Durbin, Risch Announce Senate National Laboratory Caucus During First Ever National Lab Day on Capitol Hill

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jim Risch (R-ID) formally announced the launch of the Senate National Laboratory Caucus, which aims to highlight how the national labs help meet the innovation, economic growth, and security goals of the country—making them valuable to states even if they do not host a lab. In addition, the caucus will examine the policy and funding challenges that confront the lab system as a whole. The Senators joined Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz for the first ever National Lab Day on Capitol Hill to announce the formation of the caucus. The event highlighted several notable research projects from across the National Laboratory system. A photo from today’s event is available here. Since forming the caucus, Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have all joined.

“Over the past 70 years, the Energy Department’s national lab system has been an integral part of American innovation and success.  The world-class facilities serve as a meeting place for researchers from around the globe as they work to address our biggest challenges in energy, scientific discovery, and national security,” said Durbin.  “I am proud to join Senator Risch in establishing the Senate National Laboratory caucus.  By working together across the aisle, we can make certain that U.S. labs – like Illinois’ own Argonne and Fermi – continue to build on their successes and remain world leaders in cutting edge research.”


“Department of Energy national laboratories from coast-to-coast contribute groundbreaking scientific research in a number of disciplines, including energy innovation, national security, and basic science research,” said Risch.  “In order to conduct this research, our national labs are equipped with unique assets – be it their location, one of a kind instruments or, most importantly, the world’s leading scientists. My home state is fortunate to have the Idaho National Laboratory located in Idaho Falls, the nation's lead nuclear laboratory and a world leader in securing the ever-growing cyber network.  I am glad to have the opportunity to join with Senator Durbin in co-chairing the Senate National Laboratory Caucus and furthering support of our national labs in the United States Senate.”

“The National Labs continue to advance science, clean energy and nuclear security in this country, as they have for decades,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Labs also provide essential capabilities for university and industrial researchers – nearly 30,000 per year – and advance technology frontiers, such as high performance computing and advanced manufacturing.”

Directors and representatives from all 17 of the Department of Energy National Labs were also on hand to showcase demonstration projects across five theme areas – energy innovation and environmental sustainability, manufacturing innovations, high performance computing, national security, and discovery science. Among the 14 demonstrations were:

  • A “virtual reactor,” which accurately simulates the conditions inside a reactor core to help nuclear power plants reduce the costs of operating facilities and potentially use nuclear fuel more efficiently.
  • A demonstration of additive manufacturing, showing how this next generation technique can help address the technical challenges associated with product development.
  • A small-scale demonstration of multi-core computing called “Tiny Titan” that gives users a hands-on experience of the power of high performance computing. Titan is the most powerful supercomputer in the U.S., and Tiny Titan was designed to help users understand better how such machines work.
  • A research reactor fuel mockup to demonstrate the essential role National Labs have played in reducing the use and improving control of highly enriched uranium, thereby improving national security. 
  • An exhibit featuring DOE’s network of scientific user facilities that highlights the unique capabilities available for industry and other researchers, as well as examples of groundbreaking advancements made possible through these tools, including the tools researchers use to search for dark energy, dark matter, and the Higgs boson particle.

With origins in the Manhattan Project during World War II, the National Labs maintain multidisciplinary research capabilities with state of the art scientific tools and experts focused on some of the country’s more important priorities in science, energy and national security. National Lab scientists have won 80 Nobel Prizes in the sciences and generated technological advances that have led to entire new industries.