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Wind energy may be used in nuclear facility

A research wind farm could be installed on the site of a major US nuclear office, where the wind-generated electricity would be used to operate the plant.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Pantex site office and Texas Tech University to create the research wind farm on NNSA’s Pantex site. As a first step, the MoU calls for a feasibility study on the installation of wind turbines and the construction of related infrastructure.

“Working with Texas Tech is a wonderful opportunity for Pantex,” says Steve Erhart, Manager of the Pantex site. “Not only will it provide a unique educational opportunity for students, but we expect this research will provide the Pantex plant with greater access to renewable energy sources.”

“It shows our commitment at Pantex and across the nuclear security enterprise, to responsible stewardship of our environment and effective use of taxpayer money,” he explains. The MoU will position Pantex to meet the requirements outlined by President Obama in Executive Orders 13423 and 13514, which call for the increased use of wind energy and other renewable energy technologies within federal agencies, and will help implement a core Department of Energy (DoE) mission to support the development of renewable energy that will create millions of green jobs and promote US prosperity.

The research centre would include operational wind turbines providing unique infrastructure and broad capabilities to support long-term renewable energy goals. The installations would also provide workforce development opportunities, as well as the potential to develop and commercialise renewable energy technologies that will address the key scientific challenges facing the wind power industry.

“The opportunity to work with Pantex to create a research wind farm is very exciting,” adds Kent Hance, Chancellor of Texas Tech University. “We hope to include a large number of other academic, industrial and government partners in this effort to create a world class research facility focused on renewable energy and education.”

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires federal facilities to rely on renewable energy for 7.5% of their electricity by 2013. Renewable Energy Certificates may be used to meet federal targets, but EPACT allows for double credit if the renewable energy is produced and used on-site at a federal facility.

NNSA owns 10,000 acres of land in the Texas Panhandle where the Pantex plant is located, and the region “frequently experiences windy conditions and is therefore an area that is suitable for wind energy projects,” the MoU explains. Texas Tech owns another 6000 acres that is leased to NNSA, and is used as a security buffer.

NNSA will seek funding and approval to authorise the planning, design and installation of the wind turbines, and will address environmental compliance under the National Environmental Policy Act. Texas Tech would be responsible for operation and maintenance of the wind turbines, and both parties would pursue initiatives for funding for the research facility.

Legislation may be needed to provide NNSA with the authority to allow Pantex to retain energy sales revenue or royalties at the site, but the MOU says such funds would be used to update equipment within the wind farm and support the centre’s research initiatives.

NNSA was established by Congress in 2000 as a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, to enhance national security through the military application of nuclear science. It maintains the US nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the US Navy with nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the USA and abroad.

The Pantex plant, located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas, is managed and operated by B&W Pantex for NNSA.

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