By Frank Lewis and Wayne Allen
In his Fiscal Year 2015 budget request, President Barack Obama has included $221.8 million for the continued cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) at Piketon. That request includes an increase of over $22 million from FY 2014, enacted to offset reduced revenues reflecting current uranium price and the expected quantities of uranium anticipated to be transferred in FY 2015 to the Department of Energy prime contractor.
A memo from Candice Trummell, Chief of Staff and Acting Director of External Affairs in the Office of Environmental Management (EM) for the DOE, in making known the president’s request, said the funding level provides the resources needed to continue important decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) activities and to continue operation of the depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) plant that is converting DUF6 to more stable and beneficial forms.
Decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) of several Cold War uranium enrichment facilities capped a busy year for the EM program at the Portsmouth site in 2013. The 3,700-acre reservation includes more than 400 buildings and systems that will be part of cleanup operations to ensure the site is ready for future use.
“The President’s budget is a step in the right direction,” U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said. “While we’ve successfully ensured funding that supports 2,200 jobs while cleaning up and redeveloping the Piketon site, more must be done to establish clear, long-term funding. I will continue to advocate to both the Administration and DOE for support. These added resources, in addition to the more than $400 million we have successfully secured this year, will aid in the redevelop of the plant for future economic growth in southern Ohio.”
Trummell said the budget request, if approved, should be enough to continue the ongoing D&D work in Piketon.
“The Department (of Energy) views the ongoing cleanup as a good investment at an important time in the site’s D&D schedule. The FY 2015 budget request allows the D&D project to move forward while re-aligning site resources to reflect the evolving work scope,” Trummell stated.
In 2013, EM and its D&D contractor, Fluor-B&W Portsmouth, safely advanced the project with the removal of more than 25 percent of the process gas equipment from one of three half-mile-long process buildings. Sampling analysis and removal of process gas components have been under way for more than a year in the X-326 high-assay process building. This structure is one of three that house the uranium enrichment cascade, a complex network of pipes, motors, compressors, converters and other equipment used to provide enriched uranium, originally for the Department of Defense and later for the nuclear fuel industry.
Dennis Carr, Fluor-B&W site project director, said in 2013 Fluor-B&W Portsmouth was the largest shipper of materials from the Department of Energy to the Nevada Nuclear Security Site.
“This year (2014) we will double that. We will not only be the largest shipper, but we will be a shipper larger than the rest of the other (Department Of Energy) sites combined. We are a substantial shipper of waste,” Carr said.
He said there is an average between 15 and 20 shipments a week.
Surveillance and maintenance costs were reduced by $13.8 million, or 30 percent, to focus resources on critical D&D activities. In 2013, five former process support structures were removed, including a large coal-fired steam plant and a cafeteria in service nearly 60 years. In all, 100,000 square feet were safely removed with no first-aid or reported safety concerns. The site also recycled 285,000 pounds of metal and 1,000 tons of coal.
Carr said Fluor-B&W Portsmouth is working with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on records of decision regarding a cleanup path. He said he thinks the records of decision will be released from the EPA in August or September.
The D&D contract awarded to Fluor-B&W is a five-year $2.1 billion contract with a five-year option for continuation. DOE’s current plan, depending on federal funding, is to have the D&D project completed by 2024.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt. Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228.