Last week the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced an important joint project with New Zealand to provide mobile radiation detection equipment to countries in Latin America, South East Asia, and Africa. Part of the extensive collaboration between our two governments on nuclear nonproliferation efforts, this is the fifth joint project between NNSA and New Zealand pursuant to a bilateral memorandum of understanding, under the 26-member G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Material of Mass Destruction.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and NNSA’s Second Line of Defense Program (SLD) will jointly select the specific partner countries to receive sophisticated mobile detection equipment. In addition to providing the equipment, SLD and MFAT will together conduct workshops and exercises to help partner countries develop better capacity to operate and maintain detection systems and otherwise deal with nuclear trafficking threats within and across their borders.

NNSA has partnerships with over 50 countries throughout the world.

NNSA has partnerships with more than 50 countries.

Established by Congress in the year 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for managing the United States’ nuclear nonproliferation programs, insuring the safety and performance of the nuclear stockpile, providing the U.S. Navy with safe and clean nuclear propulsion, converting research reactors and isotope production facilities from highly to low-enriched uranium, disposing of excess materials, and responding to radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

NNSA established the SLD program in order to build productive partnerships with other countries on a specific matter of great importance to all of us, i.e., to prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radiological materials at international border crossings and checkpoints. To date, partnerships have been formed with more than 50 countries, and radiation detection equipment has been installed at more than 500 sites worldwide. New Zealand’s participation and generosity has assisted greatly in that effort.

NNSA employee at work securing nuclear cargo.

NNSA employee at work securing nuclear cargo.

As NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington said, “The United States and New Zealand share a strong commitment to important global nonproliferation efforts aimed at keeping dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, smugglers, and proliferators.” The new project “reinforces the cooperation between our countries to strengthen global security and prevent nuclear terrorism, while supporting President Obama’s pledge to lead a worldwide effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world.”

If you would like more information about NNSA’s Second Line of Defense Program, you can access a fact sheet by clicking here.

I was scanning my Twitter feed this morning and saw an interesting post from about energy conservation projects in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Founded by the passengers and crew of the iconic Mayflower, Plymouth is often referred to as America’s Hometown.

With a current population of approximately 56,000, Plymouth plans to have all municipal power generated from renewable sources by its 400th Anniversary, in 2020. The Plymouth campaign demonstrates that even small municipalities can help change energy-use culture while reaping important fiscal savings.

I clip and paste below the post that caught my interest, written by Chris Galm of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (Chris, apologies for not calling you for permission first, but it’s already well into the evening back in DC.)

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Town Known for First Thanksgiving Grateful for Energy Savings, by Chris Galm

The town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is synonymous with Thanksgiving. One year after the 1620 landing of the famous Mayflower, the town was the site for the very first harvest celebration between the Pilgrim settlers from England and the local members of the Wampanoag tribe.

As “America’s Hometown,” Plymouth has embarked on a path to energy efficiency to reduce energy waste in the coming years, while also exploring opportunities to expand use of renewable energy sources.

A 2009 energy audit identified the largest uses of municipal energy, as well as where the biggest savings could be realized. To help implement energy efficiency upgrades, the town received $514,000 in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

One of the most obvious projects on the town’s list was to improve the energy efficiency of Memorial Hall, a 1,300 seat civic arena built in 1921 and used for concerts, plays, town assemblies, proms, graduations, and basketball games.

The town used over $60,000 in EECBG funds as well as more $23,000 in additional funding from local utility NStar to complete a number of energy efficiency upgrades, including a new chiller for the air conditioning system, occupancy sensors to turn on the air conditioning in targeted sections of the building and a wide range of heat pump and boiler upgrades.

The Memorial Hall work was completed in January, and the town is monitoring its utility bills to gauge the effectiveness of the upgrades, which so far have saved nearly $1,200 per month.

The South Street Public Library also had work done. The town energy audit determined the library used almost 20 percent of the town’s annual electricity, so the town used $20,000 in grant funding to implement lighting upgrades in the 20,000-square-foot facility. Energy savings from the upgrades should pay for the improvements within two years.

Additional projects in the works include: a new boiler for the West Plymouth Fire Station, new thermostats for the Town Hall and two elementary schools, and a new energy efficient water pumping motor for the Darby Pond Well.

“Reducing our energy usage has been a goal of the town of Plymouth for the past few years,” said Patrick O’Brien special assistant to the town manger and the town’s energy officer. “Plymouth’s goal of having all municipal power come from renewable power by our 400th Anniversary [in 2020] is helped by projects like these that both reduce our usage and allow for potential new projects.”

All told, the variety of upgrades is providing a number of reasons for local residents to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

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For other interesting stories and information about what Chris and his colleagues are up to, take a look at or follow @ENERGY on Twitter.

In one of the more interesting projects I’m tracking, a group of New Zealand students is preparing to build an eco-friendly Kiwi bach on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  Really. They’ve got their plot all picked out, and the blueprints are looking good.

Dubbed FirstLight, the team is composed of students from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture and Design who are participating in next year’s Solar Decathlon.

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