By Wayne Allen
On Friday, Congressmen Bill Johnson and Brad Wenstrup visited communities surrounding the United States Department of Energy (DOE) reservation in Piketon, to talk about current funding issues. Wenstrup and Johnson visited Scioto County Friday afternoon to discuss the developing situation. T
he congressman visited the areas to talk about the funding issues facing Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) of the former gaseous diffusion plant.
DOE announced it will end the American Centrifuge Test Demonstration and Operation (ACTDO) activity at Piketon, potentially resulting in the layoffs of 200 Energy Corp. employees. With a reduction in funding by the federal government, Centrus Energy Corp. announced their new reduced contract with Oak Ridge National Laboratory will not include continued operations of America’s only operating cascade of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in Piketon.
Wenstrup and Johnson believe ACP is a matter of national security.
“It’s interesting that as Iran is going to increase their centrifuges, we’re shutting ours down. They (DOE) are basing it on the premise that we have stockpiles (of enriched uranium), so we’re OK,” Wenstrup said. “We think it’s a very dangerous thing for our country and a bad signal to send out to the world.”
Wenstrup said DOE based the decision to shut down the ACTDO based on reports that were due to congress in April, they have yet to see. .
Johnson and Wenstrup spoke of a meeting they had with DOE Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz last week.
“I told the secretary least week I am a farm boy and you don’t shoot the mule until you got another one, otherwise you’ll go hungry,” Johnson said. “You don’t shut off a critical part of your strategic nuclear deterrent, until you’ve got something to replace it with. Because ifs, ands or buts doesn’t cover that gap.”
Johnson and Wenstrup believe they have a case to keep ACTDO going and have gained a lot of support from other members of congress to keep the project going as a necessity to national security.
Johnson said Centrus and DOE are engaged in conversations about possible mitigation plans for ACTDO. Johnson said he and Wenstrup will be approaching the issue from a national security and readiness.
“Ready is supposed to be followed by an explanation point and not a question mark,” Wenstrup said.
Johnson said DOE has expressed interest in moving forward with a plan for D&D in Piketon, which would involve no layoffs.
“There’s a lot of effort going on both Centrus and the D&D cleanup. We are a long way from waving the white flag,” Johnson said.
Next week a delegation from southern Ohio will be traveling to Washington D.C. to talk to officials about the plant and the need to fund projects long term.
While in Washington, the delegation has planed meetings with Johnson and Wenstrup as well as Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown.
The delegation has recently been able to book a meeting with DOE officials to discuss the situation.
All three Scioto County Commissioners are optimistic about the trip and what may result.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT