WASHINGTON, D. C. - During a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the U.S. Department of Energy's fiscal year 2017 budget request, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich continued to push for Waste Isolated Pilot Plant (WIPP) safety and recovery efforts, a new cleanup schedule at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and technology transfer opportunities. The committee received testimony from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich underscored that the safety of WIPP workers and the surrounding community should remain top priorities for DOE as the agency oversees the facility's effort to restore safe operations. Senator Heinrich received confirmation that WIPP is on schedule to reopen later this year. WIPP, located in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is the only active facility in the United States that disposes defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste. The facility halted operations in February 2014 following two separate accidents--a fire and a radiation release.
Senator Heinrich also discussed DOE's future plans for the cleanup effort at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He received an update on the Consent Order with the state, which will guide future cleanup plans and budget requests. Senator Heinrich worked to secure funding for cleanup at LANL in last year's omnibus appropriations bill, that was signed into law, which included $185 million for environmental clean up at the lab. DOE's request for FY17 is $189 million.
Later in the hearing, Senator Heinrich highlighted the economic benefits technology transfer brings to communities and businesses in states like New Mexico that have national laboratories. Senator Heinrich is working to improve and increase collaboration between Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory and the private sector. He advocated for continued support of DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund and the agency's Office of Technology Transitions small business voucher initiative, which aims to facilitate lab-partnerships to promote energy technology for commercial purposes.
Additionally, Senator Heinrich emphasized that battery storage is critical in the ongoing transition from a centralized power grid to a more distributed structure. The U.S. energy storage market grew 243% in 2015, the largest year on record, according to a new report. Senator Heinrich discussed DOE's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research's work to reduce costs and meet energy storage goals. Sandia National Laboratories is a partner in JCESR. Senator Heinrich is a leading voice on building a more secure and robust 21st century energy infrastructure. He introduced the Energy Storage Promotion and Deployment Act to create America's first energy storage standard. The bill would establish an energy storage portfolio standard for electric utility companies.