In a letter dated Sept. 2, 2008, then-candidate for president Barack Obama sent a letter to then-governor Ted Strickland in which he pledged his support for the Piketon operations, including the promise of a loan guarantee, which never came.
“Under my administration, energy programs that promote safe and environmentally-sound technologies and are domestically produced, such as the enrichment facility in Ohio, will have my full support. I will work with the Department of Energy to help make loan guarantees available for this and other advanced energy programs that reduce carbon emissions and break the tie to high cost, foreign energy sources.”
DOE announced in September 2015 that it would not fund additional demonstration at Piketon after Sept. 30, 2015, because the cascade had successfully delivered the necessary operational data.
Since that time, Centrus Energy Corp. says it has funded ongoing operations while exploring other potential uses for the facility and its unique workforce.
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.
Now, in light of an announcement that the Department of Energy has pulled the plug on the American Centrifuge Project at Piketon, reaction is coming from political leaders around the region and in Washington.
“We believe the government is good at breaking promises,” Scioto County Commission Chairman Mike Crabtree said. “It’s going to be devastating to some of the employees up there to lose their jobs. I don’t think it’s good for the country either because we’re going to be vulnerable to every other country, especially Iran if that’s going to have to be our source for uranium. You shut that plant down and they’re going to have a hard time to get people to open it back up on a moment’s notice.”
That was the feeling throughout the Scioto County Courthouse.
“I have talked to company officials as well as the technicians and they tell me the testing is not finished,” Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis told the Daily Times in an exclusive interview on Saturday. “The testing needs to be done on the cascade configuration. It cannot be done in a laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (ORNL). The waste of the taxpayers money; the loss of qualified people who are going to go on to other positions. It’s really a tragedy – the fact that we no longer have the potential or capability to produce a domestic enriched product – it just goes contrary to our national security.”
In Washington, both U.S. Senators reacted to the announcement.
“This is just wrong. Congress has provided adequate funding to avoid layoffs in Piketon and yet the Obama Administration refuses to use the money. This news is a major blow to ACP – the new enrichment technology at the Piketon plant – and yet another broken promise by this Administration,” U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said. “Families are once again being upended by the Administration’s failed promises to the community and its refusal to keep ACP going. Congress has consistently signaled support for ACP and the irreplaceable role it plays in our national security and economic security.”
“It’s unacceptable that leadership in Congress and the Department of Energy chose to turn their backs on these workers who have advanced our national security, and ignored our repeated calls to find a solution,” Brown said.“But I can promise these layoffs are not the end of this fight. The families in this community deserve a long-term solution that secures jobs in the area and supports southern Ohio’s economy and I’ll continue to work with the Piketon community to find a long-term solution worthy of these workers.”
Davis said the one thing residents of the area need to know is that elected officials on all levels worked to try to prevent the shut down.
“Hopefully, regrouping from this, we still have a shot at the commercial plant which is way down the road as far as the plans go,” Davis said. “Of course things change from administration to administration, but all I can say is that I hope that the next administration is more nuclear friendly and is more forward thinking and we stand ready to work with whoever it is to further this technology, which is the most advanced and most efficient enrichment technology in the world. And we want to work with them to make sure the full-scale plant is located in Piketon which makes technological and financial sense.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.