Delegate Garrett's March 2nd Column in the Bedford Bulletin

I have always been very impressed with the cutting-edge technology and research housed within the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER), located right here in Bedford County.  If you’re unfamiliar with the CAER, perhaps you’ve seen the tall tower off U.S. 460.  The building, which was constructed in 2010, sits off the road behind many trees.  It is a fully developed, integrated research facility that has partnered with multiple entities to advance research and development with advanced engineering.

Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) invested $20 million in the project and the Tobacco Commission invested $10 million at a point in time when B&W was focused on the development of “mPower,” smaller nuclear reactors.  With the recession and corporate changes at B&W, these plans were put on hold and the high-tech facility was shuttered.

Today, we have the opportunity to reinvest in this state-of-the-art facility and further promote common sense collaboration between private industry, institutes of higher learning, and federal and state government.  Simply put, I introduced a budget amendment that would allow this $30 million local treasure to become operational again. We are now at the point where the differences between the House and Senate budgets are being negotiated by a group of Delegates and Senators, including Sen. Steve Newman and Sen. Frank Ruff.  I look forward to working with these members as we finalize our balanced budget.

The plan is to open the CAER facility to nuclear and thermodynamics researchers, with the ultimate goal to be a world-class research facility right here in Central Virginia.  I have long been an advocate for the nuclear energy industry in Virginia.  Three years ago, I sponsored legislation to create the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium, an entity whose mission is to sustain and enhance the Commonwealth as a national and global leader in nuclear energy.  Nuclear power supplies 35 – 45% of the electricity used in Virginia. Operating at more than 95% capacity, nuclear generation provides inexpensive electricity to Virginia’s consumers, and helps keep our energy costs low.  This makes Virginia a competitive location for existing and new businesses. In Central Virginia, we are blessed with many resources and bright minds in the field of nuclear energy. Bedford County has much to be proud of and it is my hope to once again place the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research on that list.