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In a letter sent to President Obama Thursday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the Administration to support the ongoing cleanup efforts at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.
“As you formulate your FY (Fiscal Year) 2015 budget, I ask that you continue your commitment to Environmental Management Programming for the Department of Energy’s former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant in Piketon, Ohio,” Brown’s letter reads. “I request that the Department (Department of Energy) seek $450 million to fully fund the ongoing cleanup and to match commitments made to the community.”
In the letter, Brown commended the Administration for past commitments that have maintained 2,500 Ohio jobs. He asks for further commitments due to plans to build an onsite disposal cell for construction debris. That cell is slated for construction next year.
Brown also voiced concerns over the sources of funding for the project’s future.
“I am concerned that despite this progress, the Department continues to rely on uranium disposition to fund some cleanup activities and lacks a clear plan for funding such sites once the uranium runs out or the market fails to support additional sales,” Brown said.
In May, USEC announced that it’s gaseous diffusion operations at the Paducah, Ky. location would begin the process of shutting down.
“While we have pursued possible opportunities for continuing enrichment, the DOE has concluded that there were not sufficient benefits to the taxpayers to extend enrichment. I am extremely disappointed to say we must now begin to take steps to cease enrichment,” Robert Van Namen, USEC senior vice president and chief operating officer said in a released statement.
Brown noted in his letter to the president that the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s shutdown will strain resources used to fund the cleanup operations in Piketon.
“This is particularly important now that the Portsmouth sister facility in Paducah, Ky. has come off line, further straining available resources. Having a clean path forward for funding for both Paducah and Portsmouth will enable both sites to meet their cleanup timelines,” Brown said.
Also in May, Brown met with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who at the time was a nominee for the position. During that meeting, Brown urged the DOE to support USEC’s American Centrifuge Project taking place at the Piketon site. By Brown’s estimation, the DOE’s support of the project would create 4,000 Ohio jobs.
In the letter, Brown notes the positives that will come from securing future funding for cleanup at the Piketon site.
“This necessary funding will help spur the economy of Southern Ohio, one of the worst hit regions of the current slow economy,” Brown said. “By accelerating cleanup, we are helping to put people back to work cleanup up the site, protecting the environment from a legacy of more than 50 years of uranium enrichment activities, and setting the stage for redevelopment and reuse.”
Brown closes his letter by asking the president to again support the re-authorization of the Decommissioning and Decontamination Fund.
Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 296, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Bob on Twitter @rjstrickleyjr.