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KNOXVILLE – The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has recently awarded two construction contracts for the Spallation Neutron Source, which amount to the largest contracts issued by the lab since World War II.

The director of the SNS said the $86.4 million contracts would pay for the construction of two buildings on the project site.

“The contracts are for the construction of the central laboratory and office building, which is a facility that has workshops, offices and laboratories for the staff and users of SNS,” Thom Mason said, “and also the general construction of the target building, where we actually make the neutrons used to study the properties of materials.”

Mason said the lab has now made arrangements for almost all of the construction contracts for the project.

“With these two awards, we now have under contract essentially all of the construction on the site,” Mason said. “There are still some awards to be made for the final cleanup of the site, but these two bring us to nearly all of the construction work on the project.”

About 600 workers are on the site, although Mason said that number is expected to drop over the next year.

Mason said he’s pleased with the level of financial support for the SNS from Congress.

“We’ve got full funding for this year, which at $291.4 million is our peak request, and it looks very much like we’ll get full funding next year, which is $225 million,” Mason said. “We’ve had outstanding support from the Tennessee delegation and from legislators across the country.”

The Spallation Neutron Source will allow researchers to make deep analyses of the structural components of matter, which is useful in both academia and industry. The SNS is set to open in 2006.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, a joint venture between the University of Tennessee and the Battelle Memorial Institute.