1980-2001

  • 1980

    President Carter signs the Energy Security Act, consisting of six major acts: U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation Act, Biomass Energy and Alcohol Fuels Act, Renewable Energy Resources Act, Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Act and Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank Act, Geothermal Energy Act, and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act.
  • 1981

    Ronald Reagan is inaugurated President.
  • 1981

    James B. Edwards is sworn in as third Secretary of Energy.
  • 1981

    President Reagan signs Executive Order 12287, which provides for the decontrol of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
  • 1981

    Secretary Edwards announces a major reorganization of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to improve management and increase emphasis on research, development, and production.
  • 1981

    The Reagan Administration announces a nuclear energy policy that anticipates the establishment of a facility for the storage of high-level radioactive waste and lifts the ban on commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuel.
  • 1982

    Secretary Edwards announces the placement of the 250-millionth barrel of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
  • 1982

    President Reagan proposes legislation transferring most responsibilities of DOE to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Congress fails to act on the proposal
  • 1982

    Donald Paul Hodel is sworn in as fourth Secretary of Energy.
  • 1983

    President Reagan signs the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the nation's first comprehensive nuclear waste legislation.
  • 1983

    President Reagan addresses the nation on national security and announces the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a satellite-based defense system that would destroy incoming missiles and warheads in space.
  • 1983

    DOE establishes the Civilian Radioactive Waste Management Office.
  • 1983

    The Senate refuses to continue funding the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, effectively terminating the project.
  • 1984

    The Leaf v. Hodel decision opens the Department’s nuclear weapons complex to state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation.
  • 1984

    The National Coal Council is established to advise both government and industry on ways to improve cooperation in areas of coal research, production, transportation, marketing, and use.
  • 1985

    John S. Herrington is sworn in as fifth Secretary of Energy.
  • 1986

    Secretary Herrington asks Congress to open access to interstate natural gas pipelines and lift all remaining controls on natural gas prices.
  • 1986

    A major nuclear accident occurs at Chernobyl Reactor #4 near Pripyat, Ukraine in the Soviet Union, spreading radioactive contamination over a large area.
  • 1986

    Secretary Herrington requests the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering to make an independent safety assessment of DOE's 11 major production and research reactors.
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    1986

    Secretary Herrington leads U.S. delegation to Special Session of the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna, Austria, to discuss measures to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear safety and radiological protection in the aftermath of Chernobyl.
  • 1987

    Secretary Herrington announces President Reagan's approval of construction of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), the world's largest and most advanced particle accelerator.
  • 1987

    The DOE report, "America's Clean Coal Commitment," catalogs t37 projects underway or planned for clean coal demonstration facilities.
  • 1987

    President Reagan's Energy Security Report outlines the nation's increasing dependence on foreign oil.
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    1987

    President Reagan announces an 11-point super-conductivity initiative at Federal Conference on Commercial Applications of Superconductivity, sponsored jointly by DOE and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
  • 1987

    Congress approves amendment designating Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the only site to be considered for the high-level nuclear waste repository.
  • 1988

    Secretary Herrington designates Texas as the site for the Superconducting Super Collider.
  • 1989

    White House releases "2010 Report," projecting requirements for maintaining and modernizing the nuclear weapon production complex through the year 2010.
  • 1989

    George Bush is inaugurated President.
  • 1989

    James D. Watkins is sworn in as sixth Secretary of Energy
  • 1989

    The Justice Department announces an investigation into possible violations of federal environmental laws at Rocky Flats.
  • 1989

    Watkins announces the Ten-Point Plan to strengthen environmental protection and waste management activities at the Department's production, research, and testing facilities in response to mounting environmental and safety concerns within the weapons production complex.
  • 1989

    President Bush directs DOE to develop a comprehensive national energy policy plan.
  • 1989

    Watkins establishes the Modernization Review Committee to review the assumptions and recommendations of the 2010 Report.
  • 1989

    DOE establishes the Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management within DOE. The office consolidates activities that had been spread throughout DOE.
  • 1990

