Newswise — Balendra Sutharshan has been named chief operating officer for Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He will begin serving as ORNL’s deputy for operations and as executive vice president, operations, for UT-Battelle effective April 1. He will succeed Alan Icenhour, who is retiring this spring after serving in the role since 2021. UT-Battelle operates ORNL for the Department of Energy.
Sutharshan joined ORNL in February 2021 as the associate laboratory director for the Isotope Science and Engineering Directorate. Under his leadership, ISED has achieved remarkable growth in isotope research and development, as well as production to meet the increased demand for isotopes used in medicine, research and security.
“Balendra brings comprehensive experience to the position, including an extensive knowledge of ORNL’s nuclear capabilities, strong relationships across the national lab and Battelle systems, and a history of driving operational performance improvements and organizational strategy,” interim ORNL Director Jeff Smith said. “I am excited for Balendra to serve in this important role for ORNL.”
During Sutharshan’s tenure as ALD, ISED has deployed new enrichment technology capabilities and stewarded new projects that will help to secure the domestic isotope supply chain, including the Stable Isotope and Production Research Center, the Stable Isotope Production Facility and the Radioisotope Processing Facility. He established the Isotope Processing and Manufacturing Division in 2022 to further improve production performance and introduced predictive maintenance into the lab’s hot cell facilities to reduce downtime.
He has also been active in developing new partnerships to grow and train the pipeline of future talent needed to conduct isotope science and production, and he has placed a significant emphasis on improving ISED’s culture.
As the chief operating officer of UT-Battelle, Sutharshan will lead the formulation and implementation of cross-cutting operation plans and integrated facility strategies to enable ORNL’s missions. He also will play a lead role in the lab’s commitment to community engagement.
“It’s an honor to be part of an organization that empowers leaders and teams to pursue breakthrough science and technology and has roots back to the Manhattan Project,” Sutharshan said. “I look forward to strengthening ORNL’s operations and facilities strategies and continuing to support the lab’s engagement with communities where we work and live.”
Prior to joining ORNL, Sutharshan served as COO for the Operational Systems Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In this position, he provided leadership of the directorate responsible for all of PNNL’s infrastructure and facilities as well as its environmental, health, safety, security, project management and nuclear operations programs. Before joining PNNL, Sutharshan served as COO for the Energy and Global Security Directorate at Argonne National Laboratory and served on the DOE review team that analyzed the 2018 High Flux Isotope Reactor fuel event. In addition, he spent nearly 20 years in a series of leadership roles with Westinghouse Electric Company.
Sutharshan holds a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a master’s in chemical and nuclear engineering and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto; and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.