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Tech center opens in NL

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By John Barnhart

    A new facility in New London promises to put Bedford County on the cutting edge of technology.

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    The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) held an official ribbon cutting, Thursday, although people were already at work in the facility.
    “We had people move in here before we even had the grand opening,” commented Bob Bailey, CAER’s executive director.
    Bailey said that this proves the validity of the concept. This concept is to create partnerships between universities  and  industries  to  do advanced technology research. So far, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Liberty University are involved on the university side. AREVA, Babcock and Wilcox and Innovative Wireless Technologies are there on the industry side.
    Babcock & Wilcox has built the test loop for its new mPower reactor design. The loop built in New London is for the reactor’s cooling system and does not use an actual nuclear reactor to provide the heat. This is a new modular reactor design and Babcock & Wilcox needs the test loop as part of the process of getting approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the reactor design.
    AREVA is setting up a nuclear reactor digital control room, the first of its kind in North America. AREVA also donated software that will simulate any type of reactor for this control room to operate.
    Innovative Wireless will use the facility, which has a tower that can accommodate a variety of antenna arrays, for cognitive radio research. One of the features of cognitive radio is the ability to detect unused radio spectrum frequencies and share them.
    The CAER facility was made possible by a $7.6 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. Delegate Kathy Byron is chairman of the commission’s Research and Development Committee, the committee that CAER applied with, to receive the grant.
    “Bill Guzek [chairman of CAER’s board of directors] was the first one who came and met with me on [the] application,” said Byron “I believed in his vision.”
    Byron said that the General Assembly planned to set up four technology centers in Virginia. She and Delegate Lacey Putney worked to make sure that one of them came to this area.
    “We held firm that it had to be in Bedford or Campbell,” she said.
    Bedford County got it because the county had already established a technology park with the necessary infrastructure, including high speed broadband Internet service.
    Bedford County had this technology park in place because Sue Montgomery, as the county’s economic development director, began work to develop it right after the turn of the century.
    “That [the CAER facility] is clearly something we wanted,” Montgomery said. “It was one of those situations of being in the right place at the right time.”
    Byron noted an important aspect of the research and development that will be done at CAER. The goal is to turn ideas into commercial products which will then be made in this area.
    “The research and development is here, but we want the jobs here too,” she said.
    According to Virginia’s Region 2000 Partnership, Babcock & Wilcox is Region 2000’s third largest employer and AREVA is the region’s fifth largest.
    The new 30,000 square foot facility includes six research labs and support space for a research faculty and research assistants. Seventy percent of the facility is dedicated to research and 20 percent is dedicated to education and community outreach.