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NNSA, Sandia Unveil New $60 Million Heating System

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today helped unveil a new $60 million Heating Systems Modernization (HSM) project at Sandia National Laboratories and the start of demolition of an 18,000-square-foot steam plant that has been part of the skyline at Sandia for more than 60 years.

The demolition of the obsolete facility marks the completion of the NNSA’s $60 million Heating System Modernization program, which is part of the NNSA’s Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Program (FIRP). FIRP is aimed at reducing a large maintenance backlog, improving the state of site utilities, and eliminating excess facilities across the nation’s nuclear weapons enterprise.

Leaders from the NNSA and the local community attended the event that included officials taking sledge hammers to the building, followed by the start of the actual demolition.

“This new heating project is a prime example of NNSA’s commitment in transforming a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “This project also fits into NNSA’s commitment in being effective stewards of the taxpayer’s money, and NNSA’s commitment to energy efficiency.” 

The red, clay-tiled building, which rises to four stories on its northern end, was designed by Black & Veatch of Kansas City, Mo., and the U.S. Corps of Engineers in Albuquerque. It also once heated the surrounding Kirtland Air Force base. At one time, the plant was known for its efficiency. In 1960, during a cold snap its production reached a peak rate of water converted to steam per hour of more than 180,000 pounds.

Deferred maintenance costs and equipment corrosion issues that made the system inefficient led to a 2004 decision to replace the aging centralized heating system with local boilers placed in buildings or groups of buildings in Sandia’s main research campus, now completed. 

About 80 percent of the work to modernize the heating system was completed by small businesses, one of which grew to become a large business while it was working on the project. Over three years during the summers, the companies converted 47 buildings from the centralized system to local boilers. The companies installed 106 hot water boilers, five steam boilers, new natural gas connections and meters.

The new heating system will save nearly 12 million gallons of water a year. It is about 85 percent efficient, compared to the 65 percent efficiency rating for the old boilers. It will reduce both energy usage and pollutants by about 60 percent. Sixty percent of the materials that were removed from buildings to prepare for the installation of the local boilers was recycled, he said. Significant additional recycling by the contractor is anticipated during the final demolition work.

The building will come down over the next six to eight weeks and all the debris, most of which will be recycled, should be removed from the site by the end of September.

Since FY2001, FIRP has eliminated approximately 489,000 gross square feet, and funded nearly $159 million in deferred maintenance reduction projects at Sandia. FIRP recently celebrated the completion of disposition and the 3,000,000 square foot reduction throughout the NNSA enterprise, one full year ahead of schedule.

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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. NNSA homepage: