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New Argonne Facility Would Create Chicago Science Jobs

Posted on August 11, 2008

The expansion of a nearby national laboratory could create new Chicago science jobs.

Argonne National Laboratory is bidding for a government-funded research facility that would create hundreds of new jobs.

According to a ChicagoBusiness article, the laboratory wants to house a $550 million facility for rare isotope beams to conduct fundamental physics research, a project recently approved by the federal government after being delayed for many years. The facility also would be used to conduct research into the origins of elements.

Proposals for the facility were due to the U.S. Department of Energy by the end of July, and the government plans to announce the site location and have first-year funding in place by the end of the year. Argonne expects Michigan State University will be its toughest competitor for the site. The University of Chicago helps manage Argonne.

“It started out as a $1-billion project several years ago, then ran into funding problems and was put on hold and then downsized,” a spokesman for the University of Chicago said in the article.

It is projected obtaining the facility would only help Argonne, as it and many other national science laboratories have seen strong budget cuts.

If approved for the facility, Argonne estimates the project would generate $250 million in wages during the eight years it would take to design and build the facility. Once complete, the facility would create 290 jobs and have an annual operating budget of $80.

“Every lab has to come up with new ideas which allow you to expand on research programs,” Walter Henning, who is leading Argonne’s proposal, said in the article. “It’s important to the health and science future of the lab.”