ORNL chief lauds Obama's DOE choice

TENNESSEE - Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason said the apparent nomination of Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy is encouraging and shows the priority the Obama administration is placing on energy and science.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him," Mason said.

Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Mason have participated in lab director meetings and also joined forces on occasion to preach the merits of funding science research.

Mason said Chu's selection as energy secretary is anything but business as usual. "There's clearly an understanding that in tackling the energy problem, it's not sufficient to just push for current deployment of existing technology, but looking for a transformational breakthrough," the ORNL director said.

"That's very promising for Oak Ridge because that's really where we are as an institution," he said.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which Chu has directed since 2004, has been strongly involved in development of renewable energy sources, Mason said, noting that Berkeley, in California, has one of the DOE's new biosciences centers - as does ORNL.

Because Chu is already familiar with the DOE system of national labs, there won't be a learning curve, Mason said, and that's a big advantage in moving forward to address research priorities.


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