This is the final installment of a series about growth in the economy coming to Scioto County. The centerpiece of this area’s employment scene remains at the Department of Energy’s Piketon site. So what is the future for the workers there?
When the United States government began to dismantle the uranium enrichment process at Piketon, the country no longer was processing enriched uranium. That action led to what is now the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) project. When the decision was made to shut down the American Centrifuge Project, many people and families in the area were impacted.
“I thought I’d be there until retirement,” local resident, Angie Duduit said. “I had just celebrated my 25th anniversary in July. I had been there since I was 25, so I thought that was going to be my lifetime career and I was laid off in April of 2016. Here I was, in my early 50s and I had to go job hunting.”
Duduit said she was one of the fortunate ones who left the plant on a Friday and started a new job at Shawnee State University on the following Monday. She says she does not know how many people had the same fortune as she did, but she says the project had been shut down once before and restarted, but the closing of the project caused a brain-drain.
“A lot of the brain power that we had is gone now,” Duduit said. “I don’t know what the chances would be for those people to reassemble. A lot of them were at retirement age and came back to give it a second shot. It’s debatable if they would come back a third time after being dumped twice.”
The man slated to take over the Department of Energy is Rick Perry, and while he faces an uphill battle for confirmation, U.S. Senator Rob Portman has already gotten his ear and has a commitment from Perry to at least come to Piketon and get the full story.
“I was pleased to secure a commitment from Secretary of Energy nominee Governor Rick Perry to visit the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon to get a firsthand look at the plant’s importance to the community and its local economy. While the timing of a visit is uncertain, it will be a priority for me when he is confirmed and I will push to make it happen as quickly as possible,” Portman told the Daily Times.
Perry agreed with Portman that having a domestic capability to enriched uranium is a national security issue and one that he takes seriously. Perry indicated that he is willing to re-evaluate the Obama Administration’s decision to end the domestic uranium enrichment demonstration program, and potentially reverse that decision after the new administration reviews the issue.
“Senator, I will commit to you that I will become as educated on this issue as I can and in the most expeditious way that I can manage it and employ management skills and capabilities,” Perry said. “Without knowing the deep details of this, my instinct tells me that this is an issue of execution, of good management.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.