By Frank Lewis
While workers at the American Centrifuge Project in Piketon hold their collective breaths awaiting the April 15 deadline for continued funding, Politico is reporting that Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is making a concerted effort to find the money needed to keep the project operating in a seamless manner.
With the deadline looming on the horizon Tuesday, DOE is reportedly attempting to figure out which of its other programs will get cut to come up with that money.
“We have $57 million of transfer authority,” Moniz told reporters after testifying before the Senate energy and water appropriations committee. “But that just means we have to take that out of some other program.”
Politico reports that discussions over which program to pull were still “very active” and that it is likely to come from another nuclear security account at DOE because the government is interested in the Piketon project as a source of tritium for military purposes.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used to enhance the explosive yield of every thermonuclear weapon.
Recently, USEC, Inc. sent out WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act letters to employees, giving them notice that if the April 15 deadline arrives and more funding has not been appropriated, possible layoffs and shutdowns could occur. Paul Jacobson, vice president of communications for USEC, Inc. acknowledged that the company is keeping a close eye on Tuesday.
“That is still out there,” Jacobson said. “We still don’t have any assurance yet on funding after April 15, though I would point to the secretary’s comments last week when he said it was very important to keep the machines spinning to keep the project going and that they were working diligently to obtain the funding to keep the program going.”
Moniz’s statement to reporters that he can transfer $57 million from other programs seems to support the effort USEC officials were counting on.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.