By Frank Lewis
Recently, USEC, Inc. sent out WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act letters to employees, giving them notice that if the April 15 deadline arrived and more funding had not been appropriated, possible layoffs and shutdowns could occur.
Now USEC Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have agreed to extend the research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program for the American Centrifuge uranium enrichment technology through April 30 at no additional cost to the U.S. government as discussions continue between USEC and the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the entity assigned by DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz to take over management of the project in Piketon.
Federal funding for the centrifuge RD&D program was scheduled to expire April 15 (Tuesday). USEC officials credit prudent management of existing program funds by USEC which will allow the program to continue through the end of April. The RD&D program achieved all of its technical milestones on time and within budget and, according to USEC officials, confirmed the American Centrifuge technology’s readiness for deployment and its capability to meet national security objectives.
The FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act passed by Congress and signed by the President in January 2014 provided funding to continue the domestic uranium enrichment RD&D program. Approximately $9.6 million of such FY 2014 appropriations remain available to fund continuation of RD&D activities beyond April 30. In addition, the FY 2014 Omnibus provided approximately $57 million in FY 2014 funding transfer authority that can be made available for further RD&D subject to submission by DOE of a cost-benefit analysis report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and approval of such funds transfer by those Committees.
USEC officials say they are continuing to hold constructive discussions with ORNL, which will manage the RD&D program going forward. Those discussions include the scope of the continued RD&D program to support national security requirements in light of budget constraints and the objectives articulated by Moniz in recent Congressional testimony, as well as discussions on USEC’s role as a contractor to ORNL in carrying out the program.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.