By Wayne Allen
The Scioto County Commissioners, along with a delegation from southern Ohio, returned from a lobbying trip to Washington D.C. The group was lobbying financial support for work being done in Piketon.
Mike Crabtree, chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners, said the trip was interesting. He said some headway was made in Decontaminating and Decommissioning (D&D) but the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) may be finished.
The United States Department of Energy (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.
Fluor-BWXT has issued WARN notice to 500 D&D workers, because on an anticipated $80 million dollar budget shortfall. Federal legislators recently passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), funding government operations until mid-December. The CR included funding for Centrus and D&D activities.
When asked about the trip, Crabtree said, “It was interesting. It was not, a whole lot better than what we expected. They rescinded the WARN notices issued to D&D workers. Basically the centrifuge facility is still in severe jeopardy.”
Crabtree said he does not understand why ACP is in jeopardy,
“I guess a lot of folks assumed that (ACP) was producing enriched uranium and apparently it was nothing more than a test facility. I thought about that a lot, I wondered if I could test drive a car for eight or ten years before I had to make a decision to buy it,” Crabtree said. “There has been a lot of money spent on that facility and employees. To test something that would be outdated before it ever produced any uranium. I don’t understand that, but who am I.”
When asked if the commissioners learned about a possible plan for continuing D&D work after the CR expires Crabtree said, “the only thing we can do is keep pushing. They (DOE) know what we want and most of our legislatures are in support.”
Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis said the night before the delegation arrived in Washington the Department of Energy released a report to congress, justifying the closure of ACP.
“ACP is continuing to be discussed and negotiated. There are some questions, if they do shut it down, how they are going to shut it down. They did tell us it would cost about $150 million to take ACP down and they don’t know where the money will come from,” Davis said. “That’s a great hurdle to overcome, because I’m sure congress is not going to want to pony up the money and Centrus does not have the money.”
Davis said the cost of keeping ACP open versus closing it down. He said the long term plan would be to place a centrifuge plant that will take 10-15 years to build in Piketon.
“We want that plant, what we have right now is a pilot plant and we want the big kahuna, there were some comments there, that lead us to believe we (Piketon) are in the running for that,” Davis said.
He said an estimate billions of dollars has been spent on constructing ACP.
“We have a building that 865,000 square feet, it’s got the mounts in the floor ready for centrifuges. It’s there and has been built,” Davis said. “The technical analysis of the site leads us to believe that would be a good choice, but we were given no assurances.”
The delegation was able to meeting with 13 officials over their day and a half trip. Davis said they were able to meet with both legislators and officials. Included in the meetings were officials with the DOE.
Commissioner Doug Coleman said the delegation ran into Governor John Kasich while in Washington and got to talk with him.
The commissioners were left with the impression a plan is being worked out to fund D&D activities in Piketon long term. When asked about funding beyond the current Continuing Resolution Crabtree said there was a good chance they would be OK.
Davis said there are some follow up meetings and phone calls that will occur as a result of their trip.
The commissioners agreed the trip was both informative and productive.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT