By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has voiced his concerns for workforce pay issues and security at the Department of Energy’s Piketon reservation site, in a letter to Tom D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
In the letter Brown thanks the DOE and the NNSA for their efforts on behalf of the American Centrifuge Project and for their continued diligence in working to make the project a reality.
“As you know the ACP is just one part of the Department’s efforts to rebuild the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PORTS). I have a number of concerns regarding PORTS and the budget proposal submitted to Congress in regards to the cleanup,” Brown said. “I have been reassured by the Department that the $206 million submitted to Congress for PORTS for FY (Fiscal Year) 2013 will be made up with carryover funding from FY 2012 and alternative funding sources. I have advocated and continue to support the Department’s alternative funding options from uranium barter to recycling possibilities. On those efforts, you have my full support.”
Brown says his main concern is with the carryover funds and the Department’s compliance with Section 663 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
Section 663 requires the Department, under the USEC Privatization Act, to ensure that workers have continuity of benefits when switching contractors.
“Workers engaged in cleanup activities were specifically included,” Brown wrote. “The definition of cleanup does not change because the Department switches contractors. The Department has had ample time to work with the local workforce on this issue. It is clear from your budget proposal and the more than $25 million in carryover funds that are available this year that the Department has the ability to fully fund workers’ benefits as mandated under Section 663. I ask that you work with the local workforce to correct this problem.”
Brown tells D’Agostino he is also concerned with the general welfare of the workers at PORTS in light of recent decisions there.
“I understand the DOE and its contractors are closing the cafeteria onsite and replacing the facility with vending machines,” Brown wrote. “The site has more than 2,300 workers. Cleanup will take at least a decade. There are more than 300 buildings onsite. Yet, DOE has chosen the cafeteria to be one of the first buildings closed. I ask that you revisit this decision and work with the workforce to provide access to safe and healthy food and facilities.”
Brown said the Department’s request for the Safeguards and Security account at PORTS is almost half the request of the current appropriations.
“The threat of terrorist activity involving our nation’s nuclear sites is real, and we must take every precaution to prevent such activity,” Brown said. “Robust security around nuclear sites is not just a line item on an expense sheet, it is a national imperative. At the Portsmouth site, nuclear materials sit within a few yards of existing fence line and access roads, heightening the need for a professional and well trained security presence. As the cleanup ramps up and the site experiences a dramatic increase in activity, I question the Department’s request that would cut the security at the site so dramatically.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.