The US Department of Energy’s positive impact extends beyond Oak Ridge and Knoxville – to the rural areas of East Tennessee.

That was the message from Senator Ken Yager, R-Kingston, of Tennessee, to a crowd who had gathered to hear the results of an East Tennessee Economic Council report on the economic benefits of the DOE. The ETEC meeting was held at the University of Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center in Oak Ridge. While Yager’s district includes part of Oak Ridge, he focused on how DOE is helping the other parts of his district.

He asked the crowd, “Did you know that the biggest payroll in Morgan County is not the jail, but the Department of Energy?

In a later interview, he added that five counties in his district include people who commute to Oak Ridge. He called the DOE’s impact on East Tennessee the “ripple effect”.

ETEC and the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, conducted research into the impact of the DOE on the state of Tennessee in fiscal 2020.

Also speaking at the event were US Congressman Tim Burchett, R-Second District, who spoke in person, and US Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, R-Third District, who spoke virtually.

“A lot of hard-working Tennessee people continue their research,” Burchett said of the people who work with DOE.

Fleischmann said he was speaking to world leaders about Oak Ridge.

“Whenever I mention Oak Ridge, they light up,” he said. “Gosh. It’s amazing,” he said of the work done by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“I really appreciate the people in this community,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, at the event, calling it the “engine” that powers Tennessee’s economy.

Report highlights

An early press release on the report and many of the presentations at the event on Friday, August 20, 2021, focused on the general impact of DOE activities.

The economic impact of DOE in the state is $ 7.2 billion, according to the report. Tennessee’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose approximately $ 4.2 billion due to total spending by the DOE and its contractors. Additionally, a total personal income of $ 2.9 billion was generated through DOE-related activities in the state.

Nearly 43,000 full-time jobs are supported by DOE activities, including direct and indirect jobs, the report added. A total of 14,667 jobs were created directly by DOE and its contractors in Tennessee. A further 28,239 jobs were created indirectly through DOE investments in the state. For every job created by DOE and its contractors, 1.9 additional jobs were created nationwide.

The main direct employer of all DOE departments in Oak Ridge was the Y-12 National Security Complex with 6,300 employees, followed by ORNL with 5,151 employees and UCOR with 1,848 employees.

“Case studies” related to the economic impact of DOE institutions are listed at various points in the report. One of them was developing a technology for the medical company NellOne to regenerate tissue. Another was the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, which the report described as a “partnership” between the DOE and the National Park Service. The park encompasses the entire city of Oak Ridge, including its historic DOE sites, as well as Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, NM

Speaking of tourism in general, ETEC President Jim Campbell said that the tourism potential of historic sites is something “we as a community really haven’t realized yet”. However, he said the K-25 History Center is already attracting visitors even with no clear location information.

The report listed several new, upcoming, or ongoing upgrades for DOE.

  • ORNL is undergoing a series of improvements worth $ 4.5 billion. It gets a new infrastructure to support a new supercomputer, Frontier. Other upgrades will double the performance of the spallation neutron source. Further developments will extend the life of the High Flux Isotope Reactor. Facilities for stable isotope production have also been approved, and another is under construction for research into quantum materials. Another planned facility, the Material Plasma Exposure Experiment, will conduct tests related to fusion reactors.
  • The report also listed construction of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s new simulated nuclear and radiological facility for $ 20 million and a Tennessee state-funded emergency response facility for $ 15 million. once they’re built.
  • Y-12 has the $ 6.5 billion uranium processing facility underway and 98 other improvements in other locations totaling $ 398 million. Fleischmann said the UPF construction will be completed by 2025.

As an aside, the report stated that ORNL had performed 55,000 COVID-19 tests during the pandemic.

Ben Pounds is a reporter for The Oak Ridger. Call him at (865) 441-2317 and follow him on Twitter @Bpoundsjournal.