Lab is in the money

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Euphoria is the only way to describe the mood at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Monday.

One reason was the mere presence of the lab's ultimate boss, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu - not to mention his resume: a former lab director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, and a Nobel laureate. It's quite a breakthrough to have that level of scientific brainpower at the top of the Department of Energy.

And then, of course, there was the money: Chu announced the lab's share of the stimulus package. The biggest piece was $150 million to speed construction of DOE's most ambitious current project, the new national synchrotron light source. And there were millions more for other needs at the lab.

The light source is truly shovel-ready - groundbreaking is weeks away. And the stimulus money could get it up and running in 2014 instead of 2015. The light source will illuminate objects as small as a nanometer, a billionth of a meter. That's crucial for the clean-energy breakthroughs that can create green jobs to fuel the economic growth of the Island.

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Chu also talked about President Barack Obama's plans in such areas as increasing spending on basic science over 10 years; making tax benefits for private-sector research more reliable; and creating a fast-moving, risk-taking energy research agency within DOE, much like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that created the Internet.

All that energy about energy, plus Chu's seriousness about harnessing research to slow global warming, makes this an exhilarating time for the lab. And it's a feeling we can all share, because the lab's work on alternative energy sources could mean so much to this region and the nation.

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