By Frank Lewis
On Friday afternoon Congressman Brad Wenstrup issued a statement regarding what he says is the Department of Energy’s announcement to end the American Centrifuge Test Demonstration and Operation (ACTDO) contract at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.
“This is beyond belief,” Wenstrup said. “While this Administration is greenlighting uranium enrichment in Iran and legitimizing 6,000 Iranian centrifuges, they’re shutting down domestic production here in America – a dangerous threat to our national security.
“Congress, the people’s elected representatives, responsibly and repeatedly prioritized the American Centrifuge Project with full funding. The project is a national security imperative to ensure we have a continued domestic supply of enriched uranium to support our nuclear weapons program and the Navy nuclear reactors program.”
An email from Jaime Shimek of the Department of Energy dated Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 said in part – “At the direction of Congress and the U.S. interagency, the Department has been evaluating the availability of existing enriched uranium supplies for tritium production, among other options, for meeting national security needs. DOE has concluded that sufficient supplies exist to extend the date by which additional enriched uranium would be needed for national security missions.
“As such, the Department will continue its efforts to preserve the option to deploy the AC100 centrifuge technology in the future, while using additional uranium from the inventory to provide schedule contingency for the eventual reestablishment of a domestic uranium enrichment capability.”
The correspondence continued – “Operations at the American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) in Piketon, Ohio with the 120 centrifuge cascade in FY 2014 and FY 2015 have successfully provided useful reliability and operational data, as well as enabled the identification and development of solutions to certain technical complications. We have concluded that continued support from the federal government for additional data from Piketon operations has limited remaining value. Ongoing activities at the K-1600 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, however, could provide additional value.”
Wenstrup continued his reaction to the announcement.
“This is a shameful and unilateral move by Department of Energy to walk away from a longstanding investment, and leaves the region and the nation blindsided with another broken promise,” Wenstrup said. “This administration has unnecessarily and inexplicably inflicted more pain and uncertainty on the hardworking people of Pike County and Southern Ohio. The Ohio delegation will continue working towards solutions to keep the region working on this important project.”
The email from Shimek contrinued – “Therefore, for FY 2016, DOE intends to inform UT-Battelle that the government’s interest is in preserving and advancing the AC100 technology for possible future deployment for a national security mission, and directing UT-Battelle to focus its efforts on activities at the K-1600 facility. We anticipate that UT-Battelle will initiate discussions with Centrus Energy Corporation to satisfy these interests.”
Shimek says Centrus would be free to continue its operations at Piketon for its own purposes.
“We will honor our obligations to ensure public safety is maintained and items of national security interest are properly protected,” Shimek said. “We will take appropriate steps to ensure our continued access to the intellectual property associated with the AC100 centrifuges as an option to meet our national security requirements.”
It was announced on Thursday some 235 WARN Act notices have been sent to all of the American Centrifuge staff at the Piketon site, according to sources at Centrus Energy, Inc.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.