It’s starting: Cuts at national labs slash more than 500 jobs

The first round of job cuts to Department of Energy (DOE) national research laboratories have been announced and they are brutal.

So far, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are not specifically mentioned in multiple reports on the cuts, but it is logical to assume those cuts are coming. After all, Trump’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget has proposed the following cuts to the two labs:

  •  NREL, would see its overall budget would be slashed 22%, energy-storage research eliminated, and solar energy research cut 22% cut itself.
  • Berkeley Lab would absorb an overall 28% budget cut. As with NREL, energy-storage research is eliminated, and solar’s research budget would also sustain a nearly fatal reduction of 54%.

But the initial jobs reductions seem to have spared NREL and Berkeley, focusing instead on Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Multiple reports suggest the cuts could reach as high as 525 positions. Both labs are trying to reduce as many people as possible through voluntary buyout programs, but the directors of the labs say layoffs may need to occur as well.

The two labs focus on nuclear energy research, with Oak Ridge’s history dating back to the Manhattan Project, the secret research program that produced the world’s first nuclear weapons. Brookhaven most notably worked to develop the first peacetime use for nuclear energy, a nuclear reactor. It also developed the first video game, Tennis for Two, in 1958.

Trump’s proposed budget included a 70% cut in funding for renewable energy programs to only $134 million. And while the president is proposing cuts to DOE across the board, he is only proposing a 31% cut to nuclear energy programs and a 54% cut to fossil fuel funding at DOE.