U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) says the bipartisan agreement to fund the federal government through September provides sufficient funding to avoid disruption of the clean-up activities at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.
“Cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant is critical for jobs, economic development, and the future of southern Ohio. After months of discussions with the Department of Energy and the Senate Appropriations Committee, including a phone call with the Secretary of Energy on Friday, I’m pleased that this issue has been resolved in a way that will protect Piketon jobs and continue the cleanup work at Piketon for the remainder of this fiscal year,” Portman said. “The spending bill also provides for a $20 million increase for the construction of the on-site disposal cell that will mean more than 100 additional jobs at the site.”
The disposal cell has become a point of controversy in recent months with most people involved in the issue supporting what is being done at the site. However, Piketon Mayor Billy Spencer has been critical of the project. His concern is that the disposal cell will mean companies will not want to reindustrialize the facility because of possible contamination.
“I want to put the Department on notice, however, that I fully expect better cooperation with the Appropriations Committee and the Congress in the future,” Portman said. “It was unfortunate that the Department made a decision to lower the limit on how much uranium it can barter to help pay for cleanup of the Portsmouth site, releasing those details at 3 p.m. on Friday after negotiations on the spending bill had already finalized – jeopardizing our ability to protect the workforce at Portsmouth. I will continue to work with the Appropriations Committee and the Department of Energy to prevent layoffs in the future and I have urged Secretary Perry to request additional funds in his budget request for FY 2018 so that we prevent a similar situation from occurring.”
The Daily Times inquired of the contractor of the project, Fluor-BWXT, what the lower limit on uranium sales means to the company.
“The amount of uranium we have available to barter has now dropped from 1,600 metric tons uranium (MTU) per year down to 1,200 MTU per year,” Jeff Wagner of Fluor-BWXT said. “Barter accounts for about 30 percent of our annual budget with Congressional appropriations making up the balance. At the current spot market price, the 400 MTU represents approximately $24 million to our project and to the site. We are still awaiting a final budget for FY 17 but Dennis Carr (project manager) remains optimistic about the budget for the remainder of this fiscal year.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.