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Building 245 Renovation Groundbreaking

[As delivered.]

Welcome to the much-anticipated groundbreaking for the renovation of NIST’s Radiation Physics Building, aka, Building 245. I want to thank our guests for joining us today as we celebrate this exciting project.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is here, and from the Department of Commerce, we are joined by Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration Ellen Herbst, who you’ll be hearing from shortly.

We’ll also be hearing from Mark Driscoll of the State University of New York, Syracuse. He’s also past president of the Council on Ionizing Radiation Measurements and Standards. 

Kenneth Riechard from Senator Ben Cardin’s office is here today along with Jeff Samuels from Representative John Delaney’s office, Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan and Karen McManus, Deputy State Director, Office of Senator Chris Van Hollen. Thank you all for being here.

This day has been a long time coming. We are standing in front of one of the oldest buildings on the NIST Gaithersburg campus. It was built in 1964, and the years have certainly taken their toll.  But despite the age of this building, the excellent work done here is still vital to this country’s health care, national security, nuclear energy production and much more.

So thank you to the NIST staff who have worked so hard to maintain excellence, despite the many, many challenges of an aging facility. 

And thank you to those who worked to secure funding and bring us to this day. I will not be able to name everyone, but I do want to acknowledge NIST’s former directors, Pat Gallagher and Willie May; Susan Cantilli; Bruce Connelly; Jack Connolly; Steve Jennison; Lisa Karam; Bill Ott and Bruce Pitts. This team worked for several years to make the renovations a reality.  

Throughout its 53-year history, Building 245 has played an important role in the study and development of radiation physics in the United States. It supports industries that represent billions of dollars to our economy. And most importantly, it helps support the health and safety of many millions of Americans.

The men and women who work in nuclear power plants, our own Center for Neutron Research up the hill, and in this very building—all rely on dosimeters to monitor their potential radiation exposure. Calibrations of those devices track back to Building 245.

Those of us who will never get near a nuclear reactor still rely on NIST’s calibrations and standards every time we get an X-ray, a CT scan, or undergo radiation therapy.

The number of people touched by our standards is astonishing. Each year, about 40 million women in the U.S. receive mammograms that rely on NIST X-ray standards for radiation dose for both safety and image quality. And each year, our calibrations trace to about 80 million CT scans and 17 million nuclear medical procedures.

Having availed myself of such procedures, I, for one, find it reassuring that the level of accuracy NIST is able to achieve with its radiation measurements means that all the way down the traceability chain to my physician, I can trust the exposure I’m getting.

This facility also plays a role in keeping us secure.

We help the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, assure the accuracy and safety of X-ray screening for air travel—from your carry-on bags to the cargo loaded into the belly of the plane. 

The Department of Homeland Security has turned to us to support development of the right radiation detection equipment for first responders. And the FBI relies on our work for nuclear forensics—to help identify and hold accountable anyone using radioactive materials in a crime.

These are very remarkable achievements, given the interruptions of regular water leaks and power outages, and having too little space.

I know our Building 245 staff are eager to move into new labs that will bring an end to the space constraints that slow their work. They are looking forward to improved environmental controls, safety features and not to mention, an adequate number of restrooms.

When this renovation is complete, they’ll have room for new equipment that will expand our capabilities. 

Over the next two years, it will be exciting to watch the transformation that will allow us to continue our important work, to innovate and to address emerging national needs. 

Remember, this is just the beginning. A total of $120 million dollars has been appropriated so far, but the entire project will cost $322 million dollars. There is more work to be done securing funding so that we have a building that truly reflects the value of, and enables, our work, far into the future.

Thank you all for your support and for your very hard work.

Created September 26, 2017, Updated May 3, 2021