By Frank Lewis
Workers at the former Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon say they have been told Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices could be coming shortly.
On Friday, U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to provide answers regarding concern over funding for decommissioning and decontamination work at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon. The project currently employees 1,900 individuals.
“We recently received correspondence from workers at the site and local community leaders expressing concern with the funding situation for the project,” the senators wrote in a joint statement. “They indicated they have been told that WARN Act notices could shortly be issued to employees at the site due to a lack of funds. We find these rumors incredibly disturbing because Congress provided DOE the funds it requested for Fiscal Year 2014.”
Earlier this year, Portman and Brown requested an official meeting with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to discuss the long-term viability and ongoing progress at the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) in Piketon. The letter follows the successful passage of a bipartisan appropriation package in January of this year that devoted additional funding to continue research, development and deployment (RD&D) work being done at the site. The ACP Plant develops enriched uranium, a key component in the development of nuclear energy as well as our national security needs.
In accordance with the WARN Act, USEC, Inc. would send out a memorandum as their advance notice of a possible “mass layoff” or “plant closing” as defined under the WARN Act.
In their letter to Moniz, Portman and Brown said - “Since 2005, the Department of Energy’s Office (DOE) of Environmental Management has been overseeing cleanup of the former gaseous diffusion plant at the Department of Energy Portsmouth site in Piketon, Ohio. In 2009, DOE made a Secretarial commitment to the community to accelerate the cleanup in an effort to jumpstart the local economy and create jobs. The project currently employees 1,900 individuals and DOE has estimated that the cleanup will be completed in 2024. We recently received correspondence from workers at the site and local community leaders expressing concern with the funding situation for the project. They indicated they have been told that WARN Act notices could shortly be issued to employees at the site due to a lack of funds.”
In the letter, the senators said they find the rumors incredibly disturbing because Congress provided DOE the funds it requested for Fiscal Year 2014.
“Can you please provide our offices answers to the following questions regarding funding for the ongoing cleanup work at the former gaseous diffusion plant in Piketon, Ohio?” the correspondence reads.
Those questions are - “Does DOE have enough funding on-hand to continue the cleanup at the current employment levels for fiscal year 2014?” “The House fiscal year Energy and Water Appropriations bill includes $175 million for cleanup at the Piketon site, $37.3 million above fiscal year 2014 and $15 million above the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request. When combined with DOE’s anticipated uranium barter proceeds, is this enough funding to continue the cleanup at current employment leves and remain on schedule for a 2024 completion deadline?” “Does DOE still intend to barter 2400 MTU (Metric Tons of Uranium) for fiscal year 2015?” “What are the anticipated uranium barter proceeds for fiscal year 2015?” “A uranium processing company has filed a lawsuit claiming the barter program is having an adverse impact on the market and has requested that (the) barter program be placed on hold until the lawsuit can be considered in federal court. What contingency plans does DOE have in place should a hold be granted?”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.