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Green Week 2011 Day 2: NNSA Highlights Green Science Innovations Across Nuclear Security Enterprise

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is celebrating Earth Week with a special website highlighting “green” stories from around the enterprise. Each day, the NNSA Green Week website will focus on a different set of stories that highlight the connection between NNSA’s commitment to energy efficiency and its efforts to invest in the future, implement President Obama’s nuclear security agenda, and improve the way the enterprise does business.

Today’s Green Week 2011 feature highlights some of the ways NNSA’s laboratories and sites are leveraging the best science in the world to create solutions to improve the environment. From reducing the aerodynamic drag of semi-trucks to finding a more environmentally friendly way to clean drinking water at Pantex, NNSA’s researchers improving the way we do business throughout the enterprise.

“By leveraging the best science and technology in the world, we are working to invest in the future of our enterprise while investing in a healthier planet,” said Don Cook, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “In addition to ensuring our ability to implement President Obama’s ambitious nuclear Pantex watersecurity agenda, our nation’s investment in nuclear security is providing the tools to tackle broader national challenges. As we have worked to improve the way we do business, I am proud that the terrific ‘green science’ taking root across our enterprise is also helping to improve our environment.”

In one example of an NNSA site finding cleaner and healthier ways to do business, its Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, recently implemented a more environmentally friendly way to clean drinking water at Pantex. Disinfecting Pantex Plant’s drinking water once required injecting chlorine gas into the raw groundwater before the water entered the distribution system. That was until a team of employees found a safer alternative that ensures even greater protection against microbial pathogens while offering enhanced security.

Pantex’s mixed oxide, or MIOX, system achieves more rapid and thorough inactivation of a wider range of microbial contaminants than conventional chlorine. In the system, mixed oxidants are produced by electrolyzing salt water (brine) and separating the resulting products. The mixed oxidant solution created is a mixture of liquid chlorine and other chlor-oxygen compounds generated through electrolysis using salt, water and electricity. The system eliminates the potential for a release of chlorine gas, improves safety both onsite and offsite by eliminating shipping, handling and transfer of a toxic gas and removes or reduces bio-films from the aged water distribution system piping.

At NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, experts developed new devices that help reduce the aerodynamic drag of semi-trucks (see video), potentially increasing fuel efficiency by as much as 12 percent. It could prevent 36 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere annually, roughly the same amount of CO2 that is emitted from four 1-gigawatt power plants every year. The project is in support of the Department of Energy’s mission to reduce the United States’ dependency on fossil fuels LLNL has teamed with Navistar Inc., NASA’s Ames Research Center, the U.S. Air Force and industry

A new virtualized data center at Los Alamos National Laboratory was created to improve information technology efficiency and better serve the lab’s core research and development. Not only has the new data center saved energy, but it has been able to cut requests that once took 30 days to 30 minutes.

At Sandia National Laboratories, researchers are moving into the demonstration phase of a novel gas turbine system for power generation. The goal is to increase thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency to as much as 50 percent — an improvement of 50 percent for nuclear power stations equipped with steam turbines, or a 40 percent improvement for simple gas turbines. This machine is basically a jet engine running on a hot liquid. There is a tremendous amount of industrial and scientific interest in supercritical CO2 systems for power generation using all potential heat sources including solar, geothermal, fossil fuel, biofuel and nuclear.

To learn more about NNSA’s commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency, visit the NNSA Green Week website at:

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.