The Department of Energy (DoE) has launched an initiative to re-purpose an initial 70,000 acres (283km2) of its land for clean energy generation including some previously used in the US nuclear weapons programme.
“We are all about deploy, deploy, deploy clean energy and these lands will enable us to do that,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who expects the agency in the “coming months” to solicit private sector lease proposals for five locations.
“It’s a good deal, it’s a huge opportunity,” she told an audience of industry officials on Friday, noting that planning for the Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative has been ongoing for eight years.
“Revitalizing land for future generations, land that can create good paying jobs and brighter futures for local communities, especially for folks that too often have been left on the sidelines of economic growth.”
Granholm said the tracts can support battery storage, green hydrogen, solar, and wind projects to rival the largest ones globally.
“These sites are all safe now. They are completely clean and ready for redevelopment,” said Granholm.
The locations are:
Hanford, or Site W, in southern Washington State. This massive complex – half the land area of Rhode Island – was created in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapons. All plutonium production, processing, and other weapons-related activities ended by the late 1990s. Environmental remediation work is expected to continue for decades.
Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho. INL is best known for building the prototype reactor for the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, and initial production of usable electricity generated by atomic power. R&D activities today are multi-disciplinary and include peaceful application of nuclear energy, bioenergy, hybrid energy systems, and robotics.
Nevada Nuclear Security Site about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of Las Vegas. Created in 1951, it was the principal US atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons test site until 1992. Part of the site is in use for nuclear weapons R&D including subcritical testing.
Savannah River Site, or SMS, in southwestern South Carolina, formerly refined nuclear materials for deployment in nuclear weapons, an activity that ceased with the end of the Cold War. It remains the only US source of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and key component of hydrogen bombs. The site where major environmental remediation is ongoing also hosts a national laboratory engaging in hydrogen and nuclear waste handling technologies R&D.
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, stores radioactive waste underground on a DoE reservation from the research and production of US nuclear weapons. It started operation in 1999.
Granholm said leasing land from DoE has some “unique opportunities” that will cut project timelines and make them attractive to the private sector.
Among them are that the tracts to be offered are both massive and contiguous which will facilitate savings from economies of scale.
“Environmental reviews and permitting are plain easier at these sites because our offices have performed decades of site analysis and remediation. Therefore, it will take less time to get shovels in dirt,” she said.
Granholm added that DoE has broad leasing authority under federal law that will allow it to work collaboratively to “figure out creative financing models for projects at each of these sites.”
She told developers to bring their best project proposals to DoE. “We are hungry, ravenous to partner with you,” she claimed, calling climate change “an enemy that grows larger by the day.”