Officials from DOE’s Office of Environmental Management Push “Energy Parks” at DOE Sites

EM to Aiken/Augusta Community: You want Spent Fuel Storage & Reprocessing at SRS – Go for it and we’ll help you!

DOE-EM meeting, Augusta, Georgia (near Savannah River Site)

March 18, 2009

From Tom Clements
tomclements329@cs.com

As you know, Environmental Management has recently been touting “energy parks” as part of its “footprint reduction” efforts in cleaning up DOE sites and has used this to sell the Obama folks on throwing $6 billion in stimulus funds at EM. They have presented this concept in various papers and at individual Site Specific Advisory Board meetings around DOE sites, including with the Savannah River Site SSAB.

(See EM paper: http://www.energyca.org/PDF/FootprintReduction.pdf)

Now, the top folks at EM have gone live with the idea and pushed it strongly at a national meeting of heads of local Site Specific Advisory Boards, which met on March 18 & 19 in Augusta, Georgia (near the Savannah River Site). The idea is that once clean up is done, a work force with active experience in nuclear projects could then be deployed on energy projects.

At the SSAB meeting, both the Acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, Ines Triay, nominated last week by Obama to the asst. secretary position, and one of her deputy assistant secretaries spoke about the “energy park” concept in glowing and supportive terms. As they tried to explain use of the $6 billion in EM stimulus funds – sounds like “accelerated clean up” déjà vu – they underscored that the money would not only help with clean up, shorten the time line for clean up but then result in using the sites for “energy parks.” (She also said some communities around DOE sites may want to choose “real estate ventures.”)

Triay presented several slides in which “energy parks’ were pitched as the final goal of clean up and footprint reduction and said that while no “stimulus” funds would be spent for “energy parks” the goal was to “leverage” stimulus funds toward that end. One slide of hers says that the “Energy Parks Initiative will convert EM liabilities (formerly contaminated sites, facilities, and materials) into assets to solve critical national energy issues.” She went on to say that “we are not here to market energy parks” and said that “that is truly a matter for your community” and “we’re here to support your vision of how you move forward.” She did not present any analysis of short-term jobs created by the $6 billion vs longer-term jobs lost.

She said that Mark Gilbertson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Engineering and Technology, was the “ambassador” from EM to other parts of DOE for the “energy park” concept.

Gilberston spoke later and presented 10 slides on which “energy parks” or the “Energy Park Initiative” was presented, with such headings as “Energy Park Initiative: A bold and innovative concept.” He said EM is “trying to leverage those EM programs to the communities’ benefit”[a la energy parks]. One slide said that “Options include conventional & advanced energy technologies, such as:

  • – Renewable energy: solar, wind, biomass, geothermal
  • – Fossil fuels: Clean coal, gas turbines
  • – Electricity generation, transmission, & generation
  • – Hydrogen generation
  • – Emission controls, carbon sequestration
  • – Specialty manufacturing
  • – Nuclear: power, fuel cycle, waste management

As he was near SRS, he focused on the $1.9 billion in EM stimulus funds for the site and energy park possibilities at the site: spent fuel storage and reprocessing or “the next kind of [nuclear] plants.” One slide said that Savannah River Site was already teaming up with “community reuse organizations and industry” in “working on leasing 2,500 acres for electric production; large-scale demonstration of new energy technologies.” He said that once the plutonium fuel (MOX) plant was finished that then work force could be shifted into energy park work. The message was clear to SRS boosters: full speed ahead with schemes to store spent fuel at the site or pursue reprocessing or nuclear energy projects and that EM would help as it could.

Naturally, neither Triay or Gilbertson spoke about where the money would come from for energy parks, if there was any private interest in the idea, if they would be competing with private efforts off-site, where the proposals are for such parks (especially at SRS, on the verge of signing a lease), what types of energy would be pursued at which sites, or why the local communities would have say over what projects their site pursued. In short, their concept is rather a mess. (But how is it develping in other DOE offices, like Nuclear Energy?)

In the public comment period, in addition to comments about oversight on the stimulus funds and that EM should avoid an AIG-type scandal and not allow any of the funds to go for contractor bonuses (“we’ll be watching”), I challenged Gilberston for pushing a spent fuel dump and nuclear energy and reprocessing “park” at SRS. He slowly sank in his chair as I called him out and said that state-wide communities and public interest groups would not stand by and allow SRS to become a spent fuel dump or reprocessing site and that we would not simply let special interests in Aiken and Augusta dictate that the costly and dangerous projects he named be pursued at the site.

In the hall before Gilberston’s talk and my public comments, I bumped into a woman who is close to the top of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the new SRS site manager. She said that she couldn’t reveal which projects would get stimulus funds but volunteered that SRNS is working on an energy park proposal “to send to Washington” so that they can get money to start work on the energy park concept at SRS. No more details on that but it all sounds like that the boosters are champing at the bit for “Plan B” on Yucca Mountain – “interim” spent fuel dump at SRS followed by reprocessing.

If anyone wants the Triay and Gilbertson overheads, I can photocopy or scan and send them to you.

Soon, we’ll see if recommendations by DOE Secretary Chu’s “blue ribbon panel” on what to do with spent fuel aligns with efforts for an “energy park” (aka spent fuel dump for starters) at SRS.  (How can we help get someone on that panel????)

But the good news down here is that the plutonium fuel (MOX) program has just taken a solid hit:

Plutonium Fuel Plan Hits Roadblockhttp://www.foe.org/plutonium-fuel-plan-hits-roadblock

“Deal off with single buyer of MOX fuel” – http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/03/14/met_514664.shtml

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