Building Virginia’s Nuclear Cluster

One of the Virginia Tobacco Commission initiatives that intrigues me is a $7.6 million grant for the construction of a 25,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Engineering and Research CAER) just west of Lynchburg. I have seen little explanation about what this Center is supposed to accomplish. Only a few details emerge from an editorial in the Lynchburg News & Advance.

Bob Bailey, executive director of the center, said the new facility would create the opportunity for college-level faculty to locate in the region. Among other things, that would provide more educational opportunities for them and for students interested in pursuing engineering research.

With the presence of such nuclear giants as Areva and Babcock & Wilcox Co. in the area, nuclear energy research is no stranger here. Areva executives have announced plans to hire up to 500 engineers so the company can do detailed design work for its next generation nuclear power reactor.

Is CAER a research facility, or is it an educational facility? Is the funding of this facility part of a larger, well conceived plan to build a nuclear power services cluster in Lynchburg/Southside Virginia, or is it a case of the Tobacco Commission throwing money at a project in the hopes that it will do some good. I’m hoping it’s the former, but press accounts have provided so little detail that I can’t say for sure.

What can a tiny, $7.6 million facility hope to accomplish in “research” in an industry dominated by multi-billion dollar conglomerates? Will the “research” be tied to programs at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia… or perhaps to Areva and B&W… or perhaps to the environmentally safe extraction and processing of uranium ore from Pittsylvania County?

Have various nuclear power constituencies in Virginia ever gathered under a single roof to discuss a strategic plan for building the nuclear power cluster in the Old Dominion and, thereby, strengthen the competitive advantage of all Virginia-based players in the international marketplace for nuclear fuels and services? Has Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s peripatetic secretary of technology, been working behind the scenes? Inquisitive minds want to know!

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  1. Rodger Provo Avatar
    Rodger Provo

    Jim –

    It is my understanding that there
    is a program in place in Lynchburg
    in conjunction with the two firms
    there that are major players in
    this field that led to the wise
    decision to provide a building for
    the program.

    Va Tech played a role in putting this program together for a community now benefiting from the creation of 500 new jobs in this growth industry.

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