Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Bryan Davis says having the new Secretary of Energy pay a visit to the Piketon project, it would go a long way toward evaluating the need for funding for the project.
In light of news that U.S. Congressman Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), who serves as a member of the Congressional Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, has led a bipartisan effort to get Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to fulfill his commitment to visit the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio, Davis told the Daily Times, having Perry visit would be a major accomplishment.
“Having the secretary on the ground to see the scope and size of the D&D project is key in his understanding of what is needed at the Piketon facility,” Davis said. “We have a lot of good qualified people working at the site. The work they do is technical, and very impressive.”
Wenstrup led in sending a bipartisan letter to Perry, supporting his commitment to visit the plant. The letter was also signed by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Congressman Steve Chabot (OH-01), Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13), Congressman Michael Turner (OH-03), Congressman Bill Johnson (OH-06), Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15), and Congressman David Joyce (OH-14).
During his Senate confirmation hearing in January, now Secretary Perry made a commitment to visit the Piketon plant. The letter acknowledges the scope and complexity of the decontamination and demobilization work at the plant, which employs nearly 2,000 skilled workers, who “labor ceaselessly through our highly uncertain fiscal environment.” Further, the letter notes that currently, “DOE is assessing options for developing a domestic uranium enrichment capability, including advanced centrifuge technology demonstrated at Piketon. A visit to Piketon would provide Secretary Perry with “crucial insight into these issues that will be very helpful as [he] faces tough decisions in the near future.”
Davis compared the current secretary of the DOE with the former.
“The former Secretary of Energy, Sec. (Ernest) Moniz, never bothered to visit the former gaseous diffusion facility nor ACP. He pulled the plug on ACP without even visiting the facility and speaking with those doing the work on the ground,” Davis said. “Secondly, the safety and environmental issues cannot truly be appreciated in technical terms unless one visits the site. The scale is truly remarkable. Thirdly, he would get a chance to talk with local economic development and government leaders looking to redevelop the site for industrial applications in the future.
Davis said he believes the face to face meetings would hopefully foster a spirit of cooperation in the future.
“Lastly, and perhaps as important as the D&D project in long term affects, in my estimation, a chance to discuss the full scale commercialization of uranium enrichment production in Piketon again,” Davis said. “In our visits with DOE. in DC in late 2015, we were told decisions needed to start being made about the location of the new full scale enrichment facility within the next 2-3 years. The clock is ticking. Our delegation was told then by D.O.E. personnel that it made technical and financial sense to locate the facility in Piketon. This issue needs brought to the front burner for discussions with the new Energy Secretary.”
Davis said there is a national component to the entire issue.
“The importance of having our own enrichment facility for uranium is more about national security then anything. One, if you go to war, a domestic supply is needed to assure a supply of highly enriched uranium for our nuclear triad deterrent which includes air, sea and land based nuclear missiles,” Davis said. “We can’t be farming out a key ingredient to nuclear weapons such as enriched uranium to foreign countries. Of course, you also need enriched uranium for our civilian nuclear power generation.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.