The Paducah Sun

March 7, 2000

'Drum mountain' cleanup will add jobs

By Joe Walker
Sun Business Editor

The Department of Energy has hired USEC Inc. to remove "drum mountain" from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a move that will save some jobs during massive layoffs later this year.

The $2.5 million contract - awarded by DOE's lead environmental contractor, Bechtel Jacobs - is expected to create 20 to 45 jobs, according to a DOE draft worker transition plan published a month ago. Displaced plant workers will clean up and remove the contaminated pile of rusted, hazardous waste drums that DOE has promised to dispose of this year.

USEC, which operates the plant under a lease from DOE, will shred and compact the drums before shipping. That is expected to cut disposal costs by about $750,000, Bechtel Jacobs officials said. The contract value does not include disposal fees.

Under terms of the contract, the drums will be packed by September for shipment in December to disposal facilities. The crushed drums will be examined to be sure that their transportation and disposal are safe and meet regulations.

Gordon Dover, Paducah projects manager for Bechtel Jacobs, said USEC won the contract.

"We are pleased with USEC's very competitive offer," he said. "It allows us to maintain our aggressive schedule while utilizing workers who would potentially have been laid off."

Drum mountain, a highly visible part of old storage yards in the northwest fenced area of the plant, covers about 10 percent of the estimated 65,000 tons of scrap. The drums once contained uranium tetrafluoride and were crushed after being emptied.

DOE considers removing drum mountain a priority because the drums could be contaminating surface water. They also sit on an old burial ground that is a potential groundwater contaminant and needs assessment. A plan to remove the rest of the scrap metal is scheduled to be completed later this year.