During his 2008 presidential campaign through Ohio, then-Sen. Barack Obama, wrote a letter to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland pledging his support for the centrifuge project in Piketon. Despite his pledge, the loan guarantee was denied on July 20. A spokesperson from the Obama White House told the Portsmouth Daily Times in July that the project did not appear ready for commercialization. Several weeks later, the DOE agreed to reconsider USEC’s application in six months and offered $45 million to help bring it up to DOE standards.
Thursday, Schmidt said the DOE was no longer committed to making those funds available to USEC.
“First, they went back on their word about the loan guarantee and instead promised $45 million for the continued research and development. Now they have told me that they will not be giving the promised $45 million. There is a word for people who continually promise but refuse to deliver,” Schmidt said.
Elizabeth Stuckle, director of corporate communications for USEC, said members of congress were briefed Friday (Oct. 9) about the DOE’s funding intentions. She said the DOE has only exhausted one possible funding source while other options still remain open, and USEC will continue working with DOE to find a path forward.
“The 2010 Energy and Water Conference report did not include the funding. DOE retains their authority to meet their commitment through the reprogramming of funds and the other mechanisms,” Stuckle explained.
Despite Stuckle’s optimism that USEC and the DOE may still reach an agreement, Schmidt’s Chief of Staff Barry Bennett insists the agency has told them there will be no funding at all.
“They (the DOE) have the ability to do it. They just tell us they’re not going to,” Bennett said. “In fact, they haven’t even given us the list of milestones they want them (USEC) to meet in six months.”
He said this will likely bring more layoffs and delays to the centrifuge project, and higher costs once it does move forward.
“I don’t know why DOE is being so obstinate. They shouldn’t have promised something two months ago, to tell us they’re not going to do it today. It’s been incredibly frustrating working with them,” Bennett said.
He said DOE is still expected to consider USEC’s loan guarantee agreement once the initial six month extension expires in February; but without a list of the milestones the DOE is expecting, or the funding to do them, there is little chance of USEC meeting those goals.
“We’re desperately seeking options — outside investors and that kind of thing — and we’re trying to put as much pressure on DOE as we can to make them keep their word,” Bennett said. “We’re not going to stop. Until USEC tells us it’s too late, we’re going to continue to work on this.”
Stuckle said USEC will continue to work with DOE to try to find a path forward on this project.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or e-mail email@example.com.