Brown calls for $460 million funding for D&D at Piketon

By Frank Lewis

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Question marks abound as to what will happen with future funding of the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) project at Piketon following the current funding through Dec. 11 of 2015. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is continuing his push to preserve operations and jobs at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.

On Monday, Brown wrote to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shaun Donovan urging that the Department of Energy’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget includes $460 million to fully fund ongoing decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) efforts at Piketon.

“Because of the commitment from Congress and the Administration, there are more than 2,000 good-paying jobs at the site. Yet, due to budgetary shortfalls, over the past two years more than 1,000 WARN notices have been issued at the site,” Brown said. “While a commitment from the DOE and Congress has resulted in the shortfall being eliminated and the jobs being saved, this process has been unfair to workers, the community, and the families that depend on these jobs.”

In the letter, Brown also voiced his support for the Site Specific Advisory Board’s (SSAB) recommendations for the disposal cell.

Workers at Piketon – both in its decontamination and decommissioning operations and at the American Centrifuge Plant – have received WARN notices that their jobs were in jeopardy. Congress passed a short-term funding bill in September that ensures that D&D operations at the plant will continue through Dec. 11. Last month, Secretary Moniz indicated that no layoffs would occur within Piketon’s D&D operations through Dec. 11. Brown led the Ohio delegation in a letter to Moniz urging him to maintain employment at the plant using the funding provided by Congress.

“I am concerned that despite undeniable progress at the site, the DOE continues to rely on uranium disposition to fund some cleanup activities and lacks a clear plan for maintaining the current workforce and the pace of site cleanup once the uranium runs out. Given the significant reliance DOE has placed on uranium disposition to fund cleanup activities, I believe DOE must develop a sustainable, long-term plan for cleanup work. Having a clear funding path – that does not rely upon uranium disposition – in the years ahead is essential to ensure that Portsmouth’s cleanup timelines are met,” Brown said in a letter to Moniz. “As work will soon begin on an onsite disposal cell for demolition materials, it is critical that funds for the disposal cell do not come at the expense of funding for the ongoing deconstruction and decontamination work at the site. Further, it is imperative that we continue this progress by ensuring that the construction of an eventual disposal of materials in the cell is consistent with the recommendations made by the Site Specific Advisory Board.”

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.