By WAYNE ALLEN
PDT Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said in a conference call with reporters Thursday he is working to find $150 million in funding for USEC. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking $300 million in Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) funding. DOE has stipulated the funding is dependent upon Congressional approval.
Portman said he is working with appropriators on the Energy and Water bill, which is on the floor of the Senate.
“That bill has not come up to the floor for a vote on an amendment. The chair and ranking member of that subcommittee have agreed to work with me, we have spent a lot of time together talking about this issue,” Portman said.
Portman said the Obama administration has made a mistake by not supporting USEC by now.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to move forward and that appropriations bill will have amendment that I can get 60 senators to support. Right now it’s uncertain, if the bill will go forward and if we can get that amendment in. I’m very concerned about the direction were headed. I think the administration made a mistake not to move forward with a conditional commitment,” Portman said.
Portman said the American Centrifuge Plant is in the best interest of the country’s energy and security interests.
The RD&D program would be a cost-sharing measure between the federal government and USEC. The government’s contribution would be $300 million.
Paul Jacobson, USEC spokesman, said the $300 million would be funded over two years at $150 million a year.
“The fact there is no funding yet available and without the funding at anytime we could further demobilize the project. As we’ve said before we can’t continue spending at this rate on our own. It’s encouraging to see the level of activity and support that we’re getting from the Ohio delegations. DOE has been up on Capitol Hill making its case for the $300 million. All of that is encouraging as to the level of activity but, the funding has still not been provided,” Jacobson said.
In September, USEC sent Warn notices to more than 400 of its employees. Jacobson said the company has decided to extend the notices until mid-January, “until we get some sense of what happens with congress and the funding.”
According to information released by USEC, “while no final decision on USEC’s loan guarantee application has been made at this time, USEC and DOE’s discussions are focused on this RD&D program to reduce technical and financial risks associated with the project. USEC’s loan guarantee application will remain pending during implementation of this agreement, however, there can be no assurances that these discussions will result in an agreement or funding for the American Centrifuge Project.”
“There are only so many trains leaving the station, in terms of legislative vehicles were one could put the funding in there. This is a period of significant activity and is a very critical period,” Jacobson said.
I’m committed in trying to find the funding, I will do everything in my power to do it. But, frankly it’s going to be very difficult,” Portman said.
WAYNE ALLEN can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 208, or email@example.com.