An expiring contract to turn Russian nuclear warhead uranium to power plant fuel is prompting Paducah’s steelworkers union to file for a federal assistance program.
If granted, it would help the thousands of United States Enrichment Corporation workers facing unemployment in the coming months.
The Megatons to Megawatts program produced low-grade uranium from Russian warheads and required domestic production at plants like the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion facility.
Keeping nuclear materials local ensured workers under the joint Russian-U-S program could keep their jobs.
But Megatons to Megawatts ends this October, and a new contract with Russian enrichment agency TENEX allows uranium product to flood the international market, failing to protect Paducah workers.
Local Steelworkers Vice President Jim Key says that should grant employees laid off at the PGDP federal benefits.
"This is why the Trade Adjustment Act petition was filed – because our domestic production is being impacted with this second uranium broker agreement with TENEX Russian entity," he said.
USEC has not responded to the allegations so far. Key says investigators from the Department of Labor will determine if workers’ jobs were lost because of international trade circumstances.
If so, workers could be reimbursed for relocation costs or training programs. Key says he hopes to hear back within 60 days.
He says benefits would help specialized nuclear-specific employees who may find jobs difficult to find in the region.
"There are not a lot of high skilled employment opportunities within our region," he said, "and this would allow a younger worker who may decide to pursue a different career path to receive the training and education they need in that pursuit."