Stephen Higgs of Kansas State University is the director of the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI), a smaller secure laboratory run by Kansas State that sits next to the proposed NBAF site. The fact that the BRI was already situated in Manhattan was a key factor that influenced the selection.

The existing facility is termed a biosafety level three environment. The new lab would be a level four, but crucially it would be the first to have the room to carry out experiments with larger animals such as pigs and cattle.

Scott Rusk, director of operations at the BRI, told the BBC that the U.S. currently doesn't have the capability to carry out this type of vital research.

"It's a world of emerging and re-emerging diseases – we're vulnerable if we don't have our own capabilities to address the risks."

Also according to the BBC:


"Because of the location of the project a number of reviews have been carried out and these have raised serious question marks about the suitability of the site. A report carried out by the National Research Council in 2010 determined that over the 50-year life of the new laboratory there was a 70 percent chance of the accidental release of a pathogen.

"Subsequent reviews cut that estimate to just 0.11 percent. However the most recent report, while supporting the idea of NBAF, concluded that the risk assessment was 'technically inadequate in critical respects.'

Whereas supporters of the project, such as Rusk, believe that the NBAF lab will be safe, local ranchers aren't convinced.

The BBC article quotes Stephen Anderson, who ranches 30 miles from the proposed research site, as saying, "These guys who get up there and say technology is so good today it's always going to be safe, they don't know any more about technology than a tomcat knows about baking gingerbread."

Tom Manney, a retired Kansas State professor and a former chair of the institutional biosafety committee, agrees with Stephens.

Manney points out that there have been incidences of foot-and-mouth disease being accidentally released at Plum Island, another site for U.S. research, which is located off the coast of New York. Because that facility is on an island, the outbreaks were more easily contained.

Those leery of the new facility point out that not only is Kansas inland – and in the heart of cattle country – but the area is also prone to tornadoes.

Planning to build a facility that can safely withstand tornadoes has raised the price tag of the project to more than a billion dollars – and this in a time of political discussions centered on spending cuts and reining in the deficit.

Even if federal cash is forthcoming to get the project started, the BBC says that the facility is unlikely to open before 2020.  end mark

—From BBC News (Click here to read the full article.)