The Paducah Sun

February 11, 2000

DOE: No new hazardous areas at Paducah plant

By Joe Walker
Sun Business Editor

USEC Inc. says it has no evidence that old nuclear weapons components are present in production-related areas of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

An employee complaint reportedly was filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about weapons components' being in USEC-leased space, possibly posing a health hazard. Such reports are held confidential by the NRC.

"USEC senior management has discussed the subject with Department of Energy senior management at Paducah," USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said from Bethesda, Md. "USEC has been assured that DOE is not aware of any conditions that create (radioactive) hazards to USEC personnel at the site beyond those already known and controlled."

She said the firm is unaware of any weapons components in areas it leases from DOE, which owns the plant.

USEC is continuing to work with DOE and other agencies to help with ongoing investigations of "legacy" environmental, health and safety problems at the plant, Stuckle said.

The department's 76-page investigative report released Thursday touched on past work practices. In the 1950s, employees dismantled nuclear weapons components to recover valuable metals and other materials. Although the components posed radioactive hazards, they reportedly did not contain warheads.

On Thursday, DOE Site Manager Dale Jackson confirmed that Department of Defense officials have been at the plant, looking into past work besides uranium that may have been done "for others." He said DOE is supporting that effort but has not been told exactly what the Defense Department is investigating.