EM continued a decade-long trend in reducing its energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2021.
The cleanup program achieved a 41% reduction in energy use at its facilities in fiscal year (FY) 2021 when compared to FY 2015 baselines, surpassing the Department’s goal of a 30% reduction by 2025. This was accomplished through a variety of methods, including converting power plants from coal to biomass, investing in renewable energy, upgrading to LED lighting, decommissioning older facilities and purchasing green technology.
“Each of our sites has developed and implemented an annual site sustainability plan that identifies contributions towards meeting the Department’s sustainability goals,” said Nancy Buschman, EM director for infrastructure and deactivation and decommissioning (D&D). “What we have accomplished in building a brighter, more environmentally sustainable future for the communities we serve is remarkable. I am proud of how we’ve answered the Department’s call and are continuing to show leadership in clean energy and sustainability.”
EM lowered greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% as of FY 2021 when compared to FY 2014 baselines and continues to aggressively pursue further cuts in support of the Administration’s Net Zero by 2050 goal, which aims to limit the worst effects of global warming.
While environmental stewardship has always been at the center of EM’s work, approaching projects from the planning stages through a lens of sustainability over the past decade has pushed EM to achieve reductions in energy and water use, massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and completion of projects that use recycled materials for a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective result. Key efforts by EM sites in FY 2021 include:
- Savannah River Site: Generated 31.9% of electrical energy consumed onsite.
- Hanford Site: Exceeded the goal for reuse and recycling by diverting 65% of nonhazardous solid waste from landfills.
- Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Retrofitted facilities with LED lighting and upgraded metering systems to better capture energy usage.
- Portsmouth Site: Procured 23,100 megawatt hours of power from biomass in FY 2021, equating to 29% usage from a renewable source.
- Paducah Site: Powered nine air monitoring stations with solar panels, saving over 2,800 kilowatt hours per year.
Sustainability efforts will only grow moving forward. President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm have made climate action a top priority and issued direction for agencies and programs to prioritize climate resilience and move to carbon-free energy sources. Initiatives are underway to more directly include climate considerations in DOE and EM projects and decision-making processes.
“EM’s mission — cleaning up sites and returning them to productive use — is fundamentally about sustainability, and the way we accomplish the mission needs to be consistent with the same values,” said Betsy Forinash, director of the EM Office of Infrastructure Management and Disposition Policy. “We’re building a holistic culture that prioritizes these goals within EM’s work each and every day. We aim to build sustainability into every aspect of our work, from the supply chain to remediation approaches to waste disposal, to further reduce our environmental footprint and combat climate change.”
EM works to reinforce this culture through its strategic vision and annual priorities, site planning efforts and even internal training programs that address sustainability in EM operations, the cleanup program’s carbon footprint, and its resiliency in extreme climate events. EM sites continue to reduce emissions by increasing electric vehicles in onsite fleets and will explore installing onsite zero-emission energy sources, accelerate D&D for certain excess facilities and continue efforts to plant wildfire-tolerant vegetation and add firebreaks around threatened infrastructure.
“By creating a sustainable and climate resilient complex, EM ensures its mission continues to be delivered while helping its communities adapt and prepare, as well as promoting energy and environmental justice and well-paying jobs,” said Albes Gaona, EM environmental scientist, as he concluded a recent internal EM climate training session.
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