The US Department of Energy has resumed possession of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant from the former United States Enrichment Corporation following a ceremony this morning.
This marks the end of the year-long process after USEC announced it would no longer enrich uranium in May of 2013.
“Today is a big day for all of those involved in this transition and a significant step forward in the Department’s cleanup mission.” said DOE site leader Jennifer Woodard. “For over 60 years this plant has served its purpose of enriching uranium for nuclear defense and energy. Now it is time to begin the process for deactivating the plant and preparing for decontamination and decommissioning.”
Yesterday, USEC laid off the remaining 300 of the plant’s original 1,100 workers. However, up to 400 workers may be re-hired by Fluor Federal Services for their $420 million contract for deactivation and decommissioning over the next three years.
But Paducah Economic Development Vice President Charlie Martin says that number does not include workforce for clean-up phases.
“That will mainly only accomplish deactivation at the site," said Martin. "We worked really hard as a community to get appropriated dollars to commence some D&D at the site. They might get work for deactivation, but deactivation is not clean-up, it's putting things in a stable state that are problems. It doesn’t do anything about tearing buildings down, remedying groundwater, remedying pollutant contaminates like PCB, Tech-99 or TCE. Those are all D&D projects that require expenditures of lots of money to accomplish.”
Martin says PED continue advocating the DOE at the state and national levels to clarify local workers’ role in the decommission process.
“We were appropriated $325 million for Paducah in 2014, that’s the level that we want the government, at least that level, to continue appropriating and expending at Paducah going forward," said Martin. And if they do that, they will create well over a 1,000 jobs each and every year here at Paducah.”
FFS expects to increase employment from 400 to 500 employees over the next year. The number does not include subcontractors who will also be hired during the project.
LATA Environmental Services of Kentucky's DOE contract at the site continues until July 2015. After July 2015, the remaining environmental cleanup scope will be performed by FFS.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is a 3,556-acre federal reservation that was built as part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex, and enriched uranium beginning in 1952. DOE’s site missions include deactivation and stabilization, environmental cleanup, waste disposition, depleted uranium conversion, and eventual decontamination and demolition of the plant.
The Department of Energy is responsible for cleaning up the nation’s gaseous diffusion buildings in accordance with the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992. Besides the decontamination of soil and groundwater at these sites, thousands of buildings and structures must be decontaminated and demolished.