Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured parts of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque Tuesday morning in an ongoing effort to learn more about the Department of Energy’s 17 national labs.
Following the tour, Perry said it’s critical to “maintain and increase” funding for Sandia and other Department of Energy labs, given the fundamental role they play in addressing national and global challenges.
“Many of the projects going on now have the potential to change the world,” Perry said in an open address to Sandia employees. “…I don’t know what the next big thing will be, but I know it will come from the fertile mind of some DOE employee working on a project today that will change the world in a positive way.”
It’s the 15th lab tour by Perry since taking office in March 2017.
At Sandia, the secretary visited the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences and Applications, or MESA, complex. He also observed an experiment underway at the “Z machine,” a massive pulsed-power facility that creates unique conditions for experiments in materials science, energy and other areas. And he discussed classified weapons programs with lab executives.
Perry said the tours have given him a deep appreciation for the range of research DOE scientists do and the direct impacts their work has on the country. Laboratory researchers, for example, helped the oil and natural gas industry develop modern hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies that have boosted U.S. oil production ahead of all other nations.
“It’s changed the geopolitics of the world,” Perry said.
The secretary’s glowing praise reflects a sharp turnaround from 2011, when the former Texas governor sought the Republican nomination to run for president. During one of the primary debates that year, Perry called for shutting down the DOE.
The secretary joked Tuesday that he’s come a long way since then.
“It’s been a great learning process for me,” he said.
In a separate meeting with reporters, Perry said Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory are playing key roles in efforts to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons.
“For us to continue as a deterrent for other countries, we need a robust, modern weapons program that sends them the message, ‘don’t mess with the U.S.,’ ” Perry said. “Los Alamos and Sandia will play a clear role in those efforts going forward for the foreseeable future.”