DOE launches national lab decarbonisation initiative

26 May 2022

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been selected as one of four national laboratories to take part in a USD38 million decarbonisation initiative. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Net Zero Labs Pilot Initiative will lay the foundation for net-zero solutions that can be replicated at facilities across DOE, as well as federal government, state and local governments.

(Image: INL)

INL has been selected alongside National Energy Technology Laboratory (located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Oregon), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Oregon) to take part in the pilot. All four are taking proactive steps to harness and produce technology at their facilities to drive down their carbon emissions, DOE said, as well as conducting research that will help bring forward clean energy solutions for the nation. They also reflect different geographic and climate regions that each face unique energy challenges.

"Transitioning to a net-zero future will require slashing carbon pollution across all industries - from shipping to manufacturing to construction, and even the operation of our national laboratories," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. "DOE's National Labs are leading by example to address some of the most energy-intensive, hardest-to-decarbonise federal facilities to reduce our nation's carbon footprint - mitigating the disastrous impacts of climate change, lowering energy costs, and supporting the growing clean energy workforce."

The national laboratories are some of the US federal government's most complex energy users and have demand and resilience requirements far exceeding those of a standard facility, DOE said. The pilot initiative will demonstrate that the labs' heavy industrial facilities, energy-intensive data centres, reactors, and other unique infrastructure that demands large amounts of continuous power can be powered using clean energy. Additional funding is expected to be made available next year to all 17 national labs.

"INL is energy-intense and complex, with approximately 900 square miles of facilities, 600 vehicles, 320 buildings, and 5300 employees," INL Director John Wagner said. "Achieving net-zero by 2031 will be an enormous challenge that requires tremendous innovation, changes to how we conduct operations, and collaboration with local, state, and national partners. By proving it can be accomplished, we will be able to inspire and help others."

INL plans to use nuclear innovations such as advanced reactor technologies - including micro and small modular reactors - to demonstrate a microgrid capable of powering its site when integrated with other renewable forms of energy such as solar, wind and geothermal. It also plans to reduce emissions from its operations by decarbonising its bus and vehicle fleet. It promised an "integrated approach that centres net-zero as a core component of INL's mission to discover, demonstrate and secure innovative nuclear clean energy solutions."

Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor that manages and operates INL, recently issued a request for information to seek input on how it can use nuclear-generated electricity and heat to meet its net-zero goal, including the possible design, construction and operation of an on-site nuclear reactor that will help the lab achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2031.

INL has been selected by the DOE as the preferred site for the construction and operation of the Versatile Test Reactor - a sodium-cooled fast reactor - and has also been selected by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems as the location for its Carbon Free Power Project small modular reactor plant.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News