By Frank Lewis
Dennis Carr, project manager for Fluor B&W PORTS, the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) project at Piketon, spoke to the Scioto County Commissioners Tuesday morning about the progress of the project that involves cleanup work at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
After the meeting, the Daily Times asked Carr about his reaction to a revelation last week that Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Ernest Moniz now says it will take until as late as 2052 to complete the work at the eclipsing the original 2024 completion date.
“The goal of 2024 is not achievable,” Moniz said. “The Department’s schedule range for completing cleanup of the site is 2044 to 2052 reflecting 50 percent and 80 percent confidence levels, respectively.”
Carr said he has “not digested” Moniz’s statement yet.
“We really haven’t had a sit down discussion,” he said. “That Moniz discussion probably is a reflection of a certain funding profile. So that was based upon a funding profile lower than what we’ve gotten in the last two years. That’s just one funding scenario. I believe he put it out somewhere between 2040 and 2052. I would certainly like to think that this project can be done smarter and quicker than that.”
Carr said he relates the current situation with one that occurred a couple of decades ago when the DOE was faced with a similar situation where they were expending a lot of funds on a lot of sites, so they chose to set up a closure fund in the late 1990’s. He said they concentrated on completing a number of discreet projects, one of which was the Rocky Flats site, a Fernald project in Colorado at the Mound Site outside of Dayton. Carr said they were chosen because there were not technology advances required to complete the job.
“Similarly, if you take a step back and look at us we’re in a similar situation,” Carr said. “We don’t require any advances in new technology for us to complete this project. Everything has been done before. It’s just a huge logistics project. This is the largest project in the history of the state of Ohio that we’re undertaking here.”
Carr summed up his feelings about the possibly delay in completion mentioned by Moniz.
“My hope is that the Department of Energy will consider a similar strategy as they applied at these closure sites to look at the benefits that could be associated with an accelerated funding scenario to complete the project for the benefit of the community but at the same time save the federal government dollars that are necessary for you to continue if you extend the project,” Carr said. “If you extend the project you still have a kind of landlord cost that goes along with providing security and infrastructure along with facilities plus continued investment in infrastructure to maintain the safety of the facility.”
Carr said the bottom line is that, while he recognizes that possibility is a funding reality he is always hopeful that there is another answer which he says in accelerated funding.
Carr, who is scheduled to meet with employees this Thursday, said the D&D site will have stable employment for the rest of this fiscal year.
“I can’t make any comments on the next fiscal year until I know where we’re at,” Carr said in reference to the funding profile he had gone over with the Commissioners. “If this thing were not to change we would have to take action probably at the beginning of the next fiscal year.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.