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How Energy Efficiency and Nuclear Security Are Working Hand-in-Hand at NNSA

April 20, 2011 - 4:17pm


This week, along with the rest of the Department of Energy, NNSA is celebrating Earth Week. At NNSA, there’s a very strong connection between our commitment to energy efficiency and our efforts to invest in the future, implement President Obama’s nuclear security agenda, and improve the way we do business. We lead by example – when Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a new initiative to more broadly implement cool roof technologies on Department of Energy facilities and buildings across the federal government, he highlighted the leadership shown by NNSA’s Roof Asset Management Program, which started in 2005.

Many of our facilities have received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, including Sandia National Laboratories’ MESA Complex and Ion Beam Laboratory; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s TeraScale Simulation Facility; Savannah River’s MOX Administration Building; and Nevada’s two new fire stations. Both Los Alamos National Laboratory and Y-12 are pursuing certification for new buildings. NNSA has also received numerous awards for its sustainability efforts, including the Presidential GreenGov green innovation award for Sandia’s solar powered vehicle.

Our laboratories and sites are also leveraging the best science in the world to create solutions to improve the environment. In finding cleaner and healthier ways to do business, the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, recently implemented a more environmentally friendly way to clean drinking water. At NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, experts developed new devices that help reduce the aerodynamic drag of semi-trucks, potentially increasing fuel efficiency by as much as 12 percent. It could prevent 36 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere annually, roughly the same amount of CO2 that is emitted from four 1-gigawatt power plants every year.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a new virtualized data center was created to improve information technology efficiency and better serve the lab’s core research and development efforts. And at Sandia National Laboratories, researchers are moving into the demonstration phase of a novel gas turbine system for power generation. The goal is to increase thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency to as much as 50 percent — an improvement of 50 percent for nuclear power stations equipped with steam turbines, or a 40 percent improvement for simple gas turbines.

Even our nonproliferation efforts have a green impact. Former weapon scientists funded through NNSA’s Global Initiative for Proliferation Prevention (GIPP) helped bring to market new commercial biomass boilers that provide heat for agricultural enterprises, schools, and local communities in Ukraine. GIPP has also been responsible for projects to improve soil health, reduce energy consumption, and develop the next generation of electric car batteries.

While our primary mission is nuclear security, sustainability plays a very big role in everything we do. If you want to keep up with the work we do year-round, you can follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

For more about NNSA and our greening efforts this week, check out

Joshua McConaha is the Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the National Nuclear Security Administration.