During the past four years, the Department reclaimed the lead in high performance supercomputing. Much more importantly, we are working harder use the extraordinary capabilities to achieve our nuclear security, scientific research and industrial competitiveness goals. In the last several years, the DOE has collaborated with industry to eliminate expensive and time consuming engineering prototyping in applications as varied as simulations that have been used to optimize diesel and jet engines, tire treads and the safety of nuclear reactor fuel assemblies. This work adds directly to our industrial competitiveness and job growth in America. In the past two years, we have held several additional workshops specifically to foster industrial collaborations.
We mobilized experts from the Department and our National Laboratories to play a key role in times of national need. The President personally tasked me to help BP stop the massive oil leak the resulted from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Beginning with a small team of scientists and engineers that worked many long hours each day for three very intense months, we assessed the damage to the blowout preventer, and significantly mitigated many risks in the effort to cap, seal and ultimately kill the runaway well. Well over a hundred national lab employees toiled days, nights, weekends and holidays to perform detailed analyses that earned the respect and admiration of the BP engineers and undeniably changed BP’s plans for the better. In the course of these actions, the Department also played a major role in estimating the amount of oil that was released into the Gulf. Two and half years later, this estimate has stood the test of time and scrutiny.
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, other teams of DOE scientists, engineers, and emergency responders acted with admirable competence, commitment and composure.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Department assisted FEMA to help speed the response effort. As the result of our collaboration during Sandy, FEMA has asked for the Administration to support the creation of a 24/7 energy emergency response center.
The President tasked the Department of Energy Advisory Board to form a sub-committee to bring together a team of industry, environmental, and scientific leaders to recommend a path forward with industry and regulators to recover our vast shale gas resources in a safe, environmentally responsible manner.
The Department played the crucial role in launching the Clean Energy Ministerial, in which more than 20 countries with more than 80% of the world’s GDP come together not to argue, but to share best practices. We are working to improve energy efficiency, speed the spread of renewable power and mobilize talent from around the world to advance the clean energy revolution. With the help of a dedicated team in the Office of Policy & International Affairs, we held the first meeting in Washington, D.C. The second and third meetings were in Abu Dhabi and London, and this coming April, the fourth will be held in New Delhi.
We also fostered cooperative agreements that resulted in three US-China Clean Energy Research Centers announced by President Obama and President Hu Jintao. The agreements focused on (i) developing cost-saving building efficiencies, (ii) the development of clean coal technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration, and (iii) clean vehicles. The program of $150 million is equally funded equally by China and the U.S., with half of the investments made by industry in each country.
In keeping with Congressional direction to develop appliance efficiency standards, we have greatly accelerated the development and finalization of standards on more than 40 household and commercial products – standards that are conservatively estimated to save consumers a total of $350 billion through 2030.
Our nuclear security teams have removed 1,340 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and 35 kilograms of plutonium from vulnerable sites throughout the world—enough material for approximately 55 nuclear weapons – including cleaning out 8 countries of all highly enriched uranium.
The President secured ratification of the New Start Treaty, under which the U.S. and Russia agreed to further reduce the number of deployed warheads to lowest level since the 1950s – an 85 percent reduction from the darkest days of the Cold War. And over the last four years, we have worked with our partners to downblend more than 100,000 kilograms of weapons grade uranium from the former Soviet Union, converting it to peaceful purposes like U.S. civilian nuclear reactors. In fact, roughly 10 percent of America’s electricity comes from uranium that once threatened the United States as part of the Soviet nuclear arsenal.
We made historic progress in cleaning up nuclear contamination leftover from the Cold War, reducing the total footprint by nearly 75 percent and permanently cleaning up 690 square miles of contaminated land—an area more than 30 times the size of Manhattan.
Despite this progress, the environmental clean-up projects still have considerable technical and project management challenges. As an example, the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant at Hanford is the most complex and largest nuclear project in history. For the past 6 months, I have been working with six extremely talented people, typically devoting 5-10 hours a week that include nights and weekends. We have also been working intimately with a restructured EM management team to overcome remaining challenges. We have invited ecologists in the State of Washington to join in our frank discussions and the DOE team is rebuilding trust that had broken down over the past decade. I am especially appreciative of Governor Gregoire for her trust and support over the past six months.
This team will continue working with EM and Washington State for months and possibly years. The scientific, engineering and management reform of the Waste Treatment Plant will continue, and I am optimistic that many of the issues that have been plaguing this project for over a half a dozen years will soon be resolved. We are also bringing in the scientific talent and commitment of many scientists and engineers that will allow us to fulfill our obligations more quickly and safely. As a consequence of this renewed effort, I predict that our country will potentially avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs over the coming decades.