    Iraq invades and seizes Kuwait, creating a major international crisis. DOE announces plans to increase oil production and decrease consumption to counter Iraqi-Kuwaiti oil losses.
  • 1990

    Secretary Watkins announces plans to increase oil production and decrease consumption to counter Iraqi-Kuwaiti oil losses.
  • 1990

    President Bush declares the end of the Cold War as the Soviet Union collapses.
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    1991

    United Nations coalition forces launch Operation Desert Storm when Saddam Hussein refuses to withdraw from Kuwait.
  • 1991

    The Complex Reconfiguration Committee, formerly the Modernization Review Board, releases its recommendations for a reconfigured weapon complex, Complex-21.
  • 1991

    President George Bush presents the Department's National Energy Strategy to Congress and the American people.
  • 1991

    Secretary Watkins transmits the administration's energy bill to the House and Senate.
  • 1991

    President Bush signs the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will reduce nuclear weapon stockpiles to 6,000 "accountable" warheads.
  • 1991

    President Bush announces additional unilateral cuts in the nuclear weapon arsenal.
  • 1992

    Secretary Watkins testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that for the first time since 1945 the United States is not building any nuclear weapons.
  • 1992

    Representatives from many nations attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
  • 1992

    The United States conducts its last underground nuclear weapons test. Congress imposes a temporary moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.
  • 1992

    President Bush signs the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which assists the implementation of the National Energy Strategy.
  • 1992

    Bill Clinton is elected president.
  • 1993

    Hazel R. O'Leary is sworn in as seventh Secretary of Energy.
  • 1993

    President Clinton announces that the United States will stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000.
  • 1993

    President Clinton extends the nuclear weapons testing moratorium for at least fifteen months.
  • 1993

    Congress votes to terminate the Superconducting Super Collider.
  • 1993

    President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore unveil the Climate Change Action Plan, emphasizing voluntary measures to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 1993

    Secretary O’Leary announces an "openness" initiative to lift the veil of secrecy from past nuclear activities, revealing that one-fifth of the nation’s nuclear weapons tests had been kept secret, identifying locations and quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, providing information about fusion energy, and documenting the large quantities of mercury used in weapons production.
  • 1994

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces the completion of a highly classified interagency operation to transfer weapons-grade highly enriched uranium out of Kazakhstan to DOE's Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
  • 1995

    Physicists at DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announce the discovery of the subatomic particle called the top quark, the last undiscovered quark of the six predicted to exist by current scientific theory.
  • 1996

    Vitrification in glass canisters of highly radioactive liquid wastes begins at the West Valley Demonstration Project in upstate New York.
  • 1996

    DOE unveils a dual-track strategy to dispose of the nation's surplus plutonium.
  • 1996

    Secretary O'Leary signs Record of Decision for stockpile stewardship, finalizing plans for a smaller, more efficient weapons complex.
  • 1997

    Federico F. Pena is sworn in as eighth Secretary of Energy.
  • 1997

    The Clinton administration releases the Building Public Trust: Actions to Respond to the Report of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.
  • 1997

    Workers complete drilling of the five-mile-long, horseshoe-shaped exploratory tunnel through Yucca Mountain at the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
  • 1997

    Secretary Pena participates in the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Ignition Facility, a centerpiece of the stockpile stewardship program, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • 1997

    The Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility (PUREX), the largest of the Nation's Cold War plutonium processing plants, is deactivated a year ahead of schedule.
  • 1997

    The first "subcritical" physics experiment at the Nevada Test Site, code-name "Rebound," provides scientific data on the behavior of plutonium without underground nuclear-weapons testing.
  • 1997

    Secretary Pena signs an agreement that will lead to U. S. participation in the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator under construction at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), near Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 1997

    Secretary Pena announces further actions to ensure the DOE openness initiative becomes business-as-usual.
  • 1998

    DOE announces that it will dispose of defense-generated transuranic waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico.
  • 1998

    President Clinton visits Los Alamos National Laboratory to speak about the importance of the Department's stockpile stewardship program to the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
  • 1998

