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Fernald Preserve Visitors Center Grand Opening and LEED Platinum Certification

October 16, 2008 - 4:14pm


Remarks as Prepared for Acting Deputy Secretary Kupfer

Thank you, Mike, for that introduction and to both you and Jane for hosting this event. You both have been instrumental in the dramatic transformation of this site.

We made a commitment more than a decade ago to do three things here at Fernald: to close it, to clean it up and to give it back to the community. I'm proud to say we have fulfilled that commitment safely and ahead of schedule.

Less than two years ago, I was here with Secretary Bodman as he announced the completion of a $4.4 billion clean up operation. Since then, we have been engaged in a significant land restoration effort here at the site. And today, with the grand opening of the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center, we are officially giving it back to the community. I'm glad to welcome you all for this event.

I would like to recognize Congressman Chabot, Congresswoman Schmidt, the staffs of Senator Voinovich and Senator Brown, and other state and local officials. Thank you also for being here.

I had the opportunity to tour the Visitors Center this morning and was very impressed. The Center does a tremendous job telling the story of Fernald and the important role this site played in the greater context of the Cold War.

As many of you here today know, Fernald began operations in 1951 as a uranium foundry that served as the first link in America's nuclear weapon's production cycle. Fernald received uranium ore, and through a series of metallurgical and chemical processes produced almost 500 million pounds of uranium products-the equivalent weight of 150,000 cars-that were sent to other Department of Energy sites to fuel reactors for the production of plutonium.

This site and others in Ohio-including Mound, Columbus and Ashtabula-were critical to America's national security infrastructure and our nuclear weapons program during the Cold War era. Their contributions-the contributions of the many pioneering men and women who worked here-helped bring the Cold War to a peaceful end.

And so, we want to make sure that this important piece of our history is not lost. When I was here back in January 2007, in this same building, then just an empty warehouse, Secretary Bodman noted our desire to tell the story of Fernald's history, and he made a commitment to the development of the Fernald Preserve and the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center.

Today, we're fulfilling that commitment-the commitment to make the Fernald property into an asset of which our neighboring communities can certainly be very proud.

I applaud the Fernald team, who worked closely with the Ohio and United States Environmental Protection Agencies and the community to plan and execute a project that incorporated the community's vision. In particular, I want to thank our Visitors Center team, consisting of the S.M. Stoller Corporation, the University of Cincinnati, Megen/glaserworks, URS, Southwest Services, and Water Quality Systems Incorporated for their efforts.

The Fernald Preserve provides a unique opportunity to see how nature responds on a large scale to restoration. Using an 1819 land survey, this area was restored to something that Lewis and Clark would recognize. Fernald Preserve has amazing wildlife habitats-woodlands, prairies, and more than 140 acres of marshes, wetlands and ponds that have become home to muskrats, beaver and birds-and provide resting places for hawks, eagles, swans, migrating sand hill cranes and ducks.

And so, in addition to preserving an important part of our history, the center will be an important educational tool for this country's future leaders. Based on consultations with area educators, we are confident that this building and site will rapidly become a resource for teachers throughout the tri-state area of Southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana.

In fact, today we are joined by local educators and senior honor students-the Knights from Northwest High School. Through a crosscutting project that integrates biology, chemistry, English and geography, these students are assisting us with a baseline inventory of plants and animals at the Fernald Preserve. They will document their findings and present their results to the Department of Energy at the end of the school year. This is exactly the kind of hands-on educational resource we want to provide to the community.

And so, the educational opportunities this site and Visitors Center affords point us toward a greater understanding of the world around us. But there is yet another way in which this Visitors Center points us toward the future, a future that will depend upon increased energy efficiency and enhanced environmental responsibility across all sectors as we seek to secure our energy future.

I am proud to announce today, on behalf of the Department, that the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center platinum level certification through its Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED program.

The LEED system is the nationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Buildings that are constructed according to LEED standards emit fewer greenhouse gases and use less energy, thus reducing our dependence on foreign oil, twin goals that serve as the cornerstones of our national energy policy.

The Visitors Center here at Fernald is the first building in the State of Ohio, the second Department of Energy building and one of only 100 buildings worldwide to achieve LEED platinum certification, the highest level achievable under the LEED rating system. Quite frankly, our goal was gold, but our team here surpassed that goal to achieve the platinum level.

This achievement is the result of a cooperative effort involving the Department's Offices of Legacy Management and Environmental Management; the Office of Legacy Management's prime contractor, the S.M. Stoller Corporation; the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning; and a number of highly skilled subcontractors.

And, of course, this certification honors the Fernald community without whose vision this outstanding facility would not have been completed.

And so today as we remember and seek to preserve the many contributions Fernald has made to our national security, we also celebrate Fernald's future-the future of America-as we forge ahead to achieve energy security in an environmentally responsible way.

Thank you for inviting me to be here today on this important occasion.

Location: Crosby Township, Ohio

Media contact(s): Bethany Shively, (202) 586-4940