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Knolls atomic lab to get new leader

Knolls atomic lab to get new leader

The man who ran Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory’s sister site near Pittsburgh will take the helm at t

The man who ran Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory’s sister site near Pittsburgh will take the helm at the nuclear propulsion laboratory in Niskayuna next month.

Morgan Smith will begin serving as KAPL’s general manager on Feb. 2 after Lockheed Martin hands over the management rights for the Niskayuna lab to a San Francisco subsidiary of Bechtel National. Smith previously served as the general manager of the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, KAPL’s sister site in West Mifflin, Pa., said Clifford Nunn, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Energy Naval Reactors Laboratory Field Office.

Bechtel Bettis, another subsidiary of the Frederick, Md.-based Bechtel National, manages the Pennsylvania lab.

Smith will replace KAPL General Manager Mike Quinn, who is retiring.

Smith also headed another Bechtel division known as Bechtel Plant Machinery Inc. BPMI has operations on Liberty Street in Schenectady and in Pittsburgh.

Under the U.S. Nuclear Naval Propulsion Program, BPMI provides supplies and technical services for aircraft carriers and submarines.

In 2006, Bechtel attempted to relocate BPMI’s Schenectady operation to Pittsburgh, but the defense contractor abandoned that plan after coming under political pressure. Instead, BPMI shrank its Schenectady work force from 290 to 130. It also sent 70 employees to Pittsburgh and 30 to Niskayuna.

It is not clear whether Smith played any role in BPMI’s consolidation efforts, which date back to 2001. KAPL spokesman Russ Leszczynsky did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. Bechtel National spokesman Michael Kidder declined to comment.

Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Ray Gillen said Bechtel officials met with him, Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton and Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage last month. Gillen said the Bechtel officials expressed a commitment to their county operations and said the workload and activity at KAPL are “very robust.”

“We look forward toward working with him. It’s his second tour in Schenectady,” Gillen said of Smith’s previous work at BPMI.

Wanting to save the federal government $4.5 million in administrative fee payments, the DOE and U.S. Navy in September named Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp. as the manager and operator of the two sites. Bechtel Marine’s joint management bid beat out Lockheed, which has managed KAPL for 14 years.

Bechtel Marine’s new management contract runs through September 2013, and it carries a five-year renewal option.

Although Nunn said in September that both labs will maintain their “technical independence,” it is not clear whether Bechtel Marine is required to keep two separate general managers at the labs.

The management consolidation is not expected to affect the 5,600 lab workers — 3,000 at Bettis, 2,100 at KAPL and 500 at the Kesselring nuclear training facility in West Milton.

Engineers at KAPL, which the General Electric Co. established in 1946, specialize in nuclear propulsion systems for submarines. Engineers at Bettis, which was founded by Westinghouse Atomic Power Laboratory in 1949, work on similar systems for surface naval vessels.

Prior to becoming Bettis’ general manager, Smith served as the president and general manager of BPMI, which initially consisted of a machinery apparatus operation in Schenectady and plant apparatus operation in Pittsburgh.

Bechtel National acquired those industrial divisions, which were formerly part of the Westinghouse Electric Corp, in 1999.

Earlier that year, Bechtel National won $4.5 billion in contracts to operate the Bettis facility.

Bechtel National initially merged those two operations in 2001, and five years later it unsuccessfully attempted to move them into a single site in Pennsylvania.

It was not clear Friday when Smith began serving as BPMI’s general manager and when he moved on to Bettis.

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