By Frank Lewis
At least in the near future, there is not expected to be any layoffs at the decommissioning and decontamination (D&D) project at Piketon. On Tuesday U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown said that during a conversation with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz he was given reassurance that no layoffs will occur at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon through Dec. 11.
The short-term funding resolution, which expires on Dec. 11, included language that ensures no workforce reductions at the D&D operations in Piketon.
“This evening, Secretary Moniz guaranteed that no jobs would be lost at the Piketon plant for the duration of the spending bill passed last week,” Brown said. “Southeast Ohio’s economy relies on continued cleanup progress – and that can only continue with the dedicated workforce that has put so much time into ensuring that this site can attract future economic development. I’ll continue working to find a long-term funding solution for the plant.”
Since WARN notices were issued at the Piketon plant, Brown said he has continued his push to find funding for the project. Following Brown’s urging, the continuing resolution – which funds the government through Dec. 11 – gives DOE the ability to continue D&D operations at Piketon.
The D&D project has been funded partially through appropriations and partially through the sale of uranium on the open market. However, in August, DOE announced that a budget shortfall in fiscal year 2016 appropriation for the project at Piketon would result in layoffs at the facility. At the same time, the bottom fell out of the uranium market and the U.S. government severely cut back the amount of uranium that could be sold.
In response, Brown sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that funds be appropriated to continue the current pace of D&D efforts at Portsmouth for the entire 2016 fiscal year – either through the direct appropriation of $275 million or through another year-long budget anomaly.
Brown has also called on the Obama Administration and Senate Appropriators to fully fund the continued operation of the American Centrifuge Project which is in danger of being shut down as things stand now.
In a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday morning, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) urged U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to fully fund Piketon’s decontamination and decommissioning efforts and allow for continuation of the work at the American Centrifuge Plant, a project Portman says is important the nation’s national security.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.