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ORNL, Army Corps of Engineers Pooling Resources

November 01, 2005

Determining how best to balance water and energy security with environmental sustainability is the focus of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The agreement formalizes ongoing research and looks ahead to collaborations that will pool resources of the Department of Energy lab and two organizations within the Army Corps of Engineers—the Engineer Research and Development Center and the Institute for Water Resources. ORNL Director Jeff Wadsworth emphasized the significance of the agreement at a signing ceremony recently.

“Our nation’s goals of energy security, clean and plentiful freshwater and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked,” Mr. Wadsworth said. “This collaboration will combine the strengths of each of our research institutions to develop new technologies to achieve all three goals simultaneously.”

With water resources development a top priority, assessment capabilities will be a major component of the effort, said Randy Curlee, a researcher in ORNL’s Engineering Science & Technology Division. The lack of data, models and analysis tools severely limits a complete understanding of the problem and the development of roadmaps to achieve water, energy and environmental goals at the same time.

While the Engineer Research and Development Center and the Institute for Water Resources provide engineering and environmental services throughout the United States, ORNL has computational and scientific prowess across numerous disciplines. For example, ORNL researchers are developing inorganic microporous membranes, gas hydrates and ion exchange systems for water purification.

Collectively, the three organizations can create scientific and technological solutions that ensure energy and water needs are met with few or no compromises to the environment.

The next step will be to develop a business plan that combines the assets of the Army Corps of Engineers and ORNL, managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy in pursuing the goals outlined in the memorandum of understanding. The business plan will detail basic science, technology innovations and analysis, assessment, prediction and decision support. Completion of the plan is scheduled for March 2006.

The MOU is in effect for five years and may thereafter be extended by mutual agreement.

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