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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)
Historic photograph showing aerial view of the Hanford Site, Washington Photo: US Department of Energy
Partial view of the Hanford Site, Washington, US, a former nuclear weapons material production site, which will be repurposed into a site of clean energy generation

Photo: US Department of Energy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is to repurpose 70,000 acres of DOE-owned lands – some of which were previously used in the nation’s nuclear weapons programme – into sites of clean energy generation.

Under the ‘Cleanup to Clean Energy’ initiative, the DOE will work with a range of stakeholders to explore opportunities to lease Federal land for the buildout of utility-scale clean energy projects.


‘We are going to transform the lands we have used over decades for nuclear security and environmental remediation by working closely with tribes and local communities together with partners in the private sector to build some of the largest clean energy projects in the world,’ commented US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M Granholm.


‘DOE will leverage areas that were previously used to protect our national security and will repurpose them to the same end – this time, generating clean energy that will help save the planet and protect our energy independence,’ she continued.


The locations for potential development include:

  • Hanford, Washington – established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapons.
  • Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho – 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.
  • Nevada National Security Site, Nevada – created in 1951, previously the principal US atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons test site until 1992.
  • Savannah River Site, South Carolina – formerly refined nuclear materials for deployment in nuclear weapons.
  • Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, New Mexico – stores radioactive waste underground on a DOE reservation from the research and production of US nuclear weapons.


Granholm is reported to have said that leasing land from the DOE will have some ‘unique opportunities’ that will cut project timelines to make them attractive to the private sector.


Vogtle 3 begins commercial operation 
In other news, Vogtle Unit 3, the US’s first new nuclear power plant in 30 years, has begun full commercial operation. The site, in Waynesboro, Georgia, reached first criticality in March, was connected to the electricity grid in April, and is now officially generating electricity for an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses, according to operator Georgia Power.


The final stages of construction and testing continue at Vogtle Unit 4, with the unit projected to be in service by 4Q2023 or 1Q2024. Once all four units are online, the plant will become the largest generator of clean energy in the US.


Funding for Puerto Rico
Meanwhile, the DOE has announced up to $453.5mn from the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund, aimed at increasing residential rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage installations in the region, with a focus to reach and support Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable residents.


This round of funding will provide consumer protection and education initiatives to support residents’ long-term use of solar systems as well as a Solar Ambassador Prize for community groups to help DOE identify and connect with eligible households.


The region will also receive an additional $7.4mn to help modernise its electricity grid to reduce impacts of climate-driven extreme weather and natural disasters and enhance power sector reliability.