Two new INL research facilities proposed

Oct 17th, 2016 | By | Category: Idaho Falls

By LUKE RAMSETH

IDAHO FALLS – Idaho National Laboratory is planning two new facilities on its Idaho Falls campus — one to accommodate its growing cybersecurity program and another to house a next-generation supercomputer.

The two buildings — costing an estimated $85 million — are proposed for a vacant property off University Boulevard, east of the Snake River and between University Place to the south and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies to the north.

“We’ve got to have more space,” INL Director Mark Peters said last week.

The Idaho State Board of Education owns the land. The proposal involves state officials overseeing the funding and construction process, with the lab leasing the finished buildings. Officials said they envision both facilities being partly utilized for university student training in cybersecurity and other research programs.

Lab officials pitched the new facilities to the Board of Education last month, as well as the Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission on Friday. Both unanimously supported the idea. The next step is obtaining Idaho legislative approval in the coming session.

Project completion is expected in 2018 or 2019.

The 80,000-square-foot “Cybercore” facility will house about 200 lab researchers working on cybersecurity infrastructure protection, a fast-growing area of expertise at the lab.

Part of the facility would be secured for classified research, with another portion open to collaborative and cyber training efforts with students from Idaho State University, Boise State University and University of Idaho, INL Deputy Director Kelly Beierschmitt said Monday.

“We’re doing work for many different agencies and industry,” Beierschmitt said. “(The INL cybersecurity) team is busting at the seams. We have no space to do that. The opportunity of meeting that international need is growing at a pace our facilities can’t keep up with.”

The second building, a 65,000-square-foot “Collaborative Computing Center,” will be the home of INL’s next supercomputer. Right now the lab’s supercomputer, nicknamed Falcon, is located in the Engineering Research Office Building. It was installed in fall of 2014, and at the time was ranked in the top 100 fastest in the world.

But supercomputers quickly go out of date, Beierschmitt said, and the lab expects needing a new one in a year or two. It will require even more power and cooling ability than Falcon, and officials determined it would be cheaper to construct a new facility rather than updating the current space, he said.

The supercomputer building also would have student training areas and office spaces for computer coders. Another 200 or so employees would work there, Beierschmitt said.

The preferred plan — dependent on legislative approval — involves the Idaho State Building Authority obtaining bond money to fund construction, and putting the projects out to bid. Once completed, INL would lease the buildings, officials said. An alternative option could see the lab putting the projects out to bid to a developer.

“We have to build these (facilities), regardless of the pathway,” Beierschmitt said.

Preliminary plans show additional parking areas and grass being installed surrounding the buildings, with concrete trails linking the buildings to University Place and the north end of the Idaho Falls River Walk Trail.

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