Jefferson Lab awards upgrade contracts

Michael Schwartz
Inside Business, January 9, 2009

Jefferson Lab announced last week it awarded three contracts worth approximately a combined $5 million as part of its planned $310 million upgrade that will double the power of its electron beam accelerator.

The Newport News-based nuclear physics lab, known officially as the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, received approval from DOE for the upgrade in September. The massive undertaking is being called the 12 GeV Upgrade Project as it will double the energy of the underground beam from 6 billion electron volts to 12 billion GeV. The upgrade also entails the construction of a fourth experimental hall into which the beam travels as well as equipment upgrades in the three existing halls.

It is anticipated that the upgrade will be completed in 2015, according to Dean Golembeski, a Jeff Lab spokesman.

The first of the contracts awarded last week was $1.5 million to Newport News-based Ritchie-Curbow Construction Co., for the construction of an addition to Jeff Lab's massive Central Helium Liquefier building. From that building helium is pumped to keep the accelerator cool.

Another $3.3 million went to a Japanese company, Kuraray Co., for the production of 2,000 miles of plastic scintillation fibers to be used in the particle detector in the new hall as it is blasted by the beam.

A German firm, Acam-Messelectronic GmbH, was awarded $200,000 to develop devices called ultra-precise integrated time-to-digital converters. These devices help with understanding the information that comes from particles created by the experiments.

While only one local company was involved in this first round of contracts, another $10 million opportunity will soon be awarded for the construction of the new experimental hall.

"We anticipate that the contract for the Hall D Complex construction will be awarded within one month," said Golembeski. "All bidders are from the U.S. and include local companies."