PR for People Monthly October 2021 October 2021 - Page 8

On the other hand, the Biden administration has restored at least a modicum of transparency to America’s nuclear arms program. Earlier this month the State Department reported that the U.S. nuclear stockpile currently consists of 3,750 nuclear warheads. This information was released prior to the 2022 meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, where the U.S. and other signatories to the Treaty will review their disarmament commitments. The announcement was hailed by arms control experts as a welcome change from the information blackout the Trump administration had maintained concerning the nuclear stockpile.

   Along with stewarding the nation’s nuclear holdings, the DOE also contends with complicated cleanups of the sites around the country that have been contaminated by nuclear production activities. Since 1989, the DOE has pursued environmental remediation of 107 sites, comprising a whopping 3,100 square miles. The job has included demolishing contaminated research facilities and enrichment plants, cleaning up affected soil, streams and groundwater, and dealing with millions of gallons of high-level radioactive sludge stored in underground tanks that are corroding over time.

   Despite the DOE’s major investment of dollars and time in these tasks, not everyone is satisfied that the work is being held to a high enough standard. Under the Trump administration, the DOE’s move to relax restrictions on disposal of radioactive waste, or simply reclassify it as less harmful, has led some tribes and environmental advocacy groups to call foul.

   In addition to the nuclear component of its work, the DOE also is charged with managing one of the more intriguing missions of the federal government. The Department funds 17 National Laboratories. Located all around the country, the labs are tasked with conducting ground-breaking research and development in a wide array of scientific fields – robots, rare earth elements, genome sequencing, and more. These labs, equipped with unique instruments and capabilities, undertake complex, large-scale research to address challenges important to the nation’s security and wellbeing. They partner with American industries to innovate solutions not only in energy systems and national defense, but also in areas like industrial safety, environmental protection and medicine. Typically, the combined labs are responsible for about 1,500 inventions per year.

   Biden’s Build Back Better plan and those Energy Earthshots will likely lean heavily on the resources and know-how provided by those laboratories. Expect to see new developments in renewable power, electric vehicles, energy efficient appliances, battery storage, carbon capture, sustainable building technologies and resilient grid infrastructure. All of these are pieces of an unprecedentedly comprehensive plan to get the United States to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

 

Barbara Lloyd McMichael is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Research Sources:

Paris Agreement - https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/paris-agreement

Department of Energy - https://www.energy.gov/

Energy Earthshots Initiative - https://www.energy.gov/policy/energy-earthshots-initiative

National Laboratories - https://www.energy.gov/national-laboratories