Adams County Commissioner Stephen Caraway joined a delegation from southern Ohio on a trip to Washington DC to lobby for financial support for the work being done at the centrifuge plant in Piketon and the Gaseous Diffusion plant in Portsmouth.
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced in September that it planned to pull the plug on the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon and drastically reduce funding to the gaseous diffusion plant clean up in Portsmouth. Both decisions would potentially result in the lay off of more than 700 workers at both facilities.
Local governments and businesses are concerned that they might not be able to redevelop what they think is prime-economic site and that a prolonged cleanup of the waste could pollute the surrounding land and water.
“People are getting fed up with things not getting done,” said Jeff Albrecht, a Scioto County businessman who traveled to Washington with the group of delegates.
“Many of our neighbors, friends, and families work at these plants,” said Caraway. “The government is basically saying thanks, but no thanks.”
The group met with officials from the DOE including: Jaime Shimek – Deputy Asst. Secretary Strategic Advice, Fransisco Carillo – Deputy Asst. Secretary for Intergovernmental & External Affairs, Kelly Cummins – Dep. Asst. Secretary, Dr. Parish Staples – Director Domestic Uranium Enrichment/National Nuclear Security Administration, Betsy Connell-Senior Advisor/Environmental Mgmt., Lorraine Heckenberg and Taunja Berguam – Committee on Appropriations Energy and Water.
In meetings with the DOE the delegates made two requests. First, that the government continue to pay for the cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and second, that the DOE reverse its decision to close down the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon.
The group met with Representatives Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), Bill Johnson (OH-6), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Dave Joyce (OH-14), and Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. They asked that the Ohio lawmakers continue to fight for the cleanup and the centrifuge project.
The group also asked the DOE to consider the release of approximately 100 acres at the Piketon site that has been deemed ready for development by the federal government.
“In our meetings with the department what we essentially found out is that the DOE is going to mothball the centrifuge project,” said Caraway.
“We disagree with them, we told them we disagree with them,” he added, “I don’t understand why the federal government is willing to spend $150 million to mothball a project and send the remaining funds to the Oak Ridge Tennessee plant. They keep saying they’re going to continue to do research in the labs in Oak Ridge. The problem is they can’t test what they’ve completed in the labs without the centrifuge. The DOE admits that they will have to fire up the Piketon facility again, so why shut it down?”
While the DOE continues to negotiate with Centrus regarding the future of the ACP program, questions remain about maintaining an adequate supply of domestically produced tritium and enriched uranium needed to power a nuclear navy.
The group also argued that the government is obligated to clean up the site where it enriched uranium from 1954 through 2001 so that the community will be able to use it.
The government has already spent billions on the clean up, but have moved up the target date for completion from 2024 to between 2044 and 2052.
“Enough is enough,” Caraway told them, “Just clean it up.”
The delegates were advised by DOE that the Secretary had instructed his staff to find ways to prevent lay-offs. Caraway said that later the same day they were told that the warn notices had been rescinded preventing the layoff of up to 500 people through Dec. 11.
Budget efforts are ongoing to find a more stable source of funding to stop the up and down nature of lay off notices and funding and project uncertainties.
Discussions were also held about the roll out of the AC-100 centrifuge technology in the future and the possibility of having it in Piketon. The delegates expressed concern about the loss of the skilled workforce. The NNSA agreed that the technology was there and that the cost analysis was positive, but said nothing could be guaranteed.