Government-owned land, previously home to Cold War-era atomic weapons manufacturing facilities, could soon receive new, green leases on life. According to an announcement on July 28, the US Department of Energy’s “Cleanup to Clean Energy” initiative has identified five sites across the US, totalling roughly 70,000 acres, to be potentially utilized for massive solar, wind, and nuclear energy projects.
As Reuters notes, some of these locations—such as Richland, Washington’s now-decommissioned Hartford Site—were first built in the 1940s to produce plutonium and uranium for the Manhattan Project’s atomic bombs. Other locations such as New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), however, are much more recent projects. Established in 1999, the WIPP is the country’s only deep geologic nuclear waste repository, and includes over 185,000 containers filled with transuranic-contaminated “clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items” roughly 2,000 feet underground, according to its official website. Additional sites that will potentially receive green renovations include the Idaho National Laboratory, the Nevada Nuclear Security Site, and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
“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,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in an official statement.
The DOE’s Cleanup to Clean Energy is part of federal agencies’ ongoing response to President Biden’s December 2021 executive order directing them to use 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2030. To help meet the goal, Executive Order 14057 directed officials to authorize the use of property assets including land “through leases, grants, permits, or other mechanisms.”
As the federal government ramps up such projects, private industry is also looking to renovate similarly outdated and retired sites on their own. Earlier this year, the company charged with demolishing the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan’s Van Buren county announced revamped intentions to restart the 800 megawatt facility. If successful, it will mark the first time a US nuclear reactor restarted after losing its fuel and operating licenses.
Although there are currently no detailed plans or construction timelines currently available, based on the executive order’s directives, it’s safe to say these DOE green renovation projects should be up-and-running by the end of the decade.