When federal legislators passed a $1.1 Trillion Omnibus Budget Bill to fund government operations and programs in late 2015, $50 million was allocated to keep the American Centrifuge Project in Piketon running. Current indications are the program will soon shutdown without immediate action.
In 2015, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it will end the American Centrifuge Test Demonstration and Operation (ACTDO) activity at Piketon, potentially resulting in the layoffs of 200 Centrus 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.
Allocation of the funds provided for in the spending bill would be up to DOE to allocate.
According to the Scioto County Commissioners, it does not look like DOE will allocate the funds before Centrus Energy would have to lay off its employees.
Commissioner Bryan Davis said, “We are in the 11th hour and the 59th minute when it comes to saving ACP.”
“We are in full lobby mode trying to do anything we can do, to try and save the jobs,” Davis said. “It’s unfortunate the Department of Energy has decided to take their current position.”
Davis acknowledged the issue of funding ACP comes back to DOE, who is choosing not to fund Piketon operations.
“It’s a really sad thing that we (United States of America) will not be maintaining an American domestic uranium enrichment capability. It’s putting our national security at risk,” Davis said.
Davis, along with Scioto County Commissioners Doug Coleman and Mike Crabtree, said their main concerning is retaining the more than 200 jobs at ACP.
Last year, the Scioto County Commissioners, along with a delegation from southern Ohio, traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers and officials for continued funding for Piketon projects.
“There are a lot of people for this and we need to do something about it. When we were in D.C. they acted like they did not want to fund it and I want them to fund it,” Coleman said.
Crabtree said this ultimate fate of ACP in Piketon comes down to DOE.
“It comes down to DOE and ultimately they are going to do what they are going to do. Unfortunately their decision is going to affect a lot of people. We’re hopeful DOE does the right things, but that remains to be seen,” Crabtree said.
When asked what can be done by the community to save the jobs Davis said, “By this Friday, there is going to have to be some serious decisions made by Centrus. We could be seeing layoff notices by the 11th (of January) and we could see people being laid off by the 25th (of January).”
Davis said people need to understand it’s too late to write letters to DOE asking them to save ACP.
“If they are going to say something, they need to call their representative and they need to call the White House Office of Budget and Management, so they know the people of this region support ACP,” Davis said. “Our congressional delegation is fighting to save ACP. Community support is something they (congressional delegation) can take to the people they’re talking to and say there are a lot of people mad about this and we need this to change and turn around now. That’s really what we need in this hour.”
Davis said if people want to make a difference in this situation, the time for hesitation has passed and now is the time to act.
“If people are going to use their voice, they have to do it now, tomorrow may be too late,” Davis said.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.