    DOE and Occidental Petroleum Corporation sign final papers for the sale of the United States interest in the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve. This transfer concludes the largest divestiture of federal property in the history of the U. S. government.
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    1998

    India explodes several nuclear devices
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    1998

    Pakistan explodes several nuclear devices.
  • 1998

    The Senate unanimously confirms the nomination of Bill Richardson as Secretary of Energy.
  • 1998

    DOE completes the sale of the Alaska Power Administration with the transfer of the Snettisham hydroelectric project to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. The Eklutna hydroelectric project was sold to three local utility users in 1997.
  • 1998

    Bill Richardson is sworn in as ninth Secretary of Energy. He makes history while briefly serving in two cabinet posts at once — both as Secretary of Energy and U. S. ambassador for the United Nations — for several weeks.
  • 1998

    DOE's Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project comes to a successful end with the remediation of the 22nd and final site at Maybell, Colorado.
  • 1998

    Secretary Richardson, addressing the 42nd session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, lists six legacies from the first half century of the nuclear age and the steps the U. S. is taking to resolve them.
  • 1998

    Secretary Richardson and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov sign two agreements, one designed to facilitate the development of commercial enterprises for Russia's 10 nuclear cities and the other concerning Russian conversion of highly-enriched uranium from nuclear weapons into low-enriched uranium for use as fuel in commercial reactors in the U. S.
  • 1998

    Secretary Richardson in Vienna signs an agreement with Russia, the European Union, and Japan that will end U. S. participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project by July 1999.
  • 1998

    DOE announces the award of a contract that will result in the world's first high-temperature superconductor (HTS) power cable to deliver electricity in a utility network owned by Detroit Edison.
  • 1998

    The Clinton administration unveils IBM's Pacific Blue computer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Pacific Blue is a key component of the Department's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, which simulates nuclear weapons behavior without testing.
  • 1998

    As part of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program, DOE opens a long-term climate research station on Nauru in the central Pacific on the eastern edge of the ocean's "warm pool," an area that consistently produces the warmest sea surface temperatures in the world.
  • 1998

    DOE announces the Workforce for the 21st Century Initiative (Workforce 21) designed to recruit technical and management staff with skills to match changing mission requirements.
  • 1998

    DOE submits the viability assessment of the Yucca Mountain site to President Clinton and Congress. DOE reports that 15 years of research reveals no "show stoppers" to disqualify the site but notes that certain critical issues should continue to be studied.
  • 1998

    DOE certifies to the President that the nation's nuclear stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable.
  • 1998

    Secretary Richardson selects the Tennessee Valley Authority Watts Bar and Sequoyah reactors as the preferred facilities for producing a future supply of tritium for nuclear weapons.
  • 1998

    DOE announces that Savannah River will be the site of a plant that will disassemble pits from nuclear weapons and convert the recovered metal to an oxide, beginning a process of destroying rather than creating weapons-grade plutonium.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson commits to a revision of DOE's 1992 American Indian policy, which was the first between DOE and the tribes. The new approach is aimed at improving communications, improving Native American quality of life, and strengthening tribal governments.
  • 1999

    Experimental operations begin on the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) at DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson directs DOE's laboratories to pool their expertise in nuclear-related design, production, and technology in a joint effort to develop new tools and methods in the study of nuclear proliferation, including biological and chemical threats.
  • 1999

    DOE reaches an agreement with Ministry of Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov and activates a contract between MinAtom and a consortium of private companies to advance the Highly-Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement.
  • 1999

    DOE receives recommendations of the Chiles Commission report dealing with retaining and attracting talent to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • 1999

    President Clinton, in response to allegations of the theft of nuclear secrets at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, requests the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to investigate and issue a report on the security threat at DOE's nuclear weapons laboratories. Secretary Richardson opens the Consumer Information Office, designed to improve the delivery of DOE products and services to a wider audience and to include consumer viewpoints in DOE policy decisions.
  • 1999

    After more than two decades of political, legal, and bureaucratic delays, the first truckload of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory arrives at the DOE Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles east of Carlsbad.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson announces DOE's Africa Initiative, designed to promote African economic development and private investment in Africa's energy sector.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson orders a stand-down of most classified computers at Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories for security upgrades and worker training.
  • 1999

