the laboratory’s future. Without it, we will find it very difficult to sustain current operations and prepare for the future.