The uranium enrichment plant in Pike County will begin laying off workers on Feb. 29 according to the company that operates the facility.
The American Centrifuge project, located near Piketon, has struggled against a lack of money, a lack of government support, and a worldwide lack of demand for enriched uranium following the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan.
The Department of Energy announced in Sept. 2015 that it would not continue to fund research at the plant – forcing Centrus, the company that owns the project, to issue layoff warnings to employees. In January, Congress passed an omnibus bill which would have provided funds for the plant.
However, the Department of Energy has decided to go against Congress and not spend the funds allocated for the program.
Congressman Brad Wenstrup, who represents the current site and workforce, called the move a long term national security concern.
“The Department of Energy is opting to abandon our nuclear capabilities with this decision to end the American Centrifuge Project,” Wenstrup said. “We cannot seriously sustain our nuclear capabilities without access to domestically owned enrichment capabilities. In the face of 21 st Century threats, our nuclear powered Navy demands we retain the ability to fully fuel operations.”
Wenstrup also highlighted the loss to the region of a highly skilled work force. “This move abandons critical human capital in Southern Ohio. We cannot just put these American workers into cold storage until we need them again – they will understandably look for other work, and their skills and capabilities critical to our enrichment program will be lost. I commend the men and women who have worked on the project to advance our nuclear capabilities, and we will continue to search for ways to keep this capability alive in Southern Ohio.”
Funding for uranium enrichment has been diverted to a facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which is also operated by Centrus Energy.
The company also announced that it will maintain its construction and operating license with the nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to preserve options for the future.
Centrus will demobilize the demonstration cascade and reduce its workforce at Piketon starting with the layoff of approximately 60 employees during the week of Feb. 29, while remaining employees begin the decontamination and decommissioning work.
“This is a painful day for our employees, families, friends and colleagues, but all should be proud of the great work of our Piketon team,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus president and chief executive officer. “They have met every milestone in this project, which they completed on time and under budget. We will do all that we can to facilitate their transition to new opportunities.”