    DOE and the U.S. Department of Interior launch the Green Energy Parks Program, designed to increase the use of sustainable energy technology in the nation's parks.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson announces a zero-tolerance security policy and establishes the Office of Security and Emergency Operations, which will consolidate all safeguards and security policy, computer protection, and emergency operations throughout DOE.
  • 1999

    Deputy Secretary T. J. Glauthier leads an official delegation to Ukraine. The trip includes a dedication and demonstration of the Pioneer robot designed to collect data inside Chernobyl Unit 4 in areas too contaminated for safe human access.
  • 1999

    President Clinton issues Executive Order 13123 setting new goals for federal energy management, with DOE's Federal Energy Management Program designated as the federal government's program coordinator.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson dedicates the National Ignition Facility target chamber at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • 1999

    The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board issues its report, Science at Its Best, Security at Its Worst, commonly referred to as the Rudman report. Advocating for the creation of a semi-autonomous security agency within the Department, the report specifically rejects the idea that DOE's weapons laboratories be transferred to the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • 1999

    Retired Air Force General Eugene E. Habiger, previously head of the Strategic Air Command, is named Director of the Office of Security and Emergency Operations. Secretary Richardson designates him DOE's "security czar".
  • 1999

    DOE announces the Wind Powering America initiative, designed to significantly increase the use of wind power in the United States over the next ten years.
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    1999

    DOE conducts two-day security immersion programs at Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories.
  • 1999

    Save America's Treasures, a national public-private effort between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation awards DOE $1.02 million to help preserve historically significant structures at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson issues revised procedures for unclassified visits and assignments by foreign nationals to the Department of Energy's national laboratories and other facilities.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson announces an administration proposal to help current and former DOE contract workers who developed medical problems resulting from exposure to beryllium while working at DOE nuclear facilities.
  • 1999

    At Secretary Richardson's direction, all DOE facilities participate in compulsory security stand-down to convene a day-long program of security training and education focusing on counterintelligence, security, and cyber-security measures.
  • 1999

    The Washington Post reports that workers at DOE's Paducah, Kentucky, gaseous diffusion plant were unknowingly exposed to plutonium that was contained in uranium sent from Hanford and Savannah River for recycling between 1952 and 1976.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson reports that the National Ignition Facility is over budget and behind schedule and announces project management changes.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson orders a one-day safety stand-down at DOE's Paducah site to strengthen and enhance safety programs at the site.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson signs agreements with the governors of Tennessee, Colorado, South Carolina, and Washington to improve intergovernmental cooperation and to recommit DOE to seeking "predictable and adequate" funding to meet its cleanup responsibilities.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson proposes legislation to compensate current and former contract employees at uranium enrichment facilities for cancers resulting from exposure to radioactive contaminants. Sites included are Paducah, Kentucky; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and the Portsmouth plant in Piketon, Ohio.
  • 1999

    The world's largest wind power facility, utilizing turbines developed and tested jointly by DOE and Enron Wind Corporation, is dedicated in Storm Lake, Iowa, as part of the Department's Wind Powering America Initiative.
  • 1999

    DOE-funded researchers win 43 of the R&D 100 Awards for the top technological achievements of the year. The awards are presented annually by R&D Magazine to recognize the year's most outstanding technological developments with commercial potential. This year's awards bring DOE's cumulative total to 529, the most, by far, of any single organization and twice as many as all other government agencies combined.
  • 1999

    The Open Computing Center in Sarov (formerly Arzamas-16, the birthplace of the Soviet atomic bomb) opens as a Nuclear Cities Initiative, capable initially of employing approximately 100 former weapons specialists.
  • 1999

    President Clinton signs the FY-2000 Defense Authorization Act establishing the Nation Nuclear Security Administration within the Department. A new Under Secretary for Nuclear Security will be responsible for managing the DOE defense complex.
  • 1999

    The Senate votes 48-51 to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
  • 1999

    Secretary Richardson announces that the High Flux Beam Reactor at the Brookhaven National Laboratory will be closed permanently.
  • 1999

    The Department designates the Federal Energy Technology Center as DOE's newest national laboratory, to be known as the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Located 65 miles apart but commonly managed in Morgantown, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the laboratory is the nation's largest fossil energy research organization.
  • 1999

    The groundbreaking ceremony is held at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the $1.36 billion Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) project for neutron scattering and related research in the physical, chemical, materials, biological, and medical sciences. The SNS is a partnership of five DOE laboratories — Oak Ridge, Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos.
  • 1999

    DOE staff and U. S. industry experts work around the clock during the transition to the year 2000 monitoring the U. S. electrical, oil, and gas industries.
  • 2000

    Secretary Richardson announces the return of 90,000 acres of oil-rich lands to the Northern Ute Tribe, one of the largest voluntary returns of Indian lands ever. The agreement also covers cleanup and removal of 10.5 million tons of radioactive uranium mill tailings.
  • 2000

    DOE and the American Institute of Architects announce a national design competition for the largest solar energy system on a U. S. federal government building and one of the largest such systems in the world. The "Sun Wall" at the Department's Forrestal building spans nearly two-thirds of an acre and is currently blank.
  • 2000

    President Clinton nominates General John A. Gordon to serve as DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Director of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
  • 2000

    DOE holds a diversity stand down to emphasize the importance of racial sensitivity and diversity in the workforce. The stand-down results from a recommendation by the task force on racial profiling.
  • 2000

    DOE participates in Earth Day 2000, the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. The global theme is Clean Energy Now. Power for the event, which draws 300,000 to the mall, is provided entirely by renewable energy sources. The Department issues a statement in conjunction with Earth Day reporting that energy use in federal buildings decreased by 20% since 1985.
  • 2000

    Secretary Richardson holds meetings in numerous oil-producing countries trying to convince them to increase production and halt rising prices in the oil market. Following an OPEC decision to increase production, the Energy Information Administration projects lower gasoline prices for summer.
  • 2000

    A prescribed burn to clear brush at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico quickly burns out of control and becomes the largest-ever fire in the state. The fire enters Los Alamos Canyon on May 10, leading to evacuations and the closing of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Air monitoring by LANL indicates no releases of radiation as the fire sweeps through 9,000 acres of LANL property.
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    2000

    The Energy Information Administration revises estimates of oil and other energy prices upward following a short-lived downturn resulting from increased OPEC production in April.
  • 2000

    A traffic accident near the west gate of the Hanford Site produces a fire that burns 192,000 acres of desert vegetation, destroys homes and other buildings in Benton City and West Richland, and comes within a half-mile of high-level radioactive waste buried at the site.
  • 2000

    Following his June 14 confirmation, General John A. Gordon is sworn in as the Department's first Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
  • 2000

    Congressional scrutiny of DOE security intensifies when computer disk drives containing classified information disappear at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • 2000

    Secretary Richardson extends workplace diversity efforts by announcing initiatives aimed at increasing recruitment and retention of women, who currently make up 15 percent of DOE's federal workforce.
  • 2000

    Citing low inventories resulting from the high price of crude oil, President Clinton directs DOE to exchange 30 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bolster supplies of home heating oil, particularly on the East Coast and in New England. This is the first large-scale use of the SPR to avoid a possible supply shortage since President Bush mobilized the SPR during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
  • 2000

    DOE releases its Strategic Plan, "Strength Through Science, Powering the 21st Century." The Plan defines the missions, objectives, and long-term performance goals of the agency and outlines how the Department will increase productivity and accountability.
  • 2000

    The presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush of Texas is one of the closest in American history. Neither candidate is able to win the 270 electoral votes required for victory as the exceedingly close popular vote in Florida temporarily prevents the state's electoral votes from being awarded. Not until December 13 does Vice President Gore concede the election to Governor Bush.
  • 2000

    Secretary Richardson, issues an order, pursuant to Section 202 (c) of the Federal Power Act, to require electricity generators and marketers to make power available in power-strapped California.