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December 12, 2006 at 2:59 PM

National lab loses top leader

The U.S. has been falling behind in science and technology leadership, and no one knew that better than Len Peters, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Peters plans to leave that position Jan. 1. He’s moving to a corporate job at Battelle, the Ohio company that manages the lab for the federal government, Battelle said today.

Peters has been outspoken about the need for better science education, not just to create more money and jobs, but to solve critical problems in the environment and other areas, he wrote in this article earlier this year.

In his three years as director, Peters pushed for innovation in using hydrogen fuel cells to replace fossil fuels, developing the national power grid and strengthening the Northwest as a technology base.

The size and scope of Battelle is mind boggling. As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, it spends $3.7 billion a year on R&D. It has 20,000 employees in more than 120 locations worldwide, including PNNL and four other national laboratories it manages for the Department of Energy.

Its Seattle Research Center employs about 160 people and focuses in large part on global security technology (combining policy with science toward preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction).

The word is Peters will stay in the Tri-Cities area to do community outreach for Battelle. With his ideas and experience, you wonder why he isn’t moving to Washington D.C.

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