Executives from Duke Energy, France-based AREVA, UniStar Nuclear Energy, USEC Inc. and the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative were joined by Governor Ted Strickland, Senator George V. Voinovich and Congresswoman Jean Schmidt. Collectively, before an assembly of several hundred employees working at the Piketon site, this group of government and business leaders described their alliance to develop the first “clean energy” park project in the country.
It is not a done deal. Before the first shovel of dirt can be turned, many hurdles must be crossed. Licensing, impact review, public feedback, and specific site selection within the 3,700-acre Department of Energy reservation are just a few.
However, the first bold, initial steps of cooperation have been taken. International and national companies have joined together to make a multi-billion dollar project a possibility for southern Ohio. These industry titans met with our government officials, discussing options, seeing what could be done, saw the potential here and are willing to explore it cooperatively.
Our elected officials spoke frankly and boldly from the podium Thursday about the need to address carbon emission reduction and the validity of nuclear power as part of an overall solution to reducing the environmental impact of electricity generation. But most importantly, they all looked in the audience, made reference to people they knew or had grown to know through their work, and the familiarity and support was evident.
The cooperation and effort by these leaders to, as Voinovich said Thursday, “make a difference,” may be the start of the biggest advancement in our area since the first facilities were developed a half a century ago.
Now, as work proceeds with the clean energy park project, we need to remember another important project that needs cooperation. The American Centrifuge plan in Piketon is still in need of a loan guarantee through the Department of Energy as part of that important project’s deployment, in which advanced technology can now be efficiently used to enrich material to create nuclear fuel (which hopefully could be used for a nearby power plant as well as other clients around the globe).
As noted by Lisa Carver of the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, a loan guarantee was one of President Obama’s campaign promises. He wrote a letter to Governor Strickland stating “Under my administration, energy programs that promote safe and environmentally-sound technologies and are domestically produced, such as the enrichment facility in Ohio, will have my full support. I will work with the Department of Energy to help make loan guarantees available for this and other advanced energy programs that reduce carbon emissions and break the tie to high cost, foreign energy sources.”
The Chamber is asking its members to consider writing a letter to President Obama encouraging him to help with the loan guarantee. Part of its sample letter states “USEC has indicated that if DOE does not act soon, they will probably start laying off employees, and if the delay continues, the project is in jeopardy and thus thousands of American people could lose their jobs.”
The potential for the American Centrifuge project can not be ignored. We support the application of this improved enrichment process and its potential impact on our area, and hope President Obama keeps his pledge to support this loan guarantee so the project can move forward.
For more information about the local letter writing campaign, contact the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce at 740-353-7647.