The Oak Ridger: TVA, Oak Ridge and Huntsville ‘helped transform our country,’ Alexander tells Summit attendees

Posted on June 6, 2018

The Oak Ridger: TVA, Oak Ridge and Huntsville ‘helped transform our country,’ Alexander tells Summit attendees

By Darrell Richardson 

June 6, 2018

The 2018 Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, which is being held over three days this week in the New Hope Center at the Y-12 National Security Complex, celebrates three regional milestones:

The 2018 Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, which is being held over three days this week in the New Hope Center at the Y-12 National Security Complex, celebrates three regional milestones:

? The city of Oak Ridge’s 75th anniversary;

? Tennessee Valley Authority’s 85th anniversary, and

? The 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission.

All three major events were highlighted in a single inspiring presentation made by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander at the TVC Summit on Wednesday morning.

“United States Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado came by my office a few weeks ago,” Alexander recalled. “He said, ’If you fly anywhere in the world today and look down, you will see cars which first rolled off an assembly line developed by Henry Ford ... and lights made possible by Thomas Edison’s lightbulb ... and you’ll be flying at 30,000 feet in an airplane invented by the Wright brothers.

“All the inventors were Americans; and I got to thinking, that’s not all.

“Americans invented the Internet. And the personal computer. And nuclear power. And the polio vaccine,” said Sen. Alexander. “It’s hard to think of a major technological advancement since World War II that hasn’t drawn some support from government research.”

Alexander said that “just last week” someone said to him that it’s a shame that we have fallen behind in research funding, “and I quickly reminded him that his information was flat wrong.” The Tennessee senator said both congressional Republicans and Democrats alike have developed “quite a consensus” on the importance of support for science and research.

“In fact, we are in the third year of record funding for major science, technology and energy research in the United States,” he said. “For example, the appropriations bill for the year we are now in included a 16 percent increase for the Office of Science funds research at our 17 national laboratories including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Or take supercomputing: For the last several years, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have agreed our goal should be to be first in the world in computing.

“Right now, scientists are working to develop the world’s first exascale supercomputer by 2021. Imagine a computer about one trillion times faster than your home computer — used to help find cures and treatments for diseases, protect against cyber attacks, more accurately predict the weather, and help federal agencies eliminate waste and fraud.”

U.S. Sen. Alexander said that it was only last week that the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee that he chairs approved a bill to provide $677 million to push ahead U.S. leadership in exascale computing and approved a fourth year of record funding for the Office of Science.

“Take a look at the ARPA-E,” the senator suggested, “which is a new research agency created in 2007.” Alexander indicated that the appropriations committee bill OK’d last week provides $375 million for ARPA-E.

“And there is probably no area where science is as exciting today as biomedical research,” he said. “Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, has predicted that with new funding in the next decade, medical research might produce a way to identify Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear ... an artificial pancreas ... a vaccine for HIV/AIDS ... and a universal flu vaccine.

“Congress and the president are providing that funding,” according to Alexander. “Over the last three years, funding for biomedical innovation has increased by 23 percent.”


Moving on to the business at hand, U.S. Sen. Alexander turned his full attention on the three aforementioned anniversaries being celebrated during this year’s/this week’s Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit.

“We are celebrating the anniversaries of three important American undertakings that are a part of the story of America’s science and technology success,” he said. “And these three anniversaries we are celebrating this year would not have been possible without government-sponsored research.

“Let’s start with TVA,” the senator said, “because without TVA, Oak Ridge and even our missions to the moon might have never happened.”

Eighty-five years ago, Alexander recalled, when Congress created TVA the region lagged behind the rest of the country “in almost every indicator” — schools, health and jobs. “Housing was substandard and illiteracy was twice the national average,” he said.

“The rural areas in the Tennessee Valley were not electrified — only three in 100 farmers had electricity, and even fewer had running water. It was dangerous to travel on the Tennessee River because there were serious flooding issues, and farmers struggled to grow enough food to feed their families.

“Very little industry existed and the annual per capita income was only $168 — about 45 percent of the national average.”

Sen. Alexander recalled that President Kennedy, in his remarks at the 30th anniversary celebration of TVA, stated: “Some said it couldn’t be done. Some said it shouldn’t be done. Some said it wouldn’t be done. But today, 30 years later, it HAS been done — and there is still more for TVA to do. ...

“In short,” said President Kennedy, “the work of TVA will never be over. There will always be new frontiers for it to conquer. For in the minds of men the world over, the initials TVA stand for progress — and the people of this area are not afraid of progress.”

Sen. Alexander said that over the last 85 years, TVA has brought more than electricity. “It has tamed the rivers, created lakes, cleaned up the air, and improved the quality of life in the TVA region.”

Oak Ridge

“President Roosevelt not only helped bring TVA to Tennessee,” Alexander said, “but he also helped create Oak Ridge.”

Oak Ridge turned out to be one of three “secret cities” that became the principal sites for the Manhattan Project. As such, Oak Ridge needed a lot of power — the amount of reliable power that only TVA could provide.

“Oak Ridge’s accomplishments over the last 75 years would take all day to list, but it is safe to say that Oak Ridge leads the world in science and energy research, supercomputing, and is critical to our national security,” said Alexander.

“Our nation values what has been built in Oak Ridge since 1942. I see that firsthand because the subcommittee I chair — and on which Congressman (Chuck) Fleischmann serves in the House, this year approved more than $3 billion to go to Oak Ridge — the Lab, Y-12 and for environmental cleanup.

“Our 17 national laboratories — including Oak Ridge, which is our nation’s largest Office of Science laboratory — are our nation’s secret weapon: They’ve helped develop supercomputers, unconventional natural gas which has transformed domestic energy production, 3D printing which is reshaping advanced manufacturing, MRI scanners, and the batteries we use to power our cars, trucks, and someday our homes.”

To The Moon

“In this region,” U.S. Sen. Alexander pointed out, “we also know how science and research have helped us get to the moon. Twelve human beings have walked on the moon — all Americans.”

Fifty years ago, Apollo 8 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. But the Saturn V rocket for Apollo 8 — the rocket that supported mankind’s first trip around the moon — was developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“That rocket,” said Alexander, “designed, built and tested by talented engineers in Huntsville, paved the way for ‘One giant leap for Mankind’ and supported all six Apollo missions that successfully landed on the moon.

“The Apollo missions not only successfully took man to the moon, but also led to discoveries that impact our lives today including the CAT scan, the microchip, and memory foam,” said the senator. “The Space Race helped bring American innovation into our hospitals, computers and homes. ...

“We have seen what has happened during the last 85, 75 and 50 years by making American first in government-sponsored research. Now let’s build on that success and support the research necessary to keep America first for the NEXT 85 years!”