Topeka — Gov.-elect Sam Brownback said Thursday that Kansas will address any concerns raised in a report due out Monday on the safety of a federal biodefense lab planned for Manhattan.
Congress required the study when it agreed last year to provide $32 million to plan the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, to be built near Kansas State University. The report is being released by the National Research Council, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences, which conducted the review.
Brownback, a Republican, said the facility is needed to replace an aging lab on Plum Island, N.Y.
"All remain united and hopeful that the report will say what needs to take place to make sure that this structure is safe and sound for the research that will be done here," Brownback said at a Veterans Day event in Topeka. "It is something that we will work with and work through, whatever is in that study."
The $451 million NBAF would research foot-and-mouth and other dangerous animal diseases that can be passed to humans. Kansas State already conducts similar research at the Biosecurity Research Center, located near the site where the new lab will be constructed.
Critics question whether it's safe to do such research in the nation's heartland. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Kansas officials say there's little risk to the public or agriculture.
Kansas State University officials declined to comment about the report, saying they didn't want to speculate about its content or impact.
The report is critical in the timetable for constructing the facility. The Kansas Board of Regents owns the 45-acre tract and is awaiting acceptance of the reviews by Congress before transferring the land to the DHS.
Under revised schedules, some of the construction contracts are to be released in 2011, with full construction beginning in 2012. The lab would receive full accreditation in 2017 and operations transferred from Plum Island.
Brownback said he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier in the week about the project, which the agency has already begun to design.
"We are both in agreement that this facility needs to move forward and that we need a research facility that's modern and that this is the place for it to move forward," Brownback said. "We will do it. This is the place they picked. We will do it safe."
The new governor has said that the project is important not only for its national research significance, but for the additional jobs that are to be created in the Manhattan area. The city is at the western end of a corridor of animal health research and firms that stretch east to the University of Missouri-Columbia, including numerous firms in the Kansas City, Mo